Kids at Play Interactive (KAPi) Award Winners from CES 2019
By Reyne Rice, Juror for KAPi Awards and Global Trend Hunter
These KAPi (Kids at Play Innovation) awards were created 10 years ago, to celebrate and honor the most innovative games, software, devices and apps for educating and entertaining today’s digital generation.
Celebrating the 10th annual KAPi Awards program, at CES 2019 in Las Vegas in January 2019.
More than 500 children’s technology products were evaluated for the 2019 KAPi Awards, all released in 2018. The products were evaluated by an independent jury of industry and editorial experts under the direction of Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, and co-chaired by Robin Raskin, president and founder of Living in Digital Times.
“We’re seeing an effort by the kids’ community to develop more open-ended, low-cost opportunities for play, and that’s a good thing. Of special note this year is the use of technology that has ‘no screens’ attached and uses voice as an input device.” said Robin Raskin, president and founder of Living in Digital Times.
The 2019 KAPi Award winners:
Lifetime Achievement: Fred Rogers (Posthumous)
Pioneer: Jesse Schell,
Teacher, author and speaker, Jesse Schell is a “VR-aholic” who teaches in the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Schell Games, his Pittsburgh-based studio, has been the force behind many noteworthy products including Happy Atoms, a 2016 KAPi winner.
Best Hardware: Echo Dot Kids by Amazon. This device puts 300 Audible books, like Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan, thousands of songs, kid-favorite games and COPPA compliant kid skills, all awaiting your child’s verbal command.
Best Overall Tech: Nintendo Labo by Nintendo.
Nintendo Labo merges maker play with screens. Jurors called it “a gutsy, slightly insane merger between concrete and abstract that reminded us all how screens can support any type of play.”
Best Maker Spirit: Itty Bitty Buggy by Microduino.
This CPT (Code Programmable Toy) lets you program a vehicle to trace lines on a map and recognize colors and voice commands via bluetooth, using your own device as a remote.
Best Robot: JIMU Overdrive Kit by Ubtech.
This year’s jurors liked the possibilities offered by the most recent addition to the JIMU line, with 400 parts, speedy servo motors and a variety of sensors for light and motion. STEM learning empowered with a very relevant robotic play format.
Most Novel Tech: When In Rome by Sensible Object.
When in Rome is an engaging trivia game for the whole family that relies on Alexa to provide clues, guide game play and add real-world information. Moreover, because the game can be continually updated, it’s different every time it’s played. Jurors liked the ability to keep the game different every time it’s played.
Best Mixed Reality: Untamed/Battle ARena by WowWee and Happy Giant
In 2017, the mini WowWee Fingerling robotic pets were a stand-out winner in the toy world. This year, Untamed Dinosaurs take the play further with the ability to step into Augmented Reality, thanks to an accessory app, called Untamed ARena. Jurors liked the new play possibilities added onto an already solid toy, at an affordable pricepoint.
Best Educational Product: Snap Circuits BRIC Structures by Elenco.
The classic Snap Circuits have been mixed up with a compatible set of construction bricks. Jurors were impressed by the diverse projects and open-ended potential of the play.
Best Physical Play: Nerf Laser Ops Pro by Hasbro.
The sophisticated design allows players to blast an IR beam as far as 300 feet. Add a smart device for real-time battle “intel,” solo play mode or GPS tracking of teammates and opponents. This encourages active, play & fun on the run.
Best Video Game: Starlink: Battle for Atlas by Ubisoft.
This is a deep, narrative-based, open world game that combines physical toys with the story. Connect pilots and ships to the game controller to see changes in the game instantly. The combination of physical and digital play is well done and very much on trend for today’s kids.
The 2019 KAPi Award Honorable Mentions:
StoryBall: Jurors liked the physical and digital open-ended story play that uses games, stories and challenges to encourage children to play using their bodies instead of a computer screen.
NovelEffect: This great new literacy product brings families together with reading, storytelling magic and sound effects.
