All products have a lifespan. We’re not referring to the number of years a cellphone can be used before it needs to be replaced. From a marketing perspective, products aren’t simply viewed as items for use and consumption. They go through certain stages that help marketers plan for possible scenarios that can help the business adapt and grow.
Understanding the Product Life Cycle
The product life cycle refers to the collective stages related to sales and promotions. These stages are introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. The goal of marketers is to let the life cycle guide them into maximizing the value and profitability of the product at each stage.
According to Wikipedia, PLC also takes into account three assumptions:
- Products have a limited life and thus every product has a life cycle.
- Product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different challenges, opportunities, and problems to the seller.
- Products require different marketing, financing, manufacturing, purchasing, and human resource strategies in each life cycle stage.
This comes from the idea that every product will reach an ‘end’, where it will cease to be useful and eventually fade away from production. Think of it as a certain species going extinct, like the floppy disk.
Having a good grasp of how product life cycle will affect the promotability of your product and will help keep your expectations in check. Moreover, it lets you plan your next steps carefully.
So, what happens in these stages?
Stage 1: Introduction
This is the stage where companies tend to spend the most on, but with minimal return on their investment. Most of the stage is spent heavily marketing the product so it gains visibility and potential customers. The product still has no buyers, so your job is to get it in front of the right people. That means plenty of advertising, cold-calling, and lead-following.
Sales are expected to be very slow, but it tends to pick up around the end of the stage – right before it transitions to ‘growth’. As a wholesaler, the common approach would be to market the product selectively to consumers with the highest likelihood of buying them.
Stage 2: Growth
Buyers now know about the product, see its value, and are willing to buy it. Naturally, this is where the sales start coming in. Given that this is a new product you’re marketing, you’ll be able to enjoy the profits with little competition. Profit margins will show a dramatic rise, allowing your wholesale business to invest in more promotions and maximize returns from this growth stage.
Production costs will also be gradually reduced due to economies of scale. In some cases, some competition will start to show up, but they don’t pose much of a risk at the moment. If you want to keep the buying momentum from dropping too early, you can choose to reduce your prices at this stage.
Remember: if you want to take full advantage of your new product’s growth stage, constantly invest in advertising and widening your customer reach. This is a good way to make sure you get the most out of your product’s ripest moment.
Stage 3: Maturity
At this point, the product is well-established. Your goal now is to maintain the market share you’ve built up. You can consider making improvements and modifications to the product as you see fit since other companies will be likely to start creating their own versions of your product – especially if it was a hit.
A good way to keep the product from entering ‘decline’ is to apply extension strategies. This may include rebranding, reducing prices, or seeking a new target market for your product. More complex and expensive advertising strategies will include social media marketing (SMM) and public relations (PR).
Stage 4: Decline
Eventually, the market for your product will start to shrink. This is what’s known as the decline stage of the product life cycle. One reason could be because your target customers have already purchased the product, or because cheaper alternatives are now available. Take note that this decline is, unfortunately, inevitable. To cut back on costs, you can switch to more affordable production methods and cheaper markets.
Depending on how well your marketing strategy can cope with the decline stage, your product may or may not have to be terminated. You can choose to liquidate it if you want to invest in the development and marketing of another potentially profitable product.
The concept of a product life cycle has been around for some time. As a wholesaler, it’s important to have a good grasp of how it works to make a profit and stay in business.
However, understanding the process isn’t enough! Proper application of resources and marketing strategies at the right stage is the key to successful wholesale distribution.