SaaS business

Decline Stage of the Product Life Cycle – How to Handle It 


min to read

27 Oct



Table of contents

Some brands live like trees. They are born to grow, go into force just to get old and die like all living things do. That's a story about Kodak, for instance. Kodak was at the top of film-based photography until the invention of digital photography made all its achievements insignificant. Kodak was still very good at making film — the problem was that the world moved forward with digital technology, and Kodak was left on the sidelines of history with its outdated product.

But some brands live like phoenixes. Facing the decline stage of the product life cycle, they reinvent themselves and become stronger year after year. Take Levi's. The company has been around since 1873 and is still one of the world's favorite jeans brands. Or IBM, a pioneering tech brand that is alive and kicking even though it has recently celebrated its centenary. Another example is the Harry Potter saga. Fifteen years since the first book of the saga was published, the Harry Potter brand, valued at over $15 billion, is still going strong despite all the controversies around its author.

Harry Potter and the Phoenix

We can learn some things from the Harry Potter brand strategy regarding declining product recovery. But first, let's remind ourselves what the product life cycle is.

What are the product life cycle stages again? 

The product life cycle is a series of stages that products undergo, from introduction to growth to maturity phase and eventual demise. The lifespan is different for each product. It can take a week or a month for one item, like some trendy necklace, and years or even decades for another. Warburtons, for example, have existed since 1876.

There are four main product life cycle stages.

the product life cycle stages
  1. The introduction stage of the cycle is the launching stage. The product has just been introduced to the market, and the growth in sales isn't significant as it takes time for people to test it. The competitors are not so fierce yet. It gives the company many chances to set a monopoly.
  2. The growth stage is marked by higher profits and wider recognition. Customers spot you among other manufacturers, and the demand rises. Entrepreneurs introduce some adjustments or additional features.
  3. The longest of the stages the company passes through is the maturity stage. The sales rise to the highest point in their life cycle, and the pace of progress slows down. The competition is extremely aggressive. The need to keep up with the competitors motivates entrepreneurs to update product characteristics and roll out advancements.
  4. The declining stage of the product life cycle is the last on our list. The competition gets too high, and sales go down because of the latest technological inventions, changes in consumer needs, and upcoming trends. The sales rate falls until it stops being cost-effective for us to run the project. Nevertheless, money can still be made if you can handle it correctly.

As we can see in the table below, the basic strategy for managing the product in a decline stage is to maintain it at minimum cost and eliminate the advertising and sales promotions. Sounds not quite a path to success, right? 

Let’s check out some more promising product life cycle decline stage strategies.

strategies for each stage of plc
Characteristics of decline stage, introduction, growth, and maturity stages.

Product life cycle: decline stage strategies

A significant fall in income marks the beginning of the decline stage of PLC.  Making a profit during this period is challenging, but it's not all lost yet. Proper analysis of the market and your target audience prompts picking an appropriate variant among product revival strategies.

Product life cycle: decline stage strategies

Here are several scenarios to prolong the life of your product:

Prolonging the product's life

The idea here is to promote the brand and maintain community activity through regular updates and releases before any product falls into the decline stage. Harry Potter has perfectly mastered this strategy with its eight best-selling books, eight blockbuster films, eleven video games, and a huge range of merchandise.

In the graph below, you can see how the brand's popularity changed between 1997 and 2003. At the moment when one book was in growth or early maturity, the next book was launched to boost the popularity of the previous part and extend the overall product lifecycle.

Harry Potter brand PLC 1997-2003.
Harry Potter brand PLC 1997-2003. Image credits.

The strategy of prolonging the product life cycle requires ongoing work. If you miss an opportunity once, allowing your product to decline, it can be too late to boost it. 

From our experience, startups often can't handle a prolonging strategy just because they lack free hands in their product teams. For such cases, Eleken UI/UX agency offers team extension services.

Changing the direction during the decline phase of the product life cycle

When consumers stop buying your product, you can consider changing the direction. It means exploring possibilities and observing an alternative appliance for your solution.

Some businesses can modify their product and present it to other market segments. Such actions bring a new audience to your business. For example, those who couldn't afford to use your service previously or those who simply didn't notice you among the wide range of other offers. This way, you can start selling in a completely different industry and find a new niche.

Others who notice their core product becoming outdated try to break into a new market. Among product life cycle decline stage examples, we can recall the story of one of Eleken's clients, TextMagic.  

TextMagic was one of the leaders in SMS marketing. However, overall SMS usage is doomed to decline due to a high prevalence of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber. In the picture below, you can track this trend. The interest in SMS (blue graph) is continuously declining, while the popularity of WhatsApp is steadily increasing.

Google Trends: SMS vs WhatsApp
Google Trends: SMS vs WhatsApp.

To avoid their product declining together with the SMS market, TextMagic asked Eleken designers to add some new marketing functionality to their product. For instance, we were involved in designing live chat and email marketing features.

With the new capabilities, TextMagic aimed to become an all-in-one marketing platform, gain new audiences, and relaunch the product's lifecycle.

Redesigning the solution

With products in the decline stage, overcomplicated design becomes a risk factor that may drag a company into collapse. That was a problem with Ricochet360, a cloud phone system and CRM platform that came to Eleken for a redesign. 

Ricochet360 was a complex software. The product team took over a month to help clients set up the app, customize it, and train an admin to use it. Then, the admin had to guide other contact center staff on using the new software.

But customers don't usually have months to learn how to use a new app. So Eleken designers started working on Ricochet360 design, aiming to shorten its brutal learning curve.

As a result, the app became much more intuitive and usable.

Ricochet360 before redesign
Ricochet360 after redesign

If you feel like your app needs a refresh to unleash its full potential, check out Eleken’s redesign services

Start building a new value proposition in the time of decline stage in product life cycle

If all your efforts are in vain and the product becomes completely unprofitable, the right choice is to discontinue it from the market. On this condition, you can sell the product to someone who sees some value in it or just close it down.

With the resources accumulated during the product's maturity and decline, you could enter the market with new value propositions, thereby launching a new product life cycle.

Creating an MVP requires experienced product designers to acquire maximum value with minimal cost. Eleken can help you design the smallest thing that you can build and that someone would pay for or even just use.

Start building a new value proposition in the time of decline stage in product life cycle

What do you do at the decline stage of a product?

Navigating the decline stage of a product life cycle is less about accepting defeat and more about exploring transformative opportunities. This phase, while challenging, can be a pivotal moment for innovation and reinvention. Brands like Harry Potter and Levi's demonstrate that with the right strategy, declining products can be revitalized or even reborn, extending their market relevance and profitability. Whether it's prolonging the product's life, changing its direction, redesigning the solution, or building a new value proposition, each strategy requires careful consideration, market analysis, and an understanding of consumer needs.

Remember, the decline stage is not the end but a transition, a chance to reevaluate and redirect. It's an opportunity to apply creativity, leverage new technologies, and meet evolving market demands. 

In this dynamic business landscape, having a competent design partner like Eleken, specializing in SaaS UI/UX design, can be invaluable. With expertise in designing and redesigning products at various life cycle stages, Eleken stands ready to help you turn challenges into opportunities, ensuring your product not only survives but thrives in its market. We're the most qualified SaaS designers you can get. Tell us a few words about your project, and we'll come back to you with hand-picked UI/UX ideas. Maybe redesign is exactly what your product needs to get a new breath of life! 

Kateryna Mayka

Writer at Eleken