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Ready to Launch: Your Guide to a Successful Holiday Product Launch This Season

The holidays mark the most lucrative time of year for many businesses. But as marketers break out the champagne and good cheer this holiday season, consider that upwards of 40% — or more, depending on who you ask — of the new products introduced this year will fail. That’s a lot of ideas down the drain.

More often than not, the reason for these failures isn’t the product itself, nor is it a lack of innovation or startup capital — there’s plenty of that going around. Rather, the culprit is almost always an insufficient launch and marketing plan. The oversights are many: From a lack of market research to not fully understanding their customers’ mindset, marketing teams can miss the mark when bringing a new product or service to the public.

It doesn’t have to be this way; all you need to do is create a good launch plan. Designing a well-thought-out launch plan takes time and effort, but it’s every bit as important as designing a great product that consumers will love. Here’s a look at what goes into creating a solid holiday launch campaign.

Successful Product Launches Don’t Just Happen — They Require Planning

Executing a successful product launch is never easy, especially during the holiday season, when competition among products is fierce. Brands have to dig deep and get their shiny new products to rise above the noise. Creating a successful holiday campaign isn’t rocket science, but it does require forethought and planning to prevent your product launch from crashing and burning.

Holiday Product Launches: How Not to Fail

If there’s one thing that contributes to a successful product launch, it’s planning. The reverse is also true: failing to carefully plan your product launch is a sure pathway to failure. While design and development is almost always the most exciting aspect of a new product, organizations need to bring the same level of enthusiasm and vigor to the product launch itself.

Here are some important steps you can take to prevent launch failure:

  • Start with the end goal in mind. Goals are clear, measurable outcomes. Too many companies bring a product or service to the market without a concrete definition of what they hope to achieve. Some examples of goals might be increasing your Q4 revenue by 25% or getting 100 customers to activate a new feature.
  • Have a clear value proposition. The value proposition of your product or service is the problem it’s designed to solve. If you can’t define why customers absolutely need your product, customers probably won’t buy it. Here’s a rundown of how to define great value propositions for your product or service.
  • Do your market research. Even if a product is the bee’s knees, customers need to agree. The Coca-Cola Company learned this multimillion-dollar lesson the hard way when they failed to conduct proper market research before introducing C2, a hybrid drink with half the calories of regular Coca-Cola. It failed.
  • Understand your customer. It’s important to understand what type of person would be interested in your product or service and why. Creating detailed buyer personas is a critical step in defining who your customer is so you can effectively target and speak to their needs across channels.
  • Set aside enough money for the launch. Companies are too often guilty of spending most of their resources on developing a product and not setting aside enough for the promotion. Even the greatest, most revolutionary products require money to sell them.

How to Nail Your Holiday Product Launch

Product launches are complex, highly coordinated affairs at any time of year, but the holiday season presents special challenges for businesses looking to stand out in a crowded sea. On top of increased competition from big online retailers like Amazon, holiday marketers need to start early and think of clever holiday promotions to build anticipation. On the day of launch, customers expect you to nail it — so it’s important to get it right.

Start Your Planning Early

Like packing for a big overseas trip, planning for a holiday campaign will always take longer than you expect. You need time to put your teams together, test the product, write documentation, train support staff, decide on your metrics, and lay out your entire marketing plan from start to finish.

Taking an early approach to your product launch is key and can’t be emphasized enough. As a rule of thumb, plan on setting aside at least four to six months for your holiday product launch.

Be Agile and Ready to Adapt Quickly

Prepare for success by being agile and ready to adapt to changing conditions quickly. Holiday product launches are all about creating enthusiasm and demand for your product. Not being able to deliver at the last minute or running out of inventory will disappoint buyers. Many retailers, including Home Depot and The Gap, take proactive steps like stocking the shelves early with extra inventory and hiring additional workers for their call centers and warehouses.

To stay competitive this holiday season, it’s important to ensure your technology and operations don’t fail you when it matters most. Be sure to test your website, shipping, and warehouse and your online fulfillment processes to ensure that they can meet the increased holiday demand.

Create a Detailed Launch Plan for the Holidays

Your holiday launch plan needs to be extremely detailed, covering every single aspect of your product launch — from your budget to your target markets to your marketing and promotion strategies. With so many things to stay on top of simultaneously, it’s a smart idea to use a product launch calendar.

While there’s no one right way to approach a product launch — every organization is unique — there are definite steps you can take to help ensure your campaign is a hit.

Holiday Product Launch Checklist:

  • Test and QA your product thoroughly. Test the product throughly, and make sure it works as advertised well before the holidays approach. To make sure you’re getting the most accurate results, consider using a formal, independent testing company that specializes in your industry — not just employees.
  • Get feedback from customers before the launch. There are several methods to collect feedback from users before an actual product launch, including putting together a research group, conducting interviews, providing satisfaction surveys, and analyzing your analytics. You want the opportunity to correct any problems or issues before the launch.
  • Put your cross-functional launch team together. Your product launch team should include key individuals from every department the new product launch impacts. From engineering to sales to marketing to customer service, everyone needs to be coordinated and informed and share the same goals for the campaign.
  • Have a rollout schedule. Sequence the events leading up to, during, and after the product launch. It’s important to time the release correctly by combining product readiness with strategic communications to your audience so they’re aware of and excited about your product leading up to launch day. As mentioned above, having a launch calendar can help you stay on top of important tasks and milestones.
  • Define your outreach and marketing tactics. Define your marketing outreach strategies through the major media outlets, social channels, influencers, and brand ambassadors, as well as your direct marketing, video, webinar, advertising, and holiday promotion strategies. Have a multichannel plan in place, and be sure to enlist influencers to promote your product’s value and ensure a seamless digital product release.
  • Define your metrics of success. How will you measure the success of your holiday campaign? Your launch team should have a clear understanding of what constitutes a successful campaign, including metrics for website visits, online reviews, sales numbers, revenue, and more. Have a post-launch plan for gathering feedback from customers and a postmortem to review the results after the release.
  • Experiment with your marketing. Experimentation can help you achieve better results. With Taplytics, you can combine your marketing experiments with customer data for advanced targeting and in-depth analysis. Taplytics also features flags and push notifications for marketing automation, along with our A/B testing and experimentation features to bring it all together.
  • Rise above the noise. The best holiday campaigns go beyond the expected discounts and promotions. Rather, they bring something truly special to surprise and delight customers. For some creative inspiration, you can check out these nine pro product launch ideas from SEMrush.
  • Train your team. Last but not least, it’s important that your entire organization be on board with the new product launch. Importantly, customer relationship teams must be trained and have access to updated documentation to adequately support customers and ensure satisfaction over the holidays.

Is There a Launch Success Formula the Pros Use?

You may be wondering whether there’s a tried-and-true launch formula that all the pros use. There isn’t. But knowing how consumers think and act can give you insights into your next campaign. For one thing, humans are generally habit-driven and slow to change — although consumer behavior is undergoing rapid shifts during the pandemic.

According to McKinsey, “75 percent of consumers have tried a new store, brand, or different way of shopping during the pandemic.” That’s remarkable when you consider that less than a decade ago, Harvard Business Review reported that consultant Jack Trout said, “American families, on average, repeatedly buy the same 150 items, which constitute as much as 85% of their household needs. It’s hard to get something new on the radar.”

This behavioral shift clearly points to new opportunities for businesses. As the McKinsey findings suggest, marketers must tap into consumers’ beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors and “Align messages to consumer mindsets.” If you can nail this, you’re well on your way to a successful product launch during the holidays and beyond.