To design better products, we must be aware of the product development lifecycle which will guide us in making better decisions.
Think about famous brands like Nokia phones and Kodak cameras. They were at the top of their market until they declined and died.
It is important for everyone who develops and introduces new products, no matter if in your company you have a dedicated product manager, or it is the job of the CEO or CTO to be aware of the cycle your product will go through.
I like Headspace app. I used the app for 2 years and paid the yearly subscription, and I know the benefits this app brings to my life.
Since I had shared my daily statuses and meditation achievements, I saw how other people who follow me stated to use it daily.
I consider myself as early adopter and that’s why it is interesting to make the review for the product development lifecycle using Headspace as an example.
I am not affiliated to the company, and this article states my own ideas and observations.
What is Headspace?
Headspace is a pioneer in the field of meditation apps. It enables the meditation practices to be more accessible for everyone with a smartphone.
Co-created by Andy Puddicombe, who according to his bio trained with Tibetan Buddhist monks in Northern India before coming back to London.
Andy founded the company May 2011 and has over 60 million people benefiting from the product according to their website.
In the next part of this article, you will learn the stages of product development lifecycle and we will use Headspace as an example.
Phases in product development lifecycle
There are four phases of product development lifecycle and you will learn each one of them.
They are not strictly defined. There is no such rule that 1 year after introduction of the product, it will enter another phase.
The best indicator is the growth of the product and the customer acquisition metrics.
The first phase of any product development is the introduction of a new product. In the Headspace example, it was a new market with little to no competition.
There were a lot of meditation schools and teachers out there, but what the app provided to the wider audience was convenience and credibility.
Andy learned meditation from the Tibetan Buddhist monks, and this was credible enough for many people. Being first is both blessing and a curse. Headspace had to invest a lot of money to promote their app as an offering to the public. They attracted some very high-profile leaders such as Tim Ferris to promote their app.
Many people sign-up and become paid customers. They used powerful strategies to turn their newbie members into loyal fans.
That’s why it is important in this stage to create a powerful message and enable your users to share it and amplifies your mission.
The more people sign, the closer you will be to reach the growth phase.
The next phase of the product development lifecycle is the growth phase. In this stage, the sales raise fast. Your product becomes known and safe for the wider audience to use. The early adopters had given you enough credit and references and they had attracted the rest of the market with them.
However, not everything is wonderful. After the initial success, you would expect to have a few challengers. They will try to get a piece of the pie.
After the initial success, you would expect to have a few challengers. They will try to get a piece of the pie.Aleks Vladimirov
It happened with headspace as well. The application Calm was founded in 2012, just one year after Headspace. This also shows how little time a product has from one phase to another. Calm had similarities to Headspace, but they didn’t have such famous person as their brand ambassador as Andy. All of this will change in few years.
In the growth stage, if you are the market leader, you have the advantage. The rule of thumb is that if you enter the market first, you will get most of the market shares for a long time.
That is the reason many companies want to be known as the first achieving, or the first introducing something new. You can take a look at Samsung as well. They introduced one of the first foldable phones – Samsung Galaxy Fold.
In this stage, the company must focus on smart improvements of their product to stay competitive and distinguished from the rest.
After growth, the next phase of the product development lifecycle is maturity. The key characteristic of this phase is the number of competitors.
The sales will reach the peak and will eventually decline, because of the market segmentation. Some experts call this phase the red ocean.
W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne coined the terms red and blue oceans to denote the market universe. Red oceans are all the industries in existence today – the known market space, where industry boundaries are defined and companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing market. Cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. Hence, the term ‘red’ oceans.Source blueoceanstrategy.com
If we look at Headspace, there are now plenty of meditation apps. When I did a google search, I could easily find a review for 12 alternatives.
Apps such as
- 10% Happier
- Simple Habit
- Insight Timer
The last phase of the product development lifecycle is the declined phase. Many companies phased out because of the revenue shrank.
It is not a nice place for your product to be in. Headspace now is facing this challenge.
In this phase, the company reduces the costs and optimize their departments and operations.
In 2017, Headspace had layoffs their marketing department, according to the FastCompany.
What a product manager needs to do in this case is to look for different markets and attract new waves of noncustomers.
How to do that is a topic for another article.
In this article, you had learned more about Headspace, a product I had used a lot in the past. And we had explored the phases of maturity of this product.
This article doesn’t take into account the latest financial injection of 93 million dollars, which the company secured in 2020 and their potential new strategy, cooperating with governments in the future. This would bring Headspace on a fresh path and hopefully add many new customers and revenue.
It is important to know the phases of product development lifecycle and plan strategies to move away from decline and back to growth.
Do you use meditation app in your day?
Is it Headspace or a competitor?
Please share your comments and I am more than happy to read your feedback!
Solution Engineering Manager at Thales | Senior IT Professional | Startup Mentor and Product Manager