At some point, a product will hit peak sales and its growth rate will start to slow down when new, better and cheaper products enter the market and customers start switching their allegiance. Without intervention, there's a risk that sales will stagnate or decrease due to market saturation. This fate is not inevitable, however. Smart marketing strategies can help to generate sales during the maturity stage of your product and sustain your market share.
Expand the Customer Base
One broad marketing objective is to capture new customers who are yet to use the product or brand, either by entering new markets or geographies or by enticing a competitor's customers to become your own. UGG boots, for example, reached maturity in the niche surfer market before switching focus to market extensively to young women.
Regarding specific strategies, the aim is to focus right down on your cash cows — products that have stood the test of time — and invest more resources in promoting these items. New marketing messages, new distribution channels and new advertising campaigns can help to reach the late adopter and encourage brand switching.
Increase the Usage Rate
Increasing the usage rate means trying to get your current customer base to use the product more often, thus increasing sales. The most common tactic here is to discover new uses for the product and convince customers to use the same product in different ways — fresh juice is not just for breakfast, for example, and you can use baking soda for whitening teeth and household cleaning as well as for baking cakes. Aggressive sales promotions and price discounts feature heavily in this strategy to encourage higher consumption.
Invest in Research and Development
One way to further expand your business is to invest more in research and development (R&D). This involves developing new products and continuously improving your existing products, technologies and operations. For example, you may launch a new product line, upgrade existing technologies to create better products and reduce errors, add new features to something you already offer, prioritize innovation and more.
These strategies can give you a competitive edge and increase your reach. They also help you identify ways to maximize productivity and cut marginal costs. Successful companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon and Google spend billions on R&D — and their efforts are paying off.
Modify the Product
Modifying the product is a tried-and-tested way for companies to boost the sales of mature products — how many times have you seen a product labeled "new and improved"? Modifying your product means tweaking it to meet changing customer needs. You can do this by improving the product's quality, features, durability, reliability, versatility or safety or by updating the product's name, packaging and style.
Apple Inc. is the master of reinvention. The company "invents" a new iPhone every couple of years by releasing an upgraded model. Customers typically regard the upgrade as a brand-new product offering and are happy to do business with Apple again.
Price to Beat the Competition
During the maturity phase, sales for a particular product will flatline and then decline after reaching a saturation point. Businesses are typically facing increased price competition from new market entrants and customers are unlikely to pay top dollar for the same old product anymore. One option is to revisit your pricing strategy.
For example, you could cut prices to attract a competitors' customers or a broader customer base. Alternatively, you might raise prices. Higher prices, alongside a marketing campaign to stress the brand's benefits and superiority, can reposition the product as high end. Market research is essential to understand the pricing strategy that will add the most value to the product you're selling.
- Marketing Insider: Product Life Cycle Strategies and Characteristics – Managing Each Stage
- Business.com: Ways to Grow Your Business in a Mature Market
- Open Forum: 6 Ways to Refresh and Old Product or Service
- Investopedia: Research and Development - R&D
- HBR: There’s No Good Alternative to Investing in R&D
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a business writer. Her articles have appeared on numerous business sites including Typefinder, Women in Business, Startwire and Indeed.com.