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Effective Strategies for the Maturity Stage of Your Product (And How To Extend Its Lifespan)

20 Jun 20247 mins read
Sami Rehman
Effective Strategies for the Maturity Stage of Your Product (And How To Extend Its Lifespan)
By Sami Rehman
CONTENTS

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, alongside college roommates and fellow Harvard University students, launched Facebook with the initial purpose of connecting Harvard students. 

The platform quickly captivated the interest of the university community, and within months, Facebook spread to other Ivy League schools and eventually to universities across the United States and Canada. 

By the end of 2006, Facebook made a pivotal decision to open its doors to anyone with a valid email address, marking the end of its exclusivity to the academic world.

Facebook

This Introduction stage was fraught with challenges, including securing the necessary funding to scale operations and navigating privacy concerns that began to emerge as the platform grew. 

Despite these hurdles, Facebook's user-friendly interface and its unique ability to connect people heralded the platform's rapid ascent into the Growth stage.

In 2008, Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook as its Chief Operating Officer, bringing with her a wealth of experience from Google. Sandberg's expertise in online advertising played a crucial role in transforming Facebook from a popular social networking site into a profitable enterprise. 

The platform's user base soared, reaching 1 billion monthly active users by 2012. Facebook's IPO in May 2012 was another milestone, valuing the company at $104 billion, the largest valuation to date for a newly listed public company.

This period was marked by significant developments, including the introduction of the News Feed, which became a fundamental feature for user engagement, and the strategic acquisition of Instagram in 2012, further cementing Facebook's position in the social media landscape.

As the digital ecosystem evolved, Facebook entered into the Maturity stage and started facing increasing competition from emerging social media sites and messaging apps (like Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok etc), which began to fragment the online community's attention.

Despite a saturated market, Facebook continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace. The company focused on diversifying its revenue streams, investing in virtual reality, and enhancing its advertising platform to remain relevant.

From Facebook to Meta

Challenges during this stage have been manifold, including heightened scrutiny over data privacy issues, the spread of misinformation, and the need to constantly innovate without disrupting the constant revenue sources.

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Today, Facebook stands on the brink of entering its Decline stage. The strategic choices they make from here onwards will significantly influence by how much they can delay that process. In this article, we will explore key strategies for extending a product's lifespan in the maturity phase and maximizing profitability, drawing insights from Facebook's ongoing journey.


TL;DR

  • Every product goes through four stages: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline.

  • In the Maturity stage, products experience sales plateaus, intense competition, incremental innovation, evolved customer feedback, and feature saturation.

  • Strategies for the Maturity stage:

    • Explore new markets to overcome saturation.

    • Enhance product differentiation with unique features or improved quality.

    • Diversify the product portfolio to reduce reliance on a single product.

    • Optimize operations and implement flexible pricing strategies.

    • Strengthen customer relationships through loyalty programs and personalized marketing.

    • Leverage data and analytics to identify unmet needs and emerging trends.

  • Prepare for the Decline stage by planning product phase-outs, developing successor products, or pivoting to new markets or technologies.


5 signals to identify the maturity stage

Understanding when a product has entered its maturity stage is crucial for any business striving to maximize its lifecycle's profitability and longevity. This knowledge enables companies to strategically adjust their focus from aggressive growth tactics to optimizing and extending the product's peak performance period. 

While every product goes through the same 4 stages (introduction, growth, maturity, decline) during its life cycle, the time spent in each stage can vary depending on factors such as industry dynamics, market conditions, product differentiation, and the effectiveness of marketing and innovation efforts.

As the product enters the maturity stage, several signals emerge which are indicative of the fact that a product has reached the maturity stage.

1. Sales plateau

The product starts to experience a plateau in sales growth, indicating that the majority of the potential customer base has been reached and most potential customers already own the product or have decided against it. New sales are primarily driven by replacement or upgrade purchases rather than new customers.

Example

Facebook’s growth rate slowing down to 1-2% annually in contrast to the double-digit growth witnessed in its early years.

2. Intense competition

The market becomes crowded as competitors launch alternative solutions, fighting for their share of the pie with similar features and benefits. This competition can lead to price wars, increased marketing expenses, and the need for product differentiation.

Example

The emergence of platforms like Twitter/X, Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, Whatsapp diluting Facebook's dominance in social networking.

Social media

3. Incremental innovation

Innovations and improvements to the product become more incremental and less revolutionary, focusing on adding value or reducing costs rather than introducing groundbreaking features. High revenue generating features become really hard to touch.

