If there’s one thing a few trips around the sun teaches us, besides the inevitably of gray hair, it’s that nothing lasts forever.
And that goes double for goods and services. They have a lifespan, and your understanding of the timeline for conception and growth to eventual decline and removal from the market will give your business a whole lot of advantages. Knowing the life cycle of your product helps you stay on top of its future, how to allocate resources based on its anticipated performance, and when the time is right to debut a new product to take its place.
A prime example of a company truly understanding how the product life cycle works is Apple.
Let’s take a look at the 4 Product Life Cycle Stages and how Apple utilized their knowledge of them when handling their most well known product: the iPhone….
- 2007 – Introduction
The iPhone’s entry to the market was a time so momentous you might even remember where you were when it happened. Apple combined the old school mobile phone with theiPod Touch and the personal computer in a way so perfect that those who got them were almost annoyingly pleased, and those who didn’t were instantly jealous. The sleek, new product was combined with a heavy marketing campaign and ample buzz, and it’s been the smartphone to beat for more than 15 years.
- 2009-14 – Growth
Apple knew a good thing when they had one, and expanded the iPhone to new markets, introducing new functionalities, and creating lifelong fans. With the arrival of the App Store in 2008, the iPhone became a complete package and the sky was the limit.
- 2015-18 – Maturity
The iPhone was now established, and customers knew what to expect. Sales were stable and business was good. At this point, Apple began diversifying their #1 product by providing different models at each rollout, offering options based on the needs of users. By introducing the option for larger or smaller screens, different colors and tiers of advancement, the iPhone’s life cycle was further extended.
- 2019-Present – Decline
But now, with so many options for smartphones saturating the market, iPhone sales growth has slowed. Rather than mourn the end, Apple has diversified their product line-up. The introduction of Apple TV+ and Apple Music, as well as more iPhone options, like the SE shows a company that believes in the importance of encouraging brand loyalty and ecosystem integration. They have a community of users who are more than happy to pay top dollar for each new product based on the Apple logo alone, even as the iPhone ceases to be the world-encompassing event it once was.
And this keen understanding of product life cycle management, especially when it comes to a product with a limited lifespan, kept Apple’s most popular product on top for more than a decade (no small feat), and will serve to maintain their strong market position for years to come.
Now, how does this keen understanding of product life spans pertain to your company, especially if you don’t even offer a physical product to your customers? Well, the same rules apply if that’s the case, however they’re more fluid and require you to pay closer attention to their market behaviors.
Here are some reasons you should consider the product life cycle if you offer a digital service or product.
- Planning Ahead
Whatever type of product you’re offering, understanding its life span and planning for growth, evolution, and eventual decline helps you stay prepared for future changes. As your product moves through its life cycle, you’ll be able to keep tabs on (and anticipate) each stage, and make your offering more effective and well-suited to the needs of your clients along the way.
Similarly, as your product’s life cycle progresses, you’ll be able to notice areas for improvement and ways you can change it in ways that can better please your customers. Just like Apple did by introducing variety into their iPhone line, by keeping tabs on the life cycle stages of your product, you’ll be able to bring innovation into the mix and extend each stage of its existence. Note: if it’s easy for competing companies to enter your market and make waves, knowledge of the changes you can make in the life of your offering is absolutely paramount.
- Happy Customers
Your understanding of your product’s life cycle will also help you manage customer expectations. Maintaining a high level of happiness among your client base, even as your product evolves, can hinge greatly on your understanding of its position in its overall lifespan and the adjustments you make accordingly.
- Decline Management
Ever notice how successful companies always have a new product at the ready just as their previously successful product is nearing the end of its lifespan? An understanding of your product’s life cycle means that you’ll never be caught off guard by market changes and, if you’re on top of your game, you’ll have product changes, improvements, or even brand new offerings, at the ready for when the time is right.
Almost every product which can be sold has a life cycle, and each of its four stages hinges on a myriad of factors, many of which are within your control and many that aren’t, but which can be anticipated if you understand them. One thing is certain: This framework is an incredibly valuable tool for understanding and managing the life of your goods and services. No matter how you use it in your business, keep it in mind.