The judges for this year’s KAPi Awards consisted of a panel of leading journalists and publishers:
- Warren Buckleitner, Children’s Technology Review
- Amanda Gummer, Fundamentally Children
- Ahren Hoffman, ASTRA
- Christopher Byrne, Independent analyst and author, aka The Toy Guy®
- Mary Couzin, Chicago Toy and Game Group
- David Kleeman, Dubit
- Dan Nessel, Dad Does.com
- Robin Raskin, Living in Digital Times
- Reyne Rice, International Toy Trade Magazine Association, Global Trend Hunter
- Mark Schlichting, Noodleworks; creator of Broderbund’s Living Books
- Tonda Bunge Sellers, Living in Digital Times
- Valerie Vacante, Collabsco
(Originally posted on Spielwarenmesse.de)
This Holiday Season 2018 is certainly shaping up to be an interesting one, not only across North America, but across many international markets. Some retailers are opening new doors and revealing creative options with pop-up shops, stores-within-stores, a diverse product mix and increased toy department footprints.
The resurgence of FAO Schwarz Stores across the USA is a perfect example. The new 20,000 square foot Flagship store opened in New York City, at Rockefeller Center, on November 16th, 2018, with a great expected fanfare. The store is an experiential, featuring FAO’s iconic life-size piano, magic shows, a baby adoption center, a grocery-shopping area for kids, and a station to construct a remote-controlled car.
FAO Schwarz opened a store at New York Airport LaGuardia.
Airport FAO Schwarz locations will be included in Hudson Airport shops, across the USA, with the first location at LGA Airport in New York. The well-respected David Niggli, the original buyer for the iconic and original FAO Schwarz stores, is back in the buyer’s seat, and it is expected that his well-honed experience will continue to steer the product selections. An FAO Schwarz international pop-up has opened in Selfridges, in the UK, and although it just recently opened, reports are that it is expected to fare well for its first UK Holiday season. FAO is also planning to open pop-up shops in department stores across the world, including Hudson’s Bay in Canada, Myer Australia in Australia, and El Corte Ingles in Spain. Another full store will open in Beijing, China, in 2019 in partnership with Kidsland China, and is expected to occupy 27, 000 square feet.
Mass market retailers have increased their toy footprints for the fourth quarter, adding more toy categories, and building depth within certain thriving categories. They have stepped up their exclusive retailer offerings in order to grab consumer’s attention and drive traffic to their toy departments.
The multinational retail corporation Walmart has partnered with key manufacturers to ensure foot traffic in their toy departments, by offering exclusive merchandise. The retail giant announced in early September that it would expand its toy assortment by 30% in stores and 40% online this Holiday season. Walmart also introduced a new collectibles section in the entertainment department of more than 3,500 stores starting from mid-October. This new destination will features exclusive brick-and-mortar merchandise from the subscription service Loot Crate for collectors.
The department store retailer Target has expanded their home delivery shipments and their click-and-collect features, driving quicker product delivery to consumers. Their recent purchase of a 3rd party shipment fulfillment service, Ship is driving this new delivery service. The acquisition will accelerate Target’s digital fulfillment efforts, bringing same-day delivery services to approximately half of Target stores by 2018. The service is now offered from the majority of Target stores, and in all major markets. By the end of 2019, same-day delivery will include all major product categories at Target. Target stores have also re-vamped their in-store toy department footprint, and increased selections in their Adult Games section, collectible toys, and more.
Specialty retailers and department stores are broadening their mix
Nordstrom Department Stores has added a range of specialty type products, such as special LEGO exclusives and selections from the Tech Will Save Us portfolio of relevant, hands-on tech projects that inspire kids and delight their gift-givers.
Some stores in the Learning Express franchise have reported an uptick in sales of collectibles, tangibles (think slime offerings, compounds and putty), Harry Potter merchandise, and more. With Kid Focus (a division of MGA Entertainment, USA) now offering L.O.L. Surprise and other highly coveted brands, specialty stores are reporting an unexpected early lift in holiday sales.
Amazon has gone old school, and has released its first Holiday printed catalog, with an expanded Toy, Game, Tech Toys and STEM Toys range of products. The e-commerce giant made $4.5 billion in U.S. toy sales during 2017, up 12% over 2016, according to One Click Retail. In comparison, for the same 2016 annual time period, Amazon grew in the UK, 10% YoY; in Germany, 42% YoY; and in France, 78% YoY.
eBay has launched Toytopia, as a new section of its site dedicated to toys for the holiday season. Toytopia claims to include millions of toys for all ages, including action figures, dolls, STEM toys, family games, trains, and more. According to eBay, they have more than 1 billion listings and 175 million buyers worldwide. They claim that eighty-one percent of eBay merchandise is new, and 89 percent of items are “buy it now,” with no bidding required. They are making a big play for more of the online market dollars.
