If we’re being honest, it’s a little too late to start strategizing your holiday product lineup. Unless you’re some kind of wizard, there is little chance of getting a product from concept to package in time for this year’s holiday season. Retailers have long had their assortments chosen and ordered, and now you’re seeing the fruits of those decisions on the shelf.

There have been some brands that have really done it right during holiday seasons past, from Reese’s embracing their tree-shape (that some consumers thought looked like…something else….) with their #alltreesarebeautiful campaign to Dollar Shave Club’s “perfect gift” marketing campaign. 

Though the time for this year has passed, we are in a prime time for suppliers to start thinking about next year.

You’re probably saying to yourself, next year? Really? We’re already talking about next year and we haven’t even finished this year? Isn’t it a little early?

No, it’s not too early.

Yes, really.

No, I’m not jumping the gun, nor am I one of those people who puts up her holiday decorations in October.

Think about it—this is the biggest selling season of the year. The National Retail Foundation estimates that holiday retail sales in November and December will top more than $717 billion in 2018—don’t you want your brand to have a piece of that holiday pie? 

Yes, there are things you can do now that will help your new products down the road.

What are those things? Well, here are a few ideas….

  1.     Keep close tabs on what works and what doesn’t work for you. The best place to start your research for next year is right in your own backyard. Or rather, your own company/manufacturing facility/office. Once the holiday buzz fizzles, look at the numbers, and see where you did well, and where you did not do so well. Use data to your advantage, so you can set yourself up for greater success next year. 

Look beyond the numbers, too, and look at the information you can glean from talking to actual humans. Check in with your customers, both retailers and consumers. What did they like? What did they not like? By engaging with consumers, you can get a better sense of their wants and needs. And pair that information with data, and you’ll be able to devise the products that consumers want, and make the next holiday season merry and bright for all. 

  1.     Check out what your competitors are doing. What do you like about their products (come on, there has to be something)? What do you think they did well?

And then figure out how you can do it better.

As we all know, competition boosts innovation, so use it to your advantage where you can. It will stop you from becoming complacent, and letting another year roll by without updating your products, and will help you better understand your core market. 

  1.     Research the trends in other categories. No matter the type of product you produce, you should be well-versed in categories outside your own. That’s just smart business, because it provides insight into where products might be able to cross over. Maybe next year you talk to a retailer about a display grouping with complementary products that will increase sales for all. Maybe a flavor trend in one category sparks a daring new option for your own product. The possibilities are out there, you just have to find them, and then tailor them into something that works for your product line up.
  2. Get your marketing out there early, and flood your channels with it. The early marketing bird gets the word—and gets stuck in people’s minds when people are out shopping. As pervasive as e-commerce is, it’s imperative that brands get their product or products out there wherever and whenever they can. When looking at next year, think about which channels work best for you (Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? The choice is yours!) and strategize the type of content you’ll use during the holiday season. 
  3. Be bold. Like they say in Love Actually, “at Christmas you tell the truth,” and the truth is there is no time like the holiday season to try out that idea you’ve been holding off on. Christmas is a time when consumers are open to bold new products, oddball, off-the-wall products that they may not have tried otherwise. Because why not? Christmas, for many, is a time to splurge, to step out of their comfort zone, or to give to someone who they know would love whatever that product is you’ve been talking about. So get going now, and have that new product ready for retail when the holidays hit. 

Like I said, it’s too late for this year, but next year is a blank slate. How you color that slate is up to you, but the time to start thinking about it is now.

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