Lifecycle Market Research

Lifecycle Market Research

Lifecycle Management refers to the process of managing all elements of a product’s lifecycle from its inception through design/creation, manufacturing, sales growth, servicing, eventual decline, and final disposal. Since it applies to products more than to services, the term Product Lifecycle Management (or PLM) is often used as well.

  • For some products which are patented, the lifecycle (17 years) can be quite different from others which rely on a “secret formula” or a strong brand name (e.g. Coca Cola and GE are over 100 years old – and both,incidentally, were founded in 1892!).
  • Certain industries may be more prone to short product lifecycles. For example, automobile models and features change each year. So do computers, smartphones, HDTV’s and many consumer packaged goods. Conversely, producers of pharmaceuticals, aircraft, and basic home/office supplies tend to deal with longer lifecycles.
  • In reality, however, every business needs to manage the lifecycle of its products. It is important to know what to do at each point in time and prepare for the fact that some products will be in decline, reach the end of their useful life and/or become obsolete.

By coordinating the efforts of all product-related functions and activities across the organization, manufacturers are better able to meet such goals as:

  • Lowering the cost of prototyping and later production
  • Improving product quality
  • Reducing time to market
  • Identifying potential sales opportunities 
  • Reducing environmental impacts at end-of-life

Often, PLM software programs are installed to organize the various parts and their related communications within a business.

How and when should Lifecycle Management be used?

As the word “lifecycle” suggests management must understand their marketplace before, during, and after the life of a product. This includes not only knowing about customers and competitors, but also partners in the supply chain who provide materials and distribution.

Every business ought to have such a process in place in order to answer certain key questions throughout the stages of a product’s life.

The number of questions that arise is staggering, but various types of research can be conducted at different times to assist in gaining actionable answers. Following are some areas where information must be gathered in order to make prudent lifecycle decisions.

Early Stage: Development and Launch

Here, secondary market research, business intelligence, and primary research may all play a role.

  • Intended buyers
    • What are their profiles?
    • Do they perceive a need for the product?
      • Does the product fit the need?
    • What are they currently using?
    • Concept Testing
      • Do they like the product?
      • Would they buy it?
    • How much do they influence the purchase decision?
  • Market assessment
    • What are the key market segments?
      • What regions or markets will be included?
      • What is the size and potential of each?
    • Are there any significant trends?
  • Naming the product
    • Branding Research – identify a name that is memorable, with no potentially negative meanings
    • Trademark Research – be sure not to infringe on another, while also protecting yours
  • Competition
    • Who are your competitors?
      • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
    • How will you differentiate and position your product against alternatives?
  • Pricing Research
    • Value based?
    • Competitive based?
  • Packaging Research
    • Materials?
    • Size?
    • Colors?
  • Communication Messages Research
    • What to say? (test reactions to the content)
    • Where to say it? (which media)
    • Frequency? (how often to optimize impact)

Mid stage: Growth

At this point it makes sense to use some primary market research and competitive intelligence tools in addition to internal fact finding.

  • Ad and message testing
    • Are variations tested? (e.g. A/B split)
    • Are messages understood?
    • Are ads recalled?
    • Do they generate desired actions?
  • TrackingPerformance
    • What are attitudes and level of usage of customers?
    • What are sales levels?
  • Competitive Intelligence
    • Set up monitoring system to detect early warning signals
    • Try to uncover short and long term plans of competition (e.g. new products, new technologies, price changes, market entries, pending mergers or acquisitions)
    • Efforts should complement market research

Late Stage: Decline

There are many reasons why a product’s life comes to an end.  This occurs when for example it no longer serves the needs of its customers, generates declining revenue and simply becomes obsolete.

If a business has been tracking key variables in the market and monitoring competitors, it will be in a position to seize opportunities and create new products to replace the mature ones whose useful lives are coming to an end. And so the process begins anew.