Spielwarenmesse: How the toy industry can respond to the smartphone generation

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Kleine Junge spielt mit Smartphone im Kinderzimmer
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19. February 2018 / Marketing

How the toy industry can respond to the smartphone generation

from Maria Costa

The children from the smartphone generation represent a great opportunity for the toy industry. There is no reason to be scared or worried when thinking about this generation, as there are tons of good ideas the industry can embrace when offering a toy that could be really appealing. One of the most important things to consider is to understand the differences that distinguish them from previous generations.

True digital natives

The current generation of children is a generation that has been exposed to new technologies basically from birth. They are true digital natives with a very early exposure to technology. For children today, the distinction that adults make between technological and traditional toys is not that clear. For them, both are playthings. This generation of children is getting used to playing in a way in which they can, for instance, build something with bricks in the real world and then expand the experience digitally. And they get excited playing in both worlds.

That is why offering good combinations of games that involve both conventional and digital options is a great way to reach them. For both manufacturers and retailers, it is relevant to be constantly aware of the new possibilities the latest technology can offer. Nowadays, it’s good to have in mind advances in technology such as virtual and augmented reality, holograms, robots, 3D printing, immersive projections, and so on.

Explore the world with all senses

However, one aspect that has to be considered is that parents are increasingly worried about the negative impact that the exposure to new technology has on their children. Parents will appreciate technological toys that encourage children to be active, play outside and have contact with nature and other children. Therefore, the challenge is to offer good quality toys that, even if they implement technology, support children’s appropriate development in many different areas.

To achieve this, it is important to consider that children need to play experimenting with several materials. They need things that encourage them to explore the world with all their senses, mainly in a physical way.

A very social generation

Sharing messages and images has become part of children’s fun time. Manufacturers and retailers can reach them with toys that are inspired by some of the most common social media features. One of the easier aspects to integrate is, for example, emojis. Some companies have already taken advantage of the use of this universal language in their toys.

But there are plenty of other options if you think about playthings that allow children to be connected while texting or posting images. In this context, it will be absolutely relevant to consider how to develop these toys with data safety in mind.

Gamification turns everything into a game

We all know by now that today’s children stop playing with toys at early ages. The phenomenon is linked to the tendency that children nowadays grow up faster but also to the little time to play they have, as they are more involved in extracurricular activities than ever. However, the fact is that they do not really stop playing.

Therefore it’s worth thinking about converting regular daily things into playful objects. One way of doing it is through “gamification”, turning all sorts of things kids are surrounded by into a game. Think for instance of wearables, bracelets or watches that become toys. They present a new way to offer games to children in a modern and attractive product.

Know your target group

Understanding the attitudes and preferences of the smartphone generation will put the toy industry into a position to offer toys that are actually very appealing to them. They are more social than ever, more informed and updated about the latest trends and technologies. Instead of being discouraged by this new generation of children, manufacturers and retailers should be encouraged by the challenge and the great opportunity to create and offer a new generation of toys.


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Author of this article:

Maria Costa, AIJU

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