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What future for packaged media in an online world?

Over the past six years, the music sector has undergone a huge transformation – 94.8% of all singles are sold digitally, though 85% of albums are still sold in a packaged physical format.

But, specialist record shops are disappearing fast, and the large distributors such as Amazon are offering more and more titles as downloads only.

It’s obvious that many minority-appeal CDs will only be available as discs for as long as already pressed batches last.

Impulse buys

But, downloads are generally the result of a conscious online search for a specific title, and offering downloads only would kill the very significant Impulse-Buy market.

A survey in the UK in September 2010 found DVDs to be women’s second-favourite impulse buy, after shoes.  The demise of UK home entertainment chains Woolworths and Zavvi at the beginning of 2009 was acutely felt by the video industry, and it has struggled to regain those missing impulse buyers who made up a significant proportion of the £30 million of lost video sales that year.

Other attractions of packaged media

Packaged media are so much more than the core-product which is being sold – the packaging itself is a desireable item.  The artwork and accompanying booklets are still very important to customers, and it would be unwise to underestimate the “hold-in-your-hand” factor which is so important in impulse buying.  If people can see a large display of different titles, pick them up and handle them, they are far more likely to buy than if looking to download something from an online distributor.  Similarly, giving films / games / music as a gift can only be done with a packaged product.

Until the price of downloads becomes significantly cheaper than buying the physical product, the demand for packaged media will remain strong and reliable, as customers are happy to pay extra for the convenience of being able to pick up a product which they can use instantly, and swap or share as they wish.

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