Everybody wants their products to live eternal lives, never going out of fashion or stagnating in sales growth. But unless you’re selling real estate, that’s a pretty unrealistic dream.
That said, there are a few life cycle extension strategies that, when implemented, can help bring new life and demand to an old product. We outline 11 of the best ones in this article.
What is the product life cycle?
Product life cycle is a term that refers to the length of time from when a product is introduced into the market for consumers until the time it is removed from the shelves. A product lifecycle is a concept used by management and marketing teams to decide where best to target marketing spend and activities. That may mean an increase in advertising, price reductions, packaging redesign, or expansion into new markets.
The 4 stages of a product life cycle
A product life cycle has four stages:
Each stage of a product’s life cycle will influence how it is marketed to consumers. While new products need an explanation, mature products need differentiation.
The introduction stage is where customers are presented with a new product.
There is often little or no competition during the introduction phase of a product that is unique or has a point of difference from its competitors.
Substantial investment is spent in advertising and marketing campaigns that are focused on growing consumers’ awareness of the new product offering and its benefits.
The growth stage is where a successfully introduced product will generate a growth in demand, a production increase, and an expansion in the product’s availability.
During the growth stage, you may continue to invest in targeted marketing campaigns that help to differentiate your product from competitors or choose to refine your product by improving its functionality and value based on customer feedback.
Product growth will vary between industries and product types. Increased sales often result during this stage of the product life cycle boosting revenue.
The maturity stage of a product life cycle is considered to be the most profitable of all the life cycle phases.
While the maturity phase attracts greater competition and is the stage of the product life cycle where marketing and production costs decrease. Competition and market saturation mean profit margins start to shrink.
This is where a product life cycle extension strategy will help. Your strategy should identify new and innovative ways to differentiate yourself from the competition, maintain market share and capture a larger market presence.
The decline phase of the product life cycle is when the item continues to take on increased competition or it becomes obsolete.
In the decline stage, a product may lose market share and begin its decline.
Product sales begin to drop because the market is saturated, or because consumers have moved on to an alternative product.
At this point in the product life cycle, you may choose to phase out the product altogether or just phase out expensive marketing activities.
Email marketing campaigns offer a cost-effective way to maintain interest from a loyal customer base. Another option is to give the product a complete overhaul and launch it to market in the introduction phase.
What is a product life cycle extension strategy?
A product life cycle extension strategy is a high-level plan for extending the life of a product that has reached maturity. The goal of the strategy is to increase market share and keep the product generating income without letting it fall into decline.
The purpose of a product life cycle extension strategy
The research and design of new products take time and are expensive processes. This is why most companies try to extend the life of a product for as long as it is profitable.
A product life cycle extension strategy aims to continuously support and preserve a product throughout the product life cycle.
An extension strategy is implemented to maintain a product in the maturity stage of its life cycle, increase its market share and avoid the product entering the decline phase.
For this, the extension strategy needs to create ways to keep consumers interested in the product to drive more sales.
11 effective product life cycle extension strategies
Here are 11 extension strategies to consider for your business and brand:
1. Differentiate your product
A goal of a differentiation strategy is to highlight the quality and characteristics of your product that make your product stand out from the rest. Highlight the differences that set your product apart from market competitor products.
Focus on the unique selling points of your product, the things that differentiate it from the rest. Differentiate the product from others by emphasising its functionality and benefits such as ease of use, safety features, reliability, and performance or a combination of these qualities.
2. Repackage and refresh
Packaging plays a significant role in consumer purchasing decisions. By refreshing product packaging or changing the style you can help to broaden its appeal. Fresh packaging can attract new customers while making a product appear new and improved to existing customers.
Research shows that packaging influences a third of buying decisions. One study suggests 40% of buyers will post images of a product with attractive packaging on social media. Over 50% of consumers in the US said they would buy more products it was in sustainable packaging that didn’t cost more.
3. Introduce new sizing options
Changing or introducing new sizes is an excellent extension strategy to draw new interest in your product.
While product appearance is fundamental to winning the consumer’s attention, product assortment is particularly beneficial to retailers.
