Augmented play: how to pitch AR to the toy industry

Maria Stenina

The toy industry is all about connecting the imaginative world with physical objects. Now, augmented reality opens endless opportunities to make users experience play in new ways.

With technologies penetrating every sector of manufacturing and customers’ interest steadily leaning towards digital, the toy industry is the one at the forefront of changes. For digital agencies that cater to toy manufacturers, AR offers an indispensable opportunity to bridge tangible and virtual elements, providing the end-users with a new dimension to play.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how toymakers could benefit from using augmented reality products.

The shift in audience

Purchasing power worldwide has been rapidly transitioning to millennials. According to Accenture research, this population segment is projected to spend $1.4 trillion on shopping each year by 2020. The same cohort belongs to the so-called digital-natives generation. When asked what technologies they expect to see in everyday life, they claim AR to be one of them. With the oldest of the millennial generation being in their early 40s, they represent the majority of toy companies’ customers.

The toy end users are the children belonging to Generation Z or, the youngest so far, Gen Alpha. These kids grow along with technology, which penetrates all aspects of their life. No wonder they naturally gravitate towards brands that stay on top of emerging technologies.

Now, the reasoning behind customer purchasing behaviour is clear. Let’s explore what crucial improvements AR solutions bring to the toy industry.

Staying relevant

As the demand in technology grows, toy industry giants embrace digital elements (AR specifically) to enhance their product lines. For example, LEGO Hidden Side playsets provide building bricks with a complimentary interactive augmented reality. The app serves to deepen the game experience, turning users into real ghostbusters. Using the mobile device, gamers scan the play scene to find hidden creatures and interact with other players.

Image source: LEGO

LEGO is not the only toy company exploring the augmented reality niche. A few years ago Hasbro excited their fans by introducing a movie-inspired, 1:1 scale Iron Man mask that featured AR technology. By downloading the Hero Vision app and using AR goggles and markers, players have the opportunity to take pretend play to a whole new level.

Adding value

A cutting edge technology such as AR not only adds a new dimension to the gamers’ experience. It is also a proven way to revive the classical formats that might lose their appeal with time. Let’s take a look at a board game genre.

The all-time favorite Hedbanz by Spin Master got a complete facelift by using Wikitude’s Image Tracking technology. The popular mask feature (well known by social media filters) is used here to add an interactive digital element. A toy industry legend, Mattel company, introduced a new spin to the popular hit – Pictionary Air. In this game, players can literally draw the words in the air by using a smart device and an app with an AR feature.

Expanding product features

Toymakers always rely on storytelling and the power of imaginative play as an immense resource that enhances any product. Yet, the human brain is designed in a specific way making visual information better perceived than anything written or spoken. Augmented reality allows to create life-like elements that add to the storyline and engage players deeply.

Video source: Virtuali-Tee

These 2D and 3D computer-generated projections complement the real-world game set, without overtaking the user’s attention. The same goes to learning by doing. By interacting with physical and digital elements of the toy, children improve their sensory skills and learn how to handle simulated reality.

AR game features make parents commit to buying more easily as they see the added value in the tech element. At the same time, young users maintain a healthy playing habit, engaging with the real world and growing less dependent on the screen.

Bridging sensorial and digital brand experience

New technologies like Object Tracking and Instant Tracking make toy concepts more engaging and accessible.

Thus, with extra investment in AR features, toymakers can achieve double as much retention for the same price. Game experiences with physical products can be easily leveraged to boost the player’s creativity and brand loyalty.

Revamping marketing campaigns

Existing within a pressing seasonal agenda, toy brands can benefit from including AR features into their marketing activities. Through product development to marketing strategy and ad campaigns, augmented reality solutions are highly customizable – meaning they could be tailored even to very specific needs and audiences.

What’s more to it? AR can be used in every format: from remarkable product launches to in-store activations, brand awareness campaigns and creating viral content. To help your clients understand its value, we advise showing the direct relation to revenue and ROI.

You are now one step closer to explaining to toy industry clients why AR is the next big thing they need to consider. Do you have questions or need advice?

Contact us to get started

Read more about Wikitude AR solutions for toy companies:

For more practical advice: 5 tips how to pitch AR for your next project

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