The 21st Century toy consumer

They’re not easy to satisfy, but fulfilling what they’re looking for is your best chance for success, explains Steve Reece
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The toy consumer has changed very significantly over the last decade. However, one of the most impactful changes has not been so widely recognised.

We’re all very focused on our sales numbers (understandably), but this only measures how many we sold, and if we’re lucky, how many sold through. But we don’t measure how much the consumer engages with the product, and whether they play with all the stuff we’re shifting through retail.

For some products, we’re capitalising on a selling dynamic which is about the gifting occasion, a child’s passing fancy or perhaps about parental guilt. The reality is that if we want our brands and products to sell for more than one selling season, we need more than a good TVC, we also need to deliver a compelling experience.

Consumer research I’ve conducted and seen over the years has always shown word of mouth or played at a friend’s house as a massive purchase driver, sometimes stronger than TV advertising.

In order to stimulate that ‘free’ word of mouth we have to create toys that are fun and fit the levels of dexterity of the target audience versus what’s easiest for us to make. We don’t need to worry so much about this if we’re just shifting boxes, but to do the job properly takes more care and attention. For instance, meaningful interaction between kids and your products at some point before you spend hundreds of thousands of pounds launching them.

The benchmark for what makes a good toy has changed immeasurably – because consumers today have absolutely zero tolerance for something that isn’t immediately intuitive to use, that has any flaws or defects and which fails to last beyond the first boisterous interaction with real life kids.

Children today have so many toys, many of which are expensive feature products, so our products get one chance to capture their attention before ending up on the scrap heap.

And of course, parents expect products to work, every time and forever, even if they only cost a few pounds, and will heavily endorse products which fit the bill and will happily slate those which don’t.

So beware the 21st century consumer, they’re not easy to satisfy, but fulfilling what they’re looking for is your best chance for success and carry forward listings next time round.

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