Dear Toy Industry,
Hope all is well! I’m writing to you from the App Store, where Toca Boca just had the biggest holiday season ever—we even landed in the Top 10! While the App Store is a space for digital products, so much of what you know about toys can be applied here—and there’s room for you to excel in this space.
Toca Boca started researching your products a little more than three years ago. We looked at play patterns and blockbuster toys—searching for themes that could work for us. Since you were such a key influence, I thought I’d attempt to return the favor. So here are a few things that we’ve learned from the App Store over the past few years that I would like to share with you.
First, think of the App Store as a toy store. If it was Toys “R” Us, you wouldn’t be putting your marketing material on the shelves. Yet that is often what I see in the App Store—an app trying to sell something in the physical world. Put your best toys on the shelves! There’s infinite shelf space in the App Store and many other toys from which to choose.
Second, you know exactly what sells in what part of the physical toy stores. Kids go to the action figure section when they are looking for action figures and to the puzzle section when they are looking for puzzles. It’s easy! But the App Store requires more clarity than that. Within the kids’ section, there is very little categorization at all. It’s like having one, big shelf in Toys “R” Us that just says “KIDS”—nothing else. So in order to make kids and parents understand what you offer, you need to make clear products and packaging (icons, names, and screenshots) so that there are no misunderstandings. This will change over time, but for now it is an important lesson. It’s all in your hands.
Finally, there are certain areas where the App Store is ahead of traditional toy retailers. There isn’t a pink App Store section for girls or a blue App Store section for boys. It’s just apps with which kids can play. I think it’s time to let kids play with whatever they want—not what we as an industry tell them to like. Girls don’t need toys to be pink for them to be fun! And if a boy wants to play with a doll—cool, then let him do that. We need to let kids just be kids—to imagine and explore without rules or gender stereotypes. It works for our digital toy apps (they are all unisex) so I’m sure it will work just fine for you, too. I encourage you to give it a shot.
I hope you can learn a little from us in the same way we learned from you. You should be in top lists together with us, making apps that are as great as the toys you make. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Co-Founder & CEO
Björn Jeffery is the CEO and co-founder of Toca Boca, a play studio that makes digital toys for touchscreen devices. Since 2011, Toca Boca has released 20 digital toy apps that are played in more than 160 countries. The apps carry consistently high ratings on the App Store and have totaled more than 60 million downloads to date. Toca Boca is a part of The Bonnier Group, one of Europe’s largest media groups with interests in books, newspapers, magazines, TV, internet, and film. Jeffery is currently based in San Francisco at the company’s U.S. headquarters.