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Post-Covid: The Kids Toy and Gaming Trend Shift

The world has experienced so much change in the last few years, but one thing remains consistent: Kids are still kids. But with the sudden onset of pandemic-related lifestyle changes and limits on traditional entertainment, our children's behaviors and wants have shifted. Unsurprisingly, screen time across all kinds of devices, big or small, shared or individually owned, has exploded. But what do these changes in kids' behavioral, purchasing, and gaming trends in a post-COVID mean for the industry as a whole? These insights and research from SuperAwesome can help you navigate.

How kids spend their time across various devices and platforms

Kids are becoming increasingly more content oriented, both in terms of consuming content and engaging with it. Many connect with their friends about fandoms, brands, and even platforms, showing that kids’ lives are still rooted in being social. As kids age, their key influences change and widen. However, many of the same influences show up in the top 10 lists across all age ranges, but they shift in order of importance over time. In the US, YouTube is the most influential app for 6- to 12-year-olds, with TikTok a close second. Most children have at least one device starting at a very young age, with 63% percent of four- to six-year-olds having their own tablet.

Kids' increased pester power in the family democracy

As kids begin to receive devices at earlier and earlier ages, there is reason for kid-centric messaging across these technologies. Brands must recognize that parents are prioritizing what their children specifically ask for more than ever. Parents primarily buy what their kids want because they fear disappointing them when opportunities for reward are few and far between. Parents aiming to compensate for time or fun lost as a result of COVID gives kids even more power over their wishlists. Children's influence over household spending has also increased steadily over the past few years and is reflected by SuperAwesome’s research that “90% of parents are more likely to sign up to a streaming service if their child asked.”

The rise in gaming as kids' top hobby

The screen time explosion was reflected in all digital behavior, especially gaming, and has created permanent shifts across all aspects of family life. According to SuperAwesome’s research, “47% of parents see gaming as their kids’ favorite activity,” and “57% of 7 to 9 years olds in the US prefer gaming, regardless of device, to watching any kind of TV.” The increased screen time has led to deep entrenchment in gaming universes eclipsing all other activities and forms of content. Additionally, this is the first generation of kids in the U.S. where their parents also grew up with video games, and 85% of parents in the U.S. with kids under 12 say that “they play video games as one of their hobbies.” Seventy-four percent of US parents reported playing any type of video/PC game with their kids on at least a weekly basis in 2021 alone. According to Jarrod Walczer of SuperAwesome, “You can build brand loyalty and connections through gaming fandoms in a way that you never had the chance to before now,” thanks to co-gaming.

If kids aren't playing games, they're watching others play. The majority of kids watch videos of games that they don't even own. Gaming influencers have become mainstream celebrities with a great deal of impact on purchasing trends for children over the age of nine. Gaming should be a non-negotiable part of your kid marketing mix, with gaming influencers a powerful tool to increase engagement across platforms, regardless of whether you are a gaming brand.

The post-COVID purchase funnel

With so many online hours, consumers are shifting their purchases from physical stores to digital ones. Purchasing within games and game stores outpaces all in-person and e-Shopping, except for Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Reflecting this trend is SuperAwesome’s holiday report stating that “10- to 12-year-old boys were more likely to ask for clothes for their video game avatars than they were for their own bodies.” Games, add-Ons, and g-commerce were some of the top requested items on the holiday shopping lists of 2022 kids. A not-so-surprising find by SuperAwesome showed that friends’ opinions and YouTube outpaced TV in the wishlist influence of kids. Yet Amazon, TikTok, and video games trailed not far behind TV. This research backs the trend forecasts that products must be talkable amongst kids and their friends to ensure that purchases are made. If you have a kids' product, you must create content around it that speaks directly to kids that's fun and engaging for them. Keep in mind that kids 10 and under are part of the most diverse generation to date, and inclusive content is no longer a boon, but a necessity in staying ahead of the competition.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a considerable alteration to the kids' toy and gaming market. Kids across all age groups have exhibited a shift towards more digitized fun, from spending increasing amounts of time on their devices to having more influence over their parents' spending. With this shift in dynamics, it will now be even more critical for companies to invest in understanding what drives kids’ behavior and how to effectively engage them online. As we move through 2023, the kids’ gaming and toy sector will continue to develop and innovate rapidly as it adjusts to new customer behaviors and platforms.

This blog is inspired by WiT Webinar “Kids After COVID-19: Behavioral, Purchasing and Gaming Trends Unpacked” Watch it on WiT’s Video Library HERE.



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