Each year, it seems as if the holiday shopping season arrives earlier than the year before. In a 2016 survey, over 40% of U.S. consumers started their holiday shopping in September or October and another 41.4% began shopping in November1. That’s over 80% of U.S. consumers that are shopping well in advance of the month of December!
For the 20% of consumers who wait until December to begin their shopping, September must seem unbelievably early. But, for product developers, it’s not early enough. OEMs and retailers need to be thinking about Christmas even before the Easter holiday of that same year. The average timeframe to build a consumer electronic product and get it onto the retail shelf is 9 - 12 months. If a product is to be ready for the holiday shopping season, product developers should aim to be finished with prototyping and testing by the Easter holiday. Once Easter arrives, there is less than 6 months until the shopping frenzy begins.
In order to have your product ready for consumers to add to their holiday wish list, you should have your manufacturing partner in place by the beginning of Q2. Typically, production facilities will need to prepare and schedule your product’s mass production. This can include purchasing new equipment, hiring more operators, or physically making space available on the line to assemble your product. A critical piece of the preparation is the lead time for components and raw materials needed for your product. Even the best manufacturers cannot build a finished product if they are waiting for delivery of components unique to your design.
The average timeframe to build a consumer electronic product and get it onto the retail shelf is 9 - 12 months
Once the product has been manufactured, you will need a logistics plan. The amount of time it takes to ship your product depends on two factors. The first factor is the distance between your manufacturing location and the location of your distribution center. The other factor is the shipping method. Shipping options include air, sea, truck, or rail. Ocean freight is the best economical overseas shipping option. However, for a shipment from China to U.S., it can take up to 4 weeks of transit time. This does not include the additional time required for customs, processing, and delivering the shipment from port to warehouse nor does it account for possible delays caused by the increase in traffic for holiday season imports.
If you plan to sell your product online, your own warehouse may be your product’s last stop before shipping to the end user. If not, after manufacturing and shipping, your product may need 2 - 4 weeks to go from warehouse to store shelves. The amount of time your product will be stored at the warehouse before distribution will depend on your retail plan, sales channels, and demand for the product. Of course, accurate sales forecasting and order management will be key to your success in this phase.
As your product progresses towards its launch date, you will need to promote and advertise! Creating buzz sparks interest among your ideal users and gives them time to Like, Tag and Share it to their holiday wish list. The earlier you get your product to market, the greater chance you’ll have to capitalize on the entire holiday shopping season: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and more.
Many variables can affect the overall timeline of getting your product to market and into holiday shoppers’ hands. By thinking about Christmas before Easter, you will have enough time to prepare for manufacturing, shipping, and distribution so that your product is ready for the holiday season.