If you’re in the toy business, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of all the shifting tastes and trends while making sense of retailer consolidations and closings. The industry is seasonal, and most toys have a short product lifecycle. The success of a toy is determined by its innovation, novelty and timely launch. There is a higher demand for toys that constantly engage a child and support a child’s all-round development.
Meanwhile the industry has been experiencing customer demands basis the influx of technology. According to Forbes, there is a growing demand for innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) games and for innovative licensed toys. The industry needs to evolve to meet new demands and develop games and toys aligned with the new age child. This is a big industry, given that the sales value of hobby, toy and game stores in the US alone is expected to reach USD 17.96 billion by 2020 according to Statista.
Case for a unified NPD platform
A unified New Product Development (NPD) platform – especially a digital one – will support innovation by capturing ideas and market trends, and combine them to yield insights and prioritize ideas. It will serve as a digital dashboard that will bring together multiple teams such as designers, market research, factory production controllers, 3D modelers, post launch analysts, retailers etc. It will help ensure that all designs adhere to brand and license guidelines of animation characters, movie icons etc. Toy manufacturers can use the platform to track global safety norms, such as ASTM International’s Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety (F963) in the US and EN71 in Europe. The platform will also help reduce time to market by streamlining, standardizing, digitizing and automating the commercialization process and ensuring communication between each NPD stage.
The NPD platform can have several functionalities such as:
- Track royalty payments
- Manage IP protection and design patents
- Integrate with 3D sculpting, PLM tools and image management tools
- Custom workflows for specific contract manufacturers and retailers
- Tracking SCM KPIs across stakeholders, including retailers
- Gather customer feedback from multiple channels
What’s happening at ground level?
Hasbro has developed the Hasbro Brand Blueprint, a strategic framework to bring its brands to life in multiple ways. This includes digital experiences like gaming, music, publishing, location-based entertainment and a plethora of consumer products. It has acquired Entertainment One (eOne) to access its global preschool brands, thus capitalizing on monetization opportunities through immersive experiences such as live shows, theme parks, AR/ VR events etc.
In 2014, Mattel sought to improve its market share by creating an entrepreneurial arm called the Toy Box to speed up product development and target 6-9 month product development cycles.
LEGO crowdsources new product ideas through their online forum “LEGO Ideas” so that the designers, enterprise stakeholders and supporters come together at one place.
As the next era of toy retail distribution is defined, one thing is clear – Toy companies must lose conventional approaches and respond to evolving consumer behaviors. This means thinking of new ways to create groundbreaking toys and games that appeal to children of all ages and open new avenues for retailers to capture these customers. A well-designed NPD platform is one such tool.
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