This means that offering your product in a variety of sizes is beneficial for B2B organisations. Varying the size of your product can be attractive to both new and existing customers. For example, travel-sized coffee products that are easy to pack, carry or store appeal to consumers on the move.
Larger sizes will appeal to a different target market such as consumers that prefer to buy in bulk or ones that are on monthly salaries. Australasian beer drinkers might prefer a six-pack while Asian consumers prefer to share a larger bottle of beer in social settings.
4. Product improvement
Products tend to go stale once they’ve been in the market for a long time and contemporary consumers are easily bored.
Adding new features to an old product provides customers with the product’s familiarity by improving it and adding a new spin.
Product improvements can be intangible such as using more sustainable materials or using 100% ethical supply chains.
There are multiple ways to add new features to an existing product. Bike manufacturers, for example, can add any number of accessories, such as lighter frames, or tubeless tires.
5. Identify new markets
Globalisation and eCommerce have opened up the world. Your business now has access to international markets 24/7 to sell your products in different states or countries.
Finding new markets is an easy way to extend the life cycle of your product.
However, it is still important to focus your efforts on your target customer when expanding online or into new markets. The core difference here is that those target customers are a much larger group.
6. Bundle products
Grouping or pairing products and selling as a bundle can increase the sale and profits of individual items over time.
Look for opportunities to group certain products and sell them at a slightly reduced price. By grouping products, customers are buying more than one item during a single purchase, increasing your average order value.
Bundling products not only offers an opportunity to extend the life of one product it can also help introduce companion products.
For the consumer, this offers a chance to try a new product along with an old favourite.
Putting different products together is often perceived by the consumer as greater value for their money. Bundling also enables you to sell more with lower marketing and distribution costs.
7. Reduce product prices
Once a product has reached the maturity phase of its lifecycle there are generally several other competitors in the market. Many of these may be offering similar products at lower prices.
One of the most common strategies then is for companies to reduce their product price to increase sales. By cutting profit margins to boost sales, you can maintain brand loyalty, increase sales and extend the life cycle of your product.
When the price is reduced, your existing customers are liable to continue buying it, while other consumers may switch from competing products to yours. At the maturity phase of a product life cycle, you will generally see a drop in your production and marketing costs due to greater economies of scale.
8. Increase your marketing
Companies can often increase sales and extend the product life cycle purely through advertising and promotions.
Distinctive advertising and promotional activities can give your product a new image, differentiate it from competitor products and prolong its life. You can switch up the marketing mix, giving an old product a fresh image to increase awareness and create greater demand.
Growing product and brand awareness through consumer engagement campaigns and promotions improve its popularity, helping to extend the life cycle of the product.
By running fresh advertising campaigns, you can drive higher demand while retaining existing customers. Invest in marketing campaigns that aim to achieve higher brand recall and maintain brand loyalty.
Consumer preferences and demand patterns continually change, so marketers should revisit their positioning strategies occasionally to maintain sales and growth.
Brand repositioning is not a complete makeover of your company’s identity, it’s a deliberate and determined adjustment.
Repositioning a product involves exploring new markets.
This doesn’t necessarily mean targeting the same consumer in a new location. It takes the same product to a new target market or adds value to appeal to a different audience.
Your goal with a repositioning strategy is to update your brand’s personality, associations, and reputation while retaining a permanent, recognisable brand identity.
For example, men’s grooming products Old Spice went from being something for elderly folk to a popular option for a younger market. The brand doubled its sales within a few months of the campaign launch to reposition it.
10. Rebrand the business
Good products that are designed to meet consumer needs may enjoy long life cycles, but over time interest in the product can still wane. Customers can be put off by boring packaging and branding and attracted to the many substitute products available due to increased competition.
While repackaging is one strategy to attract new customers and convince long-standing customers to continue using the same product again, rebranding is a more comprehensive approach.
A rebrand could involve many of the strategies already mentioned as well as changing your brand name, logo, core product, and entire business model.
Businesses generally rebrand to get a fresh start.
Many times, the only thing marketers need to do to increase the product life cycle is to reignite people’s interest in the product.
11. Run a relaunch
If all else fails, change the product sufficiently enough to release it as a new and improved version. With new formulas and new features, you can extend the product lifecycle by releasing the product as version 2.0 (and subsequently, version 3.0).