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Are we at a tipping point with digital toys?

We decided to inaugurate our column with a particularly complex topic that heavily impacts our lives on several levels, from society to habits, from the way we structure our daily time to the education of our children.

A few days ago, a new report published by App Annie, the popular mobile data and analytics platform, shined a light on the digital world.

According to the report, people spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on their smartphone and downloaded a whopping 230 billion apps, spending up to 170 billion dollars in digital products. Furthermore, it appears that TV continues to decay as smart devices continue to break records on all levels, from time spent to downloads and revenue.

The mobile ecosystem seems to be experiencing a golden moment with over 2 million apps published in 2021. In the same way, mobile gaming is also growing, thanks also to the advent of hyper casual gaming, collecting over 116 million dollars in a single year.

Children are also experiencing a new ecosystem of services in which TV is less present and their pocket money very often spent on digital purchases, according to Kids Insights. Everything is connected to the point of impacting heavily on the social structure of time and the balance between online and offline activities. This is one of the reasons why, in recent years, some major toy companies have begun to invest in digital toys (mobile apps), by acquiring start-ups or launching new apps, with the aim of responding to the new needs of children and modern society. The data suggest that we are close to an event horizon, beyond which it is difficult to go back.

Many services are already converging to digital, and this will undermine the attractiveness of some traditional products in the long run. To respond to emerging needs and new languages ​​it is likely that toy companies with a wide product portfolio and an innovative DNA will have to extend the concept of play to the digital world. By understanding digital dynamics and exploiting the new monetisation models that are emerging, companies will inevitably have a chance to attract new customers who may not be satisfied with the current standard product offering. The concept of educational toy itself will also extend to a well-rounded idea of ​​entertainment, in which the gamification of experience is at the centre of a new product proposition.

Strong roots and high value products will help protect against shocks, on the contrary, weaker roots and stretched-down products could suffer the impact of the rampant desire for a new kind of edutainment.

We believe that toy companies should look forward to the many opportunities that lie ahead and start experimenting educational toys differently to significantly reduce the risk losing the link between playing and child development in an increasingly digital world.

In this sense, we at Clementoni are convinced that digital must be reconsidered as a tool, a technology through which to convey content. Similarly to what happened in 1967 when we began to offer our educational contents through the “pins” technology of our Sapientino. And we are equally convinced that content will continue to be the distinctive factor both among toy companies and in the relationship with parents and children. This is why we believe that the growth of our small customers should be fed by a melting pot of experiences enabled by both physical and digital tools / products, different in materials, technologies and ergonomics, but united by the quality of the contents.

Already in 2013 at Clementoni we began to study digital, with the launch of our first Clempad. From that moment our research began to follow the two parallel tracks that still guide our strategy today. On the one hand, the continuous supervision of educational contents to find the most suitable themes for a child (and a world) in continuous evolution, which is further complicated by a still intermittent education unfortunately. On the other hand, the technological track that is pushing ourselves "beyond digital" with the world of apps and with technological frontiers such as artificial intelligence and NFT. All this while keeping the focus on the search for the best balance between physical and digital, convinced as we are that the game can leave an imprint on that path of discovery, comparison and imagination that contributes to the growth of each of us.

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