Retail, Technology

Back to School Insights: Profiling Mac vs. PC Shoppers

With August right around the corner, we will inevitably be exposed to a slew of back-to-school advertisements.  While lower-priced items like notebooks and pencils might not require much thought, bigger purchases like computers and tablets typically demand greater attention.  College-bound students need a personal computer in order to survive through their classes and extracurricular activities.  But it is not just students who will be in the market for a new computer.  August is notorious for a month of great bargain deals for these types of products, and at least 17 states are offering tax-free dates in August when purchasing certain items (some include computers) for in this back-to-school shopping period. Combine all that with the imminent release of Windows 10, and many people will look to take advantage of the season’s promotions.

So by asking a broad question to U.S. adult consumers about their next preferred type of personal computer purchase, we can learn a lot about who will be buying a Mac and who will be buying a Windows PC.  We studied the profiles of 4,399 U.S. adults polled from June 30 to July 27, 2015:

personal-computer-purchase-type-buy

Windows laptops and desktops still remain the most popular response at 31%, and Mac computers trail behind at 13%.  Only 6% of U.S. adults plan to buy an iPad next, and even fewer plan to buy another tablet, despite new keyboard attachments that have been introduced to transform the tablet into a laptop.

Let’s look at the back-to-school angle. Below is the same survey question, but only contains the responses from adults typically of college-going age (18-24 years olds):

personal-computer-purchase-type-buy-collegeage

The only significant difference appears to be that more college-aged adults have plans to buy a new computer, at 71% compared to 58% among the general population.  And they still gravitate to machines with more serious computing power, predominantly choosing Windows PCs and Macs (even slightly more say Chrome or Linux machines) vs. any type of tablet.

Since Windows and Mac laptops/desktops received (expectedly) the most votes, they are the focal points in which we conducted this analysis.  We also cover iPads, since they were the third most popular device choice, albeit only for 6% of the general population.

Provided in this article are “snapshot” profiles of the U.S. adults across all ages planning to purchase a Windows laptop/desktop, Mac laptop/desktop, or an iPad. Let’s start with the iPad:

(The percentages are compared to that of the average U.S. adult population).

Those who plan to buy an iPad:

  • 50% more likely to be 35-44 years old.
  • 26% more likely to be a parent.
  • 53% more likely to have attained a graduate or professional degree.
  • 88% more likely to have a social science degree and 80% more likely to have a health & medicine degree.
  • 57% more likely to earn an annual income between $100K-150K.
  • 2X as likely to listen to paid, premium music streaming services.

It appears those who plan to buy an iPad for their next computer purchase are more likely to be upper-middle class (or higher), Gen X parents, with a social science or health and medicine degree. Likely, these folks are buying the iPad as an additional computer device.

Moving on to Macs…

Those who plan to buy a Mac laptop or desktop

  • 62% more likely to be 18-24 years old.
  • 15% more likely to not be a parent (age certainly factors in here).
  • 23% less likely to live in rural areas.
  • 40% more likely to have attained a graduate or professional degree.
  • 2x as likely to have an arts & humanities degree and 33% more likely to have a business degree.
  • 78% more likely to earn an annual income over $150K.
  • 88% more likely to say they follow trends and current events in electronics and technology very closely.
  • 18% more likely to tell others about new brands and technology.
  • 143% more likely to say brand is a lot more important than price when shopping for electronics.
  • 43% less likely to say they never watch TV.
  • 45% more likely to use social media for 1-2 hours each day.
  • 90% more likely to use their smartphone to make mobile payments.
  • 80% more likely to listen to paid, premium music streaming services only and 29% more likely to listen to both paid premium and free streaming services.
  • 2x as likely to use cloud storage for both personal and business purposes.

There are a few interesting takeaways from the insights about those who are planning on a Mac purchase.  Mac buyers are more likely to tell others about new brands and technology while also keeping up to date on the latest trends regarding electronics.  They are also 143% more likely to value the brand greater than price with their electronics shopping (and given their tendency toward a higher income, the ability to value brand more makes sense).  Mac buyers are known for their brand loyalty, and the fact that they have the tendency to tell others about brands and technology could mean they are spreading their knowledge and opinions of the Apple brand and products.

But how else can the advertisers reach potential Mac buyers, aside from word of mouth?  These consumers use social media and watch TV more than other potential computer buyers, so those avenues could be a good way to reach them.  Also, we can see that many Mac buyers have an arts and humanities degree which makes sense with Apple’s brand association with “creativity.”  The fact that these consumers are twice as likely to use cloud storage over a physical server alludes to the notion that Apple’s customers are more willing to adopt modern ideas.

Now on to Windows…

Those who plan to buy a Windows laptop or desktop

  • 16% more likely to be male.
  • 15% more likely to be 18-24 years old.
  • 18% more likely to not be a parent.
  • 17% more likely to have attained a bachelor’s or associate degree.
  • 38% more likely to have a science, technology, engineering, or math degree.
  • 43% more likely to say they never watch TV.
  • 14% more likely to use social media less than one hour each day.
  • 42% more likely to use a physical server or disk for both personal and business purposes instead of cloud storage.

First you’ll notice that the percentage differences between likely Windows PC buyers are not as pronounced as in the iPad and Mac groups; that’s because in aggregate this group tends to look like the general U.S. population. But there are a few areas of statistically meaningful difference that marketers and product managers may be interested in:

Windows PCs are more likely to attract the science, technology, engineering, and math graduates.  Windows buyers consume less TV, are on social media slightly less than the general population, and they prefer storing their files where they can see ‘em, on a physical server or disk vs. cloud storage.

So as we step into August, students and others will begin to take advantage of the seasonal deals, purchasing computers that they feel best suits them.  Whether it be Windows or a Mac, retailers can put insights like these to great use in order to focus on consumers that better align with certain devices.

Note: This blog post was researched and authored by CivicScience’s summer market research analyst, Paul Campbell.

 

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