What is the product development cycle? The basics [infographic]

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Product development life cycle (PDLC) or product development cycle, is a way to describe all the stages a product goes through. This cycle is often broken into four or five stages: (new product development), introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

Why should you know about the new product development cycle?

If you’re planning on launching a new product to the market, be it a new wearable device or a new IoT solution, it’s good to be aware of the new product development cycle, because when you’re of the PDLC, you can plan your business around it. The different stages will require different kinds of effort from management, marketing and funding point of view, for example, and knowing your product development cycle will help create your business guidelines.

infographic on new product development cycle from introduction to decline
In the new product development cycle infographic, you’ll see the sales revenue in red

1. New product development

When you have an idea for a new product, you start the new product development process. During this process, your idea becomes a mass production-ready product that you can take to the market. At the same time, your business plan will develop and you move on to the next stage of the new product development cycle.

Read here more about the stages of new product development.

2. Introduction

When your product is ready for the market, the introduction stage begins. During this stage, you’ll be building your brand and start promoting your product. You’ll also be building your customer base, hopefully with the help of some early adopters that are already fans of your product.

During the introduction stage of the product development cycle, you’ll also need to decide the price of your product and establish how you’re going to sell and distribute the product since you’ll be preparing for the growth stage.

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3. Growth

If you’re successful in the introduction stage of your new product development cycle your product will start to gain users and you’ll enter the growth stage. At this stage, you can expect to start gaining some profit.

During the growth stage of the product development cycle, the demand for your product will increase and you need to work hard to keep up with the demand and expectations to gain loyal customers.

By the end of the growth stage, you’ll start to have some competitors, who have seen your success and are hoping to duplicate it.

4. Maturity

The maturity stage of the new product development cycle is a stage of stabilization. During the maturity stage, the sales of your product will reach its peak and most of your customers are buying the product at this stage.

Your competitors are now reaching the growth stage with their product, and the market has more options. The challenge during the maturity stage of the new product development cycle is to hold your market position and come up with new ways to keep your customers happy. If you don’t keep on inventing new things, your product development cycle will turn to the last, decline stage.

5. Decline

When the maturity stage ends, the inevitable decline stage arrives. You’ll start to notice a steady drop in sales, and perhaps your customers’ lose interest in your product or switch to a newer, better product made by a competitor.

To fight the decline stage of product the development cycle, innovating something new is key: coming up with improvements to your existing product, or perhaps making a second generation is a good way to fight the decline and keep up with the competition.

If your product has lived its life cycle in the market and is no longer serving its purpose, discontinuing the product can be a good option.

Final words

Of course, the product development life cycle is just an outline of a common new product development cycle, not a guaranteed prediction of what will happen. A product might linger in any of the stages and never go, for example, to the decline stage.

The best learning to take from the product development life cycle is to know that you cannot stay resting on your laurels at any stage. If you stop innovating in the maturity stage and decide to just enjoy your success, you’ll soon find yourself in the decline stage with newer and better products taking away your customers. Learn all about new product development from our topic library.