“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late”- William Shakespeare
Like the old and wise have often lamented on the loss of time, today’s global world pretty much revolves around the trinity of ‘faster’, ‘cheaper’ and ‘better’. Customer loyalty is nearly endangered and may face extinction sooner, due to extreme level of competition in the market and wide variety of choices available to the customer. Without doubt, today’s customer is spoilt with choices.The manufacturing industry is no alien to these rapid changes. Engineer-to-order and made-to-order products demand high degree of customization. Result of which, these manufacturers face the precarious decision to choose between time to market and customization.
To drive faster time to market by offering standard products or to offer customized products to delight customers? Now that is the question!
The choice is not an easy one but critical. Success of a new product introduction strategy is highly dependent on how soon the product is in market and how long it stays there. When a product is an early entrant, the available target market is often untouched and larger in proportion than what is at a later stage.
At this stage, product owners can aim at maximum market penetration and spread without much of threats from other forces in action. This competitive edge later on translates into larger market share and longer product life.
Let’s see the case with OEMs. They serve unique customer needs and it is inevitable for them to have much longer and more complex design and development cycles. But, can they afford prolonged development cycles any longer? Certainly not. There is increased pressure from the end user to capitalize on being the first mover and hence a never ending need for faster time to market. The longer it takes to reach market, the smaller would be the size of target market. However, if the same product takes longer to reach the market, it is defeated by competition that has already reached the market and captured the market share.
Some product owners may argue that faster time to market doesn’t guarantee success. Yes, agreed.
There could be exceptions, where owing to better product features offered by the late entrant, the market may get swayed in their direction. But, this isn’t often the case. Particularly in the case of OEMs, if there is significant investment to shift loyalties.
Time lost in getting to market is market lost in most cases. Hence, what could have been achieved with a faster time to market strategy, may need a disruptive positioning strategy and a whole lot of promotion. (Note: Customers today have access to unlimited information. Thanks to the ever expanding knowledge pool on web. If you are visible to customers, undoubtedly, your competitors are too!) Not good news for profit margins.
Thus, manufacturers need to strike a balance between both the constraints. It may seem gruelling but certainly not an impossible feat to achieve.
Click on the image below and access an infographic that talks about the questions that need to be answered for solving the time to market crisis.