Why digital natives choose augmented reality and your toy brand should too

Maria Stenina

A full year of the COVID crisis has proved that the toy industry is one of the most resilient. While sales skyrocket and the customer base extends to include adults seeking refuge in play, toy brands have to stay ahead of the game. Augmented reality helps to future-proof toys for the digital natives’ generation.

Nowadays, the driving force behind toy sales bonanza is preschool to teenage kids. This digital natives cohort was born into the era of technology and social networks.

The new generation’s digital affinity and other traits impact their shopping choices. To meet the next generation of consumers, toy brands should watch those traits.

Inside the digital natives’ minds

Digital natives switch between the digital and physical worlds. The new kids are more tech-savvy and aware of the latest trends than their parents. According to Ofcom, half of the 10 year-olds now own their smartphone. By the time kids get ready for secondary school, the smartphone ownership doubles. This milestone marks kids’ digital independence. 

Modern kids feel the influence from friends, family, and external sources (e.g. social media). Sure, peer sharing still stays a go-to way to learn about new toys and trends. But digital natives kids also binge-watch YouTube influencers unpacking videos. Often it happens months before those toys land on the shop shelves.

By the time family toy shopping happens, the kids (as young as toddlers) will know precisely what they want to get.

Embracing digital

After smartphones and tablets, new kids expect toys to include digital components. Companion apps bridge hands-on play with their favorite digital universe. Thus, the play experience can go beyond the living room and be shared with friends.

What does it mean for toy brands? They need to adapt to young audiences’ shifting interests. One tactic is to add a digital layer to product functionality. Brands can use new channels to collect insights about play behavior to understand their audience better.

CEOs of the household

New kids’ savviness doesn’t stop at using technology. Surprisingly, Generation Alpha kids have an increasing influence over the household buying decisions. According to the Insights People, kids are becoming the CEOs of the household. 

Well-informed about emerging trends, digital natives influence their parents’ consumer habits. Since the COVID crisis has boosted family time, toy brands worldwide have noticed a sales spike.

This trend is likely to persist even after the pandemic, along with children having more say in the household shopping. 

AR embodies the new type of play

Many toy brands strategically invest resources to future-proof the products with digital solutions. The efforts don’t stop at improving the e-commerce experience or producing high-quality content.

Recently LEGO reported the operating profit rising by 19% to £1.5bn in 2020. The growth is mostly due to the investment in bridging physical and digital play. “Children are digital natives – they don’t care whether they play physically or digitally,” says Niels B Christiansen, Lego’s chief executive.

Like Pokémon Go, LEGO has strategically invested in an AR toy line and now reaps the benefits from the increased interest of digital natives.

How AR solutions bridge tech-minded generations and toy brands?

Generation Alpha kids grow along with smart devices and technology. As a result, these kids will likely have higher expectations of toys. Augmented reality acts as an imaginative layer for kids. Moreover, this technology unlocks fantasy and gives physical toys superpowers that go beyond the hands-on play.

Various toy categories can benefit from the augmented reality layer. It not only extends IRL (in real life) fun and catches youngsters’ interest. Augmented reality helps to win the age groups that are about to switch to the digital and forgo classic toys for the lack of interactivity. 

Augmented reality is a new way to:

  • – broadcast immersive digital content

  • – enable social sharing and multiplayer experience

  • – unlock new collecting possibilities

  • Lastly, toy marketers and product developers can use AR to get insights into the dwell time and play behavior. What’s more, augmented reality solutions for toys are easy to customize. It’s also easy to use AR without disrupting the whole production cycle.

    Toy brands are using augmented reality solutions to make their products ready for the digital natives. Interested to learn more?

    Talk to our experts & start today

    Read more about Wikitude’s augmented reality solutions for toy companies:

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