Even Toys R Us private label branded goods, marketed under the brands of Journey Girls, Animal Zone and Imaginarium are re-surfacing at retail stores such as Krogers (they have 600 nationwide USA locations) for Holiday 2018. This Geoffrey Toy product range is spear-headed by Richard Barry, the ex-Toys R Us executive, and his team, who have re-imagined these once-exclusive Toys R Us brands and are offering them as continuing brands for consumers across America.
Franchises such as Five Below, Party City and Hobby Town have increased their toy departments and even Farm and Fleet stores: Blain, Fred Meyer’s and Meyers have re-energized their offerings, in the wake of a new retail expansion.
All in all many new retail models have emerged. Retailers are devoting more shelf space than ever to toys as they compete for a bigger chunk of sales.
Visit the Toy Business Forum at the Spielwarenmesse® 2019. Reyne Rice shares a whirlwind view of the newest trends and products found across the toys, games and technology spectrum, as we enter 2019, and beyond. Listen to her at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 January 2019. Read the program of the Toy Business Forum.
(Originally posted on Spielwarenmesse.de)
This Holiday Season 2018 is certainly shaping up to be an interesting one across both, North America and many international markets. Retailers are devoting more shelf space than ever to toys. Here are just a few hot toy categories that are the toy hot sellers in the 4th quarter 2018.
LOL Surprise Eye Spy Series by MGA Entertainment
LOL Surprise toys, across multiple segments, are still causing quite the frenzy at retail. When they hit shelves, they are scooped up quickly, by adoring fans, and early Holiday shoppers. The L.O.L. Surprise House is already sold out in many global locations, with the $170-$190 product selling at 2 to 3 times that price on eBay.
New squishable and tactile toys continue to be hot-sellers, including all of the varieties of slime, dough-like compounds of all colors and iterations are currently available, including neon, glitter, glow-in-the-dark, magnetic, and more. Slow-rise soft squishables and slow-rise plush toys include brands such as: Squishables (Squishables, USA) , Rainbocorns (Zuru, New Zealand)), Soft N Slo Squishies (Orb, Canada), Smooshy Mushy (Redwood Ventures, USA), and Squish-Dee-Lish (Shopkins brand, Moose Toys, Australia).
Unicorns, sloths, llamas, hedgehogs and narwals are new creatures of choice.
Plush Rainbowcorns by ZURU are full of surprises.
Unicorns, sloths, llamas, hedgehogs and narwals are new creatures of choice. Newer fabrics and materials offer tactile sequin-changing plush, squishable play and surprise-inside-toys. Blind packaged brands delight boys and girls, although across different spectrums. For some collectors, there are shimmery, glittery, winged, sequined and rainbow-colored versions of plush and blind bag collectibles. And then there are the potty humor trending collectible products, tied to poop emojis, slimy, gross and disgusting versions of collectibles that appeal more to an irreverent or off-color sense of humor. All co-exist on the collectible shelves, until they are scooped up by kids’ using their pocket money.
Scruff-A-Luvs (Moose Toys, Australia) are appealing to boys and girls who want a pet. The unique reveal play pattern for adopting a rescued pet is selling well with parents and gift-givers who are looking for innovative and interactive products to delight kids, and to keep them entertained and engaged. On the other hand, more diverse plush such as Fugglers (Spin Master, Canada) and Feisty Toys (WMC Toys, USA) appeal to tweens and others with a sense of humor, versus a nurturing instinct.
Most species of dinosaurs are on the rise, following the popularity of the latest Jurassic World movie. Dragons are on the horizon, teasing the next How to Train Your Dragons theater release in 2019, and following the Game of Thrones popularity. Expect more in 2019. Lots more amazing creatures.
Harry Potter fans can build the Hogwarts’ castle with Lego bricks.
