As consumers in an increasingly tech-centric culture, we have already had the idea of upgrade cycles ingrained into our purchasing habits. News stations regularly run stories about the newest gadget and when you should expect to upgrade your current device. Even if you manage to avoid traditional media, the Internet and word-of-mouth ensure that you know exactly what the newest features on the new iPhone are. But how does the concept of upgrade cycles apply to making profitable business decisions, and why is this an important understanding to have as a business leader?
What is an Upgrade Cycle?
Upgrade cycles emerge when companies introduce new products or features for existing products which generate increased demand. As a result, supply grows until the demand of the market has been met. Simply put, innovation and updates periodically spark demand in the market.
This phenomena can easily be seen in the introduction of the iPhone. In one substantial innovation, Apple managed to introduce an all-in-one substitute for the flip phone, MP3 player, and camera. The dominance of the iPhone in the smartphone market and the iPod in the MP3 market have cemented Apple as one of the prominent leaders in consumer technology worldwide. Today, everyone expects to have to replace their phone every few years.
On the flip side, many widely promoted technologies have not had the same success as the iPhone. In the case of Google, whatever happened to Google Glass? At the time of the Google Glass release, multi-tasking and smart devices were substantial talking points in the consumer tech industry. These glasses – which flaunted a computer display embedded in its lenses – were touted as the future of tech wearables. But as quickly as Glass appeared on the scene, it disappeared. The product’s functionalities were widely considered to not justify its $1,500 price tag, and Google has since placed the project on the back burner for the foreseeable future.
Why Should You Care About Upgrade Cycles?
Obviously, innovations with the iPhone’s level of impact are few and far between. But upgrade cycles are absolutely still present in your business, albeit on a smaller scale. Software and hardware companies are constantly pushing newer versions of their product onto consumers year after year. In many cases, these upgrades tend to be feature-bloated (Windows updates) or completely unnecessary (Curved phones?). The key to making prudent decisions when upgrading your business is determining which updates are worthwhile from both a functional and financial standpoint.
One of the most important factors decision-makers must examine when considering updates for their organization is security. As long as there are users on a system, malicious hackers will be working to find and exploit security vulnerabilities for their benefit. Consequently, developers race hackers endlessly to find and patch out any vulnerabilities in their system. Updates and patches flow from this work to end users on an ongoing basis. In other words, if your users are falling behind in their update implementation, then they leave your system vulnerable to malware. A 2022 study done by TuxCare showed that the majority of security incidents occur because an available patch was not implemented.
A notable recent example of a security breach that could have been avoided with available security patches is the case of “WannaCry” ransomware. Once this malware gains access to a computer, it encrypts important files and leaves them inaccessible until a Bitcoin payment is made. Clearly, security patches should be highly prioritized in order to protect the assets of your business and of your customers.
In order to effectively market a product, decision-makers and sales representatives must understand their product’s upgrade cycle. By extension, understanding a product’s upgrade cycle entails studying the costs and benefits of adopting the upgrade. Potential customers will be asking whether now is the right time to sign up for a service.
Considering an upgrade from a traditional landline service to VoIP is a prime opportunity to conduct a simple cost-benefit analysis. This particular upgrade cycle is relatively easy to navigate since VoIP is already widely considered the optimal option for business communication. Currently, VoIP systems have landline systems beat when it comes to cost, ease-of-use, and scalability. But if this upgrade were to take place ten years ago, when Internet data prices were almost 12x higher, then the cost portion of this analysis would certainly be different. Current investment in network infrastructure is a significant tailwind in the case for adopting VoIP. Properly conveying this information to potential customers is crucial to engaging interest.
Improvements to Business Processes
Gaining access to additional features or improvements on current features is arguably the most obvious benefit to staying up-to-date with upgrade cycles.
Upgrading hardware typically yields the most immediate and noticeable results. For example, in consumer electronics, televisions are perpetually getting larger, more efficient, and are producing higher resolution images. The development of LCD, plasma, and OLED technology has enabled significant improvements in the quality and size of television screens while at the same time drastically reducing their weight.
But what does this mean for your business? Updating your business’ technology means better technical support, more efficient processes, and fixes to existing issues. More importantly, it means that your business has an opportunity to gain an advantage over your competitors (or catch up). A present-day example of competitive advantage via technology is the adoption of cloud computing. The pay-as-you-go model supported by many cloud services means that businesses only pay for the resources that they use. This can significantly reduce up-front costs and facilitate any scaling that needs to be done in the future. Furthermore, since these computing resources are not local, businesses are better insulated against disasters or equipment failure.
Switching to a VoIP system can have a similar effect in giving your business a boost over competitors. Better security, higher availability, and greater flexibility are just some of the benefits associated with upgrading away from a landline phone system.
With all this in mind, it is clear to see that a basic understanding of upgrade cycles is crucial to properly make important decisions regarding your business. Upgrade cycles arise as a result of tech companies releasing new products or features for existing products in order to retain and grow market share. Paying attention to these cycles ensures that your business is secure and is addressing customer needs efficiently and effectively.