Driving Me Social: Will Someone PLEASE Help Me BUY a New TV?

No, don’t try to sell me a TV. Help me buy a TV. I can figure out the maximum amount I want to spend. I just look at my budget. And I know I want a flat screen TV to hang on the wall so I can also figure out how big it should be. I just measure the space. But after that, even a reasonably tech-literate shopper can get lost in the dizzying array of choices, brands and features. Do I want 720p or 1080p (and what’s a “p”?)? 60Hz, 120Hz, or 240Hz? Should it be plasma or LCD HDTV? And what about LED? And what’s “backlit” LED? Have I considered how many and what type of inputs I want? HDMI? USB? PC? RF? Audio? What’s the difference between component and composite video inputs? And I’m wondering if any of those inputs are where I plug in the cable.

And, I have to decide what outputs I want. What is an optical digital audio output anyway? Do I need it? By the way, I think I want to consider connecting my TV to the internet. Seems like there’s a good chance I’ll want to stream something to my TV. How do I know what to look for to be able to connect? There’s some little icon on some TVs that says “Internet2 Connectable”. What’s Internet2 and is that what I’m looking for? I thought I was happy with Internet1. And if I get WiFi on the Blu-Ray DVD player (BTW, does Blu-Ray play regular DVDs?), do I even need to have internet connection on the TV?

And there are so many brands to choose from: names I’m familiar with like Sony, Samsung, Sharp, LG, Toshiba, Panasonic, Westinghouse (though I’m not sure how Westinghouse ended up as a TV brand). But then there are those brands like Insignia, Dynex, Vizio, and others. Brands have done a terrific job of differentiating with new features and functions. It keeps them from becoming a commodity and it therefore keeps me from choosing based on price alone because they aren’t totally comparable.

So what’s a shopper to do when they have a 1000 bucks burning a hole in their pocket, just dying to buy a new TV? Well, I could just talk to the brands (but they’ll only give me their point of view). Or I could talk to the sales associate at my local retailer (but, well for one thing, I don’t have time to stand in the store and have them explain everything and I’m worried they’ll just try to up-sell me). So, in this day and age, I go social. I ask my son who’s a lot more tech saavy. I go to the customer review sites and read both the good and the bad reviews to find out what complete strangers have to say (which is where I find out many of these TVs have audio quality issues which I’m sure can be compensated for by buying an external audio system too… ka-ching…). And I talk to friends.

So, it’s the brands and retailers themselves that are driving me social. If only they could build a strategy for shoppers like me to help me buy a TV. Surely there’s an app for that. Maybe they could learn to reach shoppers like me at Shopper Insights in Action 2011 sponsored by IIR USA. I see that Bill Hoffman, SVP at Best Buy is going to be there. Maybe he can help me buy a TV.

P.S. And I almost forgot… Do I need 3D?