Thursday, December 5, 2019

Inflection Point:
Pause that Refreshes or End of a Fad?

It's Thursday, safely enough removed from the frenetic sales activity of the holiday weekend dubbed "the Turkey Five" to watch the sales numbers sort themselves out. By now, in the past two years, AncestryDNA press releases had trumpeted their annual triumph: November 28 of 2017 claiming they had "more than tripled" the number of kits sold in 2016, and November 28 of 2018 also reporting "record sales."

On November 28, 2019? No comment.

To be fair, in this marketing year of the too-late Thanksgiving feast, November 28 was, you know, actually the day, itself. However, on that very morning, Business Insider ran an article headlined, "The golden age of at-home genetic testing may be over." And in a report two days prior, they recalled chip producer Illumina's July earnings call mentioning "softness" in the market.

Still, earlier this year, those who watch had estimated rates of DNA kit purchases—not at Ancestry alone but across the board at four of the five major DNA companies—chugging along at just under forty three thousand kits sold per day. Bloomberg claimed "DNA-Test Industry Booms" and cited information from market research company Kalorama projecting sales to "reach $310 million by 2022."

The news, however, wasn't all that rosy, even back in the early months of this year. Less than three months after issuing that forty three thousand kits estimate, Leah Larkin, PhD—The DNA Geek—spotlighted the "chilling" of growth for direct-to-consumer DNA kit sales. My own biweekly tracking of match results for the tests I administer, though certainly not a scientifically-designed survey, has shown a gradual slowing over the past several months.

Of course, those who are in this testing arena as consumers who use our results to further our genealogical research hope this is a momentary lull in growth—but don't be too sure.

Yes, AncestryDNA can still issue what has become their glowing annual post-turkey statement tomorrow—or maybe even later today. But I won't hold my breath. After all, companies launched those tempting sales prices well before the Thanksgiving holiday this year—including MyHeritage with what is now the newest new low for prices, $39. Whether the lowered prices will be the shot in the arm this industry desperately needs is yet to be seen.


  1. I suspect it's just a normal flattening of sales as we are several years into the DNA craze. I’ve purchased all of them and tested all close family members and several cousins. Most of my fellow genealogists have done the same.
    Things are bound to downturn in any business such as this. Hopefully we will still get the influx of new matches, maybe just not as many.

    1. Yep, I'm guilty of doing the same thing, too, Diane! And that may have fueled the tremendous growth seen in prior years. Yes, downturns are possible, considering every business category has experienced them. Of course, I'm hoping things will pick up, but at this point, I'm not so sure.


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