Example

New iPhone models only bringing improvements in camera quality, battery life, and processing power rather than groundbreaking new features.

4. Customer feedback

The evolution in customer feedback is reflective of the market's deep familiarity with the product and its features, as well as the shifting expectations and demands of the consumer base. The product no longer excites or meets the evolving needs of the market as it once did. 

While initial stages might bring feedback focusing on fundamental issues or desired features, the maturity stage sees more suggestions for improving the overall user experience, including customer service, ease of use, and the purchasing process.

Here is a list of 13 best customer feedback software to help you connect with your customers and drive product decisions.

5. Feature saturation point

Customers feel the product has reached a feature saturation point, suggesting a desire for simplification or a focus on core functionalities that are most valued.

Example

Microsoft's Office Suite has become overloaded with features with very low adoption rates for new features because of lack of discoverability.

Strategies for the maturity stage

Mastering the maturity stage requires a balance between exploiting the product’s established position and exploring new avenues for growth. 

By adopting a strategic approach that focuses on innovation, customer engagement, market expansion, and sustainability, companies can navigate the challenges of this stage and position their products for prolonged success.

1. Explore new markets

In order to overcome market saturation, companies need to identify and enter new geographical markets or target new customer segments within existing markets. This might mean localizing products for international markets or tailoring offerings to appeal to different age groups, lifestyles, or usage occasions.

Facebook, in the last several years, made its mission to onboard third world countries as its user base, and can be seen strengthening its partnerships and localizing features for Asian and African audiences.

2. Enhance product differentiation

With increased competition, there needs to be a focus on differentiating the product. This could involve adding new unique features, improving quality, or leveraging technology to offer a more personalized user experience. 

For example, Microsoft’s efforts to equip its products with AI capabilities (through a partnership with OpenAI) has helped them overcome competition and brought them to the top of the ladder once again.

Competition

3. Diversify product portfolio

While it can be hard to innovate existing products, diversifying the product portfolio to reduce reliance on a single product and tapping into new revenue streams is often a good strategy. For instance, Apple introduced a Vision Pro to overcome the saturated Smartphone market.

Companies often also look for acquisitions to increase their breadth and minimze competition. A prime example of this is Facebook acquiring Whatsapp and Instagram to tap into new customer segments which were growing out of reach.

Here's a guide on building a product portfolio, and a product portfolio roadmap template from airfocus to help you out.

4. Optimize operations

Building financial reserves during the maturity stage is extremely important. It can provide the necessary resources to invest in innovation, support new product development, or weather the decline phase’s impact on overall revenues.

On the other side, implementing flexible pricing strategies can also attract new customers and retain existing ones. This could include promotional discounts, bundling products for added value, or introducing premium versions at a higher price point to cater to different customer segments.

sale-advertisement

5. Strengthen customer relationships

Efforts may need to shift towards strengthening brand loyalty and increasing customer lifetime value through after-sales services, loyalty programs, and personalized marketing, as acquiring new customers becomes more challenging and costly. Strong customer relationships can turn satisfied users into brand advocates, promoting word-of-mouth marketing and increasing customer lifetime value.

6. Leverage data and analytics

Finally, leveraging customer data and market analysis can be a critical strategy at any stage of the product lifecycle, especially during the maturity phase. Insights gleaned from data can highlight unmet needs, emerging trends, and opportunities for product or service innovation.

Data informed vs data driven

What next: preparing for the inevitable

“All good things must come to an end” 14th Century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.

This timeless truth holds particular resonance in the lifecycle of any product.

Foreseeing the decline phase allows companies to strategically plan for product phase-outs, develop successor products, or pivot to new markets or technologies.

As some products approach their decline, companies can concentrate on core competencies and strengths, potentially divesting from less profitable segments and doubling down on areas with the potential for growth or sustained profitability.

Nevertheless, companies should never be afraid to phase out or discontinue products. The sooner you leave a sinking ship, the better chances you have for survival. Google does it all the time! 

However, building sustainable exit strategies that consider customer transition plans, employee impacts, and environmental impact are essential. These can enhance the company’s reputation and ensure long-term brand loyalty.

Sami Rehman

Sami Rehman

Product Manager
Sami has led several products in the logistics industry, from ideation to go-to-market strategy to rollout and support. He comes from a very diverse background, having started his career as a Machine Learning researcher. In his latest experiences in Product Strategy and Development, he has supported pre-sales engagements with clients like WeWork, Staples, Restoration Hardware, Emaar and also offered Product consultancy to many other companies in the telecommunications, retail and ride-sharing space....more
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