Product life cycle theory divides the marketing of a product into four stages: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. When product life cycle is based on sales volume, introduction and growth often become one stage. For internationally available products, these three remaining stages include the effects of outsourcing and foreign production. When a product grows rapidly in a home market, it experiences saturation when low-wage countries imitate it and flood the international markets. Afterward, a product declines as new, better products or products with new features repeat the cycle.

General Theory

  • When a product is first introduced in a particular country, it sees rapid growth in sales volume because market demand is unsatisfied. As more people who want the product buy it, demand and sales level off. When demand has been satisfied, product sales decline to the level required for product replacement. In international markets, the product life cycle accelerates due to the presence of “follower” economies that rarely introduce new innovations but quickly imitate the successes of others. They introduce low-cost versions of the new product and precipitate a faster market saturation and decline.


  • An effectively marketed product meets a need in its target market. The supplier of the product has conducted market surveys and has established estimates for market size and composition. He introduces the product, and the identified need creates immediate demand that the supplier is ready to satisfy. Competition is low. Sales volume grows rapidly. This initial stage of the product life cycle is characterized by high prices, high profits and wide promotion of the product. International followers have not had time to develop imitations. The supplier of the product may export it, even into follower economies.


  • In the maturity phase of the product life cycle, demand levels off and sales volume increases at a slower rate. Imitations appear in foreign markets and export sales decline. The original supplier may reduce prices to maintain market share and support sales. Profit margins decrease, but the business remains attractive because volume is high and costs, such as those related to development and promotion, are also lower.


  • In the final phase of the product life cycle, sales volume decreases and many such products are eventually phased out and discontinued. The follower economies have developed imitations as good as the original product and are able to export them to the original supplier’s home market, further depressing sales and prices.

PLC curve


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