The trend for digital toys is growing, but faces different consumer expectations

The general trend towards digitalisation is sweeping the toy industry, but it faces gender-specific expectations and scepticism among buyers. KPGM’s Consumer Barometer reveals the latest trends in retail and consumer behaviour.

For its quarterly Consumer Barometer, the auditors KPMG and the Institute for Trade Research (IFH Cologne) surveyed around 500 representative consumers online. In addition, 30-minute interviews were conducted with industry representatives. Here are the key findings for the toy industry:

  • 94% of consumers attach great importance to quality when buying toys
  • 64% of respondents buy toys online at least once every six months.
  • 48% have already bought technological toys, such as robots. 37% were open to making such a purchase.
  • 74% of technological toy sceptics are female.
  • 78% of respondents expect privacy protection and data security when using high-tech toys.

Men and women have different attitudes to high-tech toys

Of those surveyed, 57% have bought toys with technical features, such as talking dolls. Another 26% are interested in such toys. Of those with a positive view of toys with technical features, 58% are also interested in technological toys. For example, 48% of respondents have already bought toy robots, with most purchasers being men (62%). The sale of technological toys is rejected by 16% of consumers.

37% of respondents believe that children should be introduced to the digital world at an early age, with 48% of the male respondents sharing this opinion.

Fear of surveillance is slowing the trend for technological toys, with 51% of the respondents expressing worries about the potential of high-tech toys for manipulation and monitoring.

Currently, 77% of consumers prefer toys without high tech, with that figure rising to 87% for women only. 77% prefer to play games with children instead of using technological toys. 55% think children should play with simple toys without technology.

“The possibility that the toy doll may listen in means that most toy buyers do not have a pleasant concept of increasing technology in the nursery. They concede that technical functions are growing in importance. Nevertheless, classic toys remain at the top of the shopping list. The crucial criteria for the product selection are quality and playful support of the child’s development,” says Mark Sievers, Head of Consumer Markets at KPMG.

The degree of digitalisation depends on the product group and age group

The demand for technological toys varies according to the products offered and the age of the child.

So far, very few dolls and stuffed animals are offered with technical features. Products for young children focus on promoting playful development and haptics. For products targeted at older children, technical functions become more relevant, but only if they offer the customer a clear added value.

For the younger age-group, where the focus is on promoting a playful development, there is little demand for technological toys. A key drawback is the lack of a haptic effect, which is crucial in infancy. Manufacturers are responding to this with optional technical features and an expansion of the play world via videos.

As the children grow older, the desire for variety and innovation grows. As one example, manufacturers cater to this by incorporating technical functions into board games for older children. By offering a greater variety of possibilities, they strengthen the desire to play the game again.

“In games for children, the focus is on supporting their playful development. Technological innovations are not a must-have, but can support the play experience,” says Thomas Zumbühl, International Product Manager Toddler Playschool / Games at Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH.

Purchaser of toys with technical functions (91%) and purchasers of technological toys (90%) place greater importance on the child’s wishes than those who are sceptical about this type of toy (81%). Criteria such as innovation, new trends, and new technologies are important for buyers of technical and technological toys.

Dealing with trends in the toy industry

For the toy industry, the situation is as follows: companies must meet the challenge of managing the parents’ conflicting interests and priorities with regard to the product world, and must include them in their product development.

On the one hand, there is a fairly widespread assessment that it makes sense to use toys to introduce children early to the digital world. Parents are relatively willing to pay for products that have technological “finesse”. On the other hand, there is scepticism regarding data abuse and manipulation, as well as a preference for “classic toys” that offer learning effects and haptics.

Reconciling these aspects is the biggest challenge for toy manufacturers.

“The toy industry is changing. The growing use of technology creates new challenges, but also exciting opportunities,” says Thomas Eichhorn, Member of the Executive Board of Zapf Creation AG.

“The trends should not be overestimated. It’s much more important to have customer loyalty and a strong brand with a clear positioning,” says Dirk Engehausen, CEO of the Schleich Group.



Image: Getty Images


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