Other winged creatures, Fantastical Beasts themes, and Harry Potter themed products are hard-to-find on shelves as kids conjure up wand spells and magical sorcery with Harry Potter Coding wands (Kano, USA) Jakks Pacific wand selections (Jakks Pacific, USA) and Wow-Stuff spell-inducing wands. Kids are also perfecting their magic skills with the Harry Potter Mystery Flying Golden Snitch (WowStuff, UK), and gathering characters with Funko action-themed collectible figures (Funko, USA) or constructing their favorite Hogwarts Castles or Hogwarts Great Halls, with deluxe LEGO replica building sets, complete with themed mini-figures. Even the new just-released Fantastical Beasts movie: The Crimes of Grindelwald, has a new set of dedicated LEGO mini-figure blind packs (LEGO, Denmark).
The popularity of nostalgia, video game licensed characters and gamer franchises are fueling sales of Nintendo Labo, and Nintendo Switch, Mario Bros video games and licensed products, Pokemon plush and interactive pets, licensed FUNKO action figure collectibles, and Zelda and Spyro merchandise.
Hasbro relaunches their board games classics as farcical copies.
Gaming for adults as social games: Fortnite Monopoly (Hasbro, USA), for ages 13+, is in short supply, as are many social games for adults such as Relative Insanity (Play Monster, USA) and farcical copies of classic Hasbro games, selling exclusively at Target this holiday season, re-invented as:
- Game of Life: Quarter Life Crisis Parody Edition,
- Clue: What Happened Last Night? Lost in Vegas Parody Edition,
- Mystery Date: Catfished, Parody Edition,
- Botched Operation, Parody Edition
- Sorry!Not Sorry! Parody Edition,
All of these re-invented versions of iconic games are designed with an edgy appeal, for players aged 12+. Secrets are confessed, risks are taken, and stories are revealed by players, all in twisted new versions of these once classical children’s games. They appeal to millennials, who remember the tamer versions, from their childhood memories.
Visit the Toy Business Forum at the Spielwarenmesse® 2019. Reyne Rice shares a whirlwind view of the newest trends and products found across the toys, games and technology spectrum, as we enter 2019, and beyond. Listen to her at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 January 2019. Read the complete program of the Toy Business Forum.
(Originally posted on Spielwarenmesse.de)
We all know that retail has changed quite significantly in the past decade. Even in the past year, the demise of Toys R Us in the USA and the UK markets, and other notable store closures are a common lament. We are all consumers ourselves and have experienced these changes first-hand.
Consumer expectations, lifestyle, needs, and desires have changed the way people like to purchase, and their preferences influence how and where they choose to purchase. Your customers expect their brand experience to be a fluid one, no matter where they choose to make their purchase: online, at brick-and-mortar, or via a mobile interaction. And they also expect seamless transactions that are quick and efficient, blending the worlds of digital and physical.
Does your brand model meet these objectives, whether you are selling a product or a service? If not, read on. Retailers and manufacturers need to be aware of the latest technologies, and how their competitors are using them to gain customers and retail sales.
Earning Digital Currency
When offered a truly engaging and interactive experience at an in-store location, or an unexpected interaction through their mobile or online device, many consumers want to be surprised and delighted. By capturing their attention with a unique or personalized experience, most will want to share that encounter with their social community, many via their online social networks. If they do, you have gained some digital currency, and have won some loyalty points with that customer.
What experiences have you encountered recently that truly made you smile and want to share the experience? How can you create that positive feeling about your products, or services?
Different retail models delight consumers with new experiences
Whether it is a personalized selection process, a fun and engaging interactive experience through use of virtual reality, augmented reality, visual imagery, or a sensory, tactile technique, it is that new approach to retail where many people embrace the unexpected. And if it encourages consumers to purchase your products, and to share that positive impression forward via social media, through digital communities, or via word-of-mouth, your customers become vocal brand ambassadors for you.
Magic Mirror Technologies engage consumers
Magic mirror technologies have been engaging consumers at retail from make-up purchasing to apparel selections. There are some examples for successful launches.
Sephora, a chain of global stores that specialize in make-up, fragrance and beauty products now offers customers multiple tech options that allow them to personalize their shopping experience by trying on makeup virtually using AR, matching their skin tone to a foundation with AI, and sampling a fragrance via a touchscreen and scented air.
The Sephora Virtual Artist, created in cooperation with ModiFace technology, is an AR tool that allows customers to try on thousands of shades of makeup products sold at Sephora, and use beauty tutorials on their own face digitally to learn how to achieve certain looks. Virtual Artist is available in the Sephora app as well as in select stores.
