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Cradle-to-grave: The complete product life cycle

What happens when you decide to retire one of your products? Or when your customers no long have a need for it? Do you focus your efforts on product improvement and launching the next big thing, without sparing a thought for the product you’re leaving behind? Or do you do the sensible thing and take a good, hard look at the data?

The data available to you when retiring or recycling a product can provide you with a level of insight that often proves invaluable for future operations.

If you’re not sure how, read on.

We’re about to clue you in on the complete product lifecycle.

What is cradle-to-grave?

Cradle-to-grave refers to the stages in the life cycle of your product (a cradle-to-grave assessment, in its other context, is also used to ensure supply chains are environmentally friendly and fully sustainable).

There are four key stages in your product life cycle:

  1. Introduction: This is when new products are launched for the first time. This stage is all about defining your target audience and deciding on your approach to market.
  2. Growth: Your growth stage is, unsurprisingly, when your sales are growing. This shows your product has been accepted by the market, and you’re starting to make profits and enjoy economies of scale.
  3. Maturity: The maturity stage is typically when your sales flatten out, and profit margins start to decline. This can be down to anything from market saturation to your product being displaced by alternatives, or newer models.
  4. Decline: This is when you see your sales start to decline, potentially spelling the end for your product (in its current iteration, anyway). This can indicate a fully saturated market.

Cradle, to grave. Rest in peace.

Why assess the life cycle of a product?

So, now you know the key stages of your product life cycle, let’s move on to why you should assess the cycle, from cradle to grave (hint: it’s all about learning from the past, and making improvements for the future).

When your product reaches the end of its life, or enters a ‘lull’, it’s important to look at the impact it’s had on the market, and any fixes, adjustments, or tweaks that have been made along the way. You can then use this info to make product improvements, or to influence new or updated products.

To carry out a decent, actionable and insightful assessment, you’ll need plenty of data, plenty of time to analyse that data, and plenty of expertise to take this data and transform it into future-focused initiatives (either that, or a great partner that can help you to assess and manage your product experience in the market).

This approach will allow you to pinpoint potential issues in the production, marketing, or rollout process of your product – enabling the relevant teams to address any issues or learn from them for the future. You’ll also be able to see what impact any changes you make to your product are likely to have on the experience of the end user.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of assessing the cradle-to-grave life cycle of your product (and why it’s absolutely worth the effort).

Benefits of cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment

Ultimately, a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of your product will give you better visibility – and product managers should always have as much visibility as possible over their products, how they perform in the market, and the experience they offer to the end user.

Increased product visibility means increased product control, and with this, improvements to any updated or reimagined products you may choose to send out into the market.

An end-to-end life cycle assessment allows you to keep track of the impact of product adjustments, helps you to prioritise product enhancements, and can even save your brand from reputational damage and declining sales.

Having a holistic strategy in place is also important from a regulatory standpoint: if you become aware of a product failure, and fail to respond quickly or adequately, you could find yourself facing legal action. So, carry out an assessment, and learn from it.

If that wasn’t reason enough, the insight you’ll gain from a well-thought-out cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment can lead to:

  • Reduced time-to-market
  • Lower market entry costs
  • Greater product efficiency
  • More profitable distribution channels
  • Increased ROI on promotional campaigns and advertisements
  • An extended product lifetime

Done right, a thorough life cycle assessment can even help you to achieve profitable end-of-life product management.

You’ve put a great deal of time and effort into the production, launch and marketing of your products, so when the time comes to retire or recycle one, why wouldn’t you want every piece of informative data that you can glean from its life cycle?

When to use cradle-to-grave 

A cradle-to-grave assessment is an absolute must when a product comes to the end of its life, but it can also be invaluable when you’re planning to test out the impact of any alterations or improvements with your target audience.

This might include testing out the quality, sustainability, and durability of the materials you’re planning to use for your products or packaging, how you should distribute it, and even what the market response to price point may be. The data from this holistic approach will be invaluable for product development, while creating a handy benchmark for you to work against.

The whole purpose of a cradle-to-grave assessment is to give you greater control over (and insight into) the development and impact of your product, from birth until death. When that time comes, it must be planned out.

Every product in your life cycle should have an exit strategy: a plan to remove that product from the market in a manageable (and professional) way. This is incredibly important for brand reputation and will usually tie in with the launch of a new – or next gen – product. At this final stage, communication is everything.

When removing a product from the market, your stakeholders should always be told well in advance, and communication to customers must be clear and concise. Then they can start looking forward to your next big thing!

How can Forsta help?

The success (or failure) of a new product launch is heavily dependent on how much you know beforehand. With Forsta’s product experience management software, you can easily test out whether there’s a market for what you’re selling – allowing you to iterate all the way to the bank.

There’s always an element of risk when you change or launch a product, but through the use of Product Experience (PX) research, crucial decisions around price, design, brand name and packaging will be less of a leap of faith.

The same applies for product iterations: we believe there’s always room for improvement, and even after launch, our software can point out where you might need to make impactful tweaks.

So why not take fear out of the equation, and act on hard data rather than hunches?

Request your free demo to see how Forsa’s PX research can clue you in to what your customers want before you commit.

Understand your product, from beginning to end

So, there you have it. A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment is a sound way to ensure you know everything there is to know about your product – from what made it successful, to what led to its demise.

Much like the end of a relationship, looking back on where mistakes were made and tensions were created can teach you some invaluable lessons, and make your next endeavour more likely to succeed.

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