Children’s toys is one of the most competitive spaces on the web. That’s because the Internet has enabled parents to find exactly the toy their child wants–and at the right price. Additionally, they can shop for the toys when their child is at school or in bed, which makes it significantly easier. But what are the most important trends in the toy industry and how can businesses capitalize on these trends to learn more about their customers’ needs?

Top Toy Trends for 2013

Integrating technology: Toy makers have found that many children prefer playing with their parents’ gadgets than the toys designed specifically for them. For that reason, many toy makers are integrating gadgets, technology and interactive elements to their toys to entice the children of the digital age. For example, a child’s doll can come with an interactive game online or puzzles come with a corresponding app to bring the scene to life once completed.

Toys that teach: Toy makers have jumped at the chance to create toys that not only teach kids, but may influence their directions or career paths early in life. Specialized toys that integrate elements of engineering, architecture or chemistry are becoming more popular, especially as the competition grows steeper with the current economy.

Portability: Just like the rest of our country, toys are becoming more portable than ever. Toys–and even classic board games–are designed to be even easier for parents and kids to tote on the go, so that they are never without entertainment.

Opportunities for Toy Companies

Online research: Online toy sales have climbed substantially in the last ten years, and parents are doing their research about toys online. 39% of toy purchasers cited online retailers as their most oft-used resource, with 43% citing video sharing sites. Therefore, toy manufacturers must begin user-generated content initiatives (both written and video reviews), as well as content development about their products online. Only 24% of toy purchasers said that they relied on traditional media like TV and magazines for their toy information.

Social intelligence: Monitoring social conversation can help toy brands assess which products might be the popular or have the most sustainable future. Additionally, social intelligence can glean insights about future toy trends and inform business decisions, including price sensitivity analysis and manufacturing based upon demand.

Mobile marketing: Did you know that 50% of toy purchasers used their mobile phones to compare prices and 32% read reviews? 20% of these toy consumers actually make a purchase using a mobile device, with search being their number one activity. Therefore, it is imperative that your digitial marketing initiatives be mobile-friendly, as well as your website and any corresponding apps.

A child’s influence: An aspect unique to the toy industry is a child’s influence over the purchases of his/her parents. The majority of parents purchase toys based on their child’s interest or suggestion. Therefore, marketing to children is a big opportunity. As children become more adept at utilizing the Internet and mobile devices–and at an earlier age–it is important for toy companies to consider how they could leverage data about children’s interactions with apps and the Internet, including how it can be used to develop new products and predict toy trends for the future.