The Rebecca Minkoff “Connected Fitting Room” mirror
In the San Francisco and Manhattan-based stores, the dressing room mirrors are transformed into interactive screens. The rooms use RFID (radio-frequency identification) to recognize all items in the fitting room and to identify sizes and colors available in the store. If the shopper needs a different size or color, they simply touch the screen to submit the request to a sales associate. Personalized recommendations are also provided to the shopper, based upon what the customer has selected.
How fun would it be to have a child enter a virtual playground, in your store, and use a magical, interactive touchscreen mirror to imagine a bedroom, playroom or home equipped with their favorite wish list of toys, games and tech?
Feel-good experiences build loyal repeat customers
A new tactic for using virtual reality immerses consumers in activities that provide an instant recognition that their efforts are recognized and rewarded.
At Toms shoes, the brand donates a pair of shoes to children-in-need, for every pair of shoes purchased. Customers can use Samsung virtual reality headsets, to immerse themselves in a 360-degree in-store video that shows the impact that these donated shoes have upon a Peruvian village that is the recipient of this one-for-one mission. To see the actual impact of your giving is a completely different emotional connection to the brand than just knowing that you have contributed to a worthy cause. To date, they have donated over 60 Million pairs of shoes to children in need.
Children turn into inventors with the electronic kits and apps of littleBits
littleBits, a New York -based platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that enable kids to invent anything, has just recently purchased the San-Francisco-based DIY.com, an educational social network for kids. The deal includes Jam.com, a subscription-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) educational platform.
In the littleBits first brick-and-mortar store, opened in Soho, New York, shoppers built their inventions, even before they bought the product. This littleBits model of engagement is capitalizing on a trend incorporating the DIY STEM to STEAM movement, by tapping into parent’s desire to provide real hands-on experiences, and physical product builds for their kids.
Incorporate digital elements into your offers and use beacon technology
By using digital coupons via mobile devices, QR codes to scan in-store, or augmented reality touch-points, instore or via devices, you can reach additional consumers who may not have been exposed to a print coupon for your product. Couponing, price off, treasure hunting, and act-now limited time offer deals have all been proven methods of increasing consumer purchases. These digital tools allow your consumers to easily interact with and engage with your brand.
Newer Bluetooth technologies also use these Smart Phone Beacons to transform the in-store shopping experience. These device beacons can assist customers with navigating your store to find exactly what they need quickly. With beacon technology, shoppers can download the retailer’s app, opt into beacons, and then easily learn where that item is, as beacons broadcast signals to their mobile device. Additional information or videos on product usage can also be accessed, and then the customer can buy online, and have the product shipped directly to their home. Or purchase in-store.
Even Walmart has filed a new patent for facial-recognition technology that can detect a customer’s frustration level. This new tool is intended to be used to identify a frustrated or unhappy consumer, and to deploy a sales associate to the customer, to ease and alleviate their frustration during their shopping experience. Customer retention is much more cost-effective than losing an un-satisfied customer, and then having to recruit new customers.
Be the trend-hunter yourself
If these new methods have inspired you, take a field trip through your local malls, retail stores and especially your competitors’ retail outlets or online websites. Find how your favorite brands are trying to entice you to engage and purchase their products. Do these methods work for you, and how can you incorporate them into your messaging and outreach to your target customers?
Whether your target is the child toy recipient, or the adult gift-giver, be aware of these new methods and seek to add them to your toolbox, where it makes sense for your business model. Engage your staff and your digitally-obsessed employees to point out what works for them, and brainstorm ways to make new techniques and new technologies work for your brands.
The future of retailing is changing, and better to be a part of the growing revolution than to be considered a dinosaur of the past.
About the author: Reyne Rice is a Global Trend Hunter, Journalist and CEO of ToyTrends based in New York. She is a frequent keynote speaker at 20+ global industry conferences annually. The Toy Industry Analyst has over 30 years of experience in marketing, researching and analyzing the children’s and family technology and the youth market.
Visit the Toy Business Forum at the Spielwarenmesse® 2019. Reyne Rice shares a whirlwind view of the newest trends and products found across the toys, games and technology spectrum, as we enter 2019, and beyond. Listen to her at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 January 2019.