HANGZHOU: US toymaker Mattel is expanding its partnership with Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, to develop new toys specifically for the growing market in China.

According to Alizila, a website that specialises in news about Alibaba Group, Mattel aims to tap into Alibaba's huge resource of data and insights about Chinese consumers to advance sales of its iconic brands, such as Fisher-Price and Barbie.

In addition to gaining access to the more than 440m active buyers across Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, Mattel will work with Alibaba's artificial intelligence research unit to develop innovative products to aid child development, the companies said in a statement.

"Play has a tremendous impact on a child's cognitive, social and emotional growth," said Margo Georgiadis, CEO of Mattel.

"By combining Mattel's unmatched expertise in childhood learning and development, with Alibaba's immense reach and unique consumer insights, our goal is to help parents in China raise children to be their personal best."

The initiative follows recognition that the Chinese market differs from the West in that Chinese parents prefer to spend any extra money they may have for their children on educational pursuits.

As explained by Patty Wu, Mattel's vice president of China Growth, the Chinese toy market is only about a third (30%) of the size of the market in the US, and that is because many Chinese parents regard play as a distraction from academic work.

"Toys and play are an important part of a child's early development, helping to drive IQ and EQ development. And we want to prepare parents for their most important role," she said.

"We want to coach parents on how to maximise their child’s development through play, which not only includes physical development, but also social, emotional and cognitive aspects," she added.

Consequently, the two companies plan to co-develop learning resources, entertainment content based on Mattel brands and characters, and educational content for child development.

They intend to make this information available across multiple Alibaba channels, including its Tmall and Taobao mobile apps as well as the Weibo micro-blog site.

"This is not just about the one-way communication," Wu explained. "It's about coaching and empowering parents, providing them with solutions, not only the what, but the how. That's what really makes it exciting."

Data sourced from Alizila, Mattel, Alibaba; additional content by Warc staff