The Five Stages In the Life Cycle of Online Products

Life cycles are an extremely useful concept. Like most models, they help people to visualize the progress of an online product under certain conditions. They help people to predict the effects of decisions within the life cycle of that product.

There are a number of different life cycles. In fact, everyone who has an interest in an online product has some form of life cycle. Learning content creators have their version of a life cycle based on the effort. Accountants have their view of a life cycle based on income. Project Managers often have two. One based on the development cycle and one based on the types of projects needed. And marketers have their view.

In a previous article, I suggested a very complex life cycle. However, in this article I’m going to describe one life cycle of online products as seen by a marketer.

This marketing life cycle consists of five steps.

1. Pre-Launch

The period before the launch of a product is the focus of many other life cycles. But for a marketer, this time is used for two main purposes. The first is preparation of a marketing plan and marketing assets to be used later in the life cycle. However, this period is also used to create a buzz. Frequently this is a very heavy period of marketing as pre-orders are important to recovering the cost of development of the online product. A large pre-order also helps to focus partners on the product so that they continue to support the marketing effort in the next stage.

2. Growth

Once the product is released there will be an initial period where sales grow. While the pre-launch focused on the initial penetration of the market, this stage is more concerned with obtaining a commanding share of the market. This period is often characterized by high marketing spending with respect to profit.

3. Stabilization

In time, the market begins to reach equilibrium. While new competition enters the market, it tends not to disrupt the status quo. This stage is characterized by high profit with limited market spending and a stability in the market share.

4. Decreasing Sales

As time goes by sales begin to decrease. This can be caused by an obsolete product. Or it may be a market-wide phenomena caused by market saturation. Or it may be the result of an alternate innovative market arising. In any case, this stage is often characterized by wild swings in marketing spending. This is the result of increased spending on marketing with little result followed by a demand to reduce spending in order to increase profit. Determining the value of increased marketing spending during this time can be frustrating and frightening.

5. Alternate Use

This is sometimes referred to as retirement. However, I prefer the concept of alternate use with online products. Online products are most often used as bonuses to improve the sales value of other products. Actual retirement is frequently used to adjust the market demand. Online products are also frequently improved and renamed with a version which somewhat eliminates their retirement in this stage. However, regardless of the strategy chosen, this stage is characterized by the withdrawal from sale of the product and the associated suspension of marketing efforts.