The elusive trend. It’s often said that once you react to a trend it’s already too late.
But how, as a business, do you stay abreast of the trends, and most importantly, how do trends apply to your end-user?
With the seemingly rapid increase in technology, it is easy to assume that it’s impossible to keep up. But whilst some trends are fleeting fads (eg. fidget-spinners) others have much greater longevity (eg. ethical manufacturing). Regardless of their staying power, what is most important is how they impact your end-user and this is something that can help you decide whether or not to jump on board a particular trend train.
Here are 3 reasons your business needs to know about trends:
1. Trends are influencing your customers
E-commerce turned the retail world upside down, pair it with the advancement of mobile phone technology and mobile data enhancements and you have a tech savvy, constantly connected consumer that wants to shop for anything, anywhere, at any time - with fast delivery!
Where the Baby Boomer showed a certain reluctance to change, for the subsequent generations (in particular the Millennials and Alpha Gens), change is embraced as a part of life. These generations will change jobs or even careers multiple times, they will share cars, jobs and work spaces. They will barely notice technological change because to them it is inevitable and expected.
These generations are being influenced by trends on a daily basis, but unlike generations of old, they expect their businesses and service providers to keep up with their appetite for change. For them, a lack of change is unforgivable.
By not changing or adapting to what influences customers, a business is putting its longevity at risk.
2. Identifying trends helps you to plan for the future
Identifying trends will help you look beyond fleeting fads and plan for the future. First, recognise that there are three types of trends:
Overarching Mega Trends are enduring. Like climate change, globalisation, and robotics. They can last generations, even centuries.
Consumer trends represent the habits, behaviours, and expectation of consumers. These are driven by mega trends but don’t last as long. Smart phone usage, wearable technology, and the increased desire for well-being are great examples of consumer trends. These drive significant change over a number of years.
Fads are fast and regionalised with a short life. They are the passing crazes such as wheatgrass, hipster beards or gym ball office chairs that rise and fade quickly.
Knowing the difference between these types of trends, what the signifiers of their domination are and how to analyse them will inform decision-making, and ensure that your business is always in the middle of the latest developments. It could mean the difference between jumping on a fad just as it fades, or being at forefront of it.
For example, whilst every new social media platform presents possible new opportunities, Snapchat, Instagram and the like are not the influencing trends. The underlying trend is ‘connectedness.’ The more we rely on AI and computer-centred technology, the more we will also crave the human experience. Something that can’t be replaced by technology.
Humans desire connectedness via our phones and computers 24/7, but with this comes an intense desire to be connected with other human beings and that is the trend that social platforms have cleverly manipulated to their advantage.
Recognising the underlying influences behind changes in your marketplace allows a proactive rather than reactive approach to trends.
3. Trends help identify opportunities
If you can see where a trend has come from and where it is heading, you have a much greater capacity to capitalise upon it.
The rise in internet shopping presents endless examples of companies that identified opportunities in a trend (and indeed those that did not!).
A great example of this is PayPal. PayPal was originally a software delivery company for PalmPilots. Their founder, Elon Musk, saw that internet shopping was a long-term trend and capitalised on an opportunity to create an auction currency for eBay. In this case, Musk’s awareness of a consumer trend and his ability to act upon it, resulted in the ultimate Return on Investment - a $1.5 billion buy-out by eBay, only 2 years after PayPal’s inception.
Responsive not reactive to change = success.
Trends are something tangible that we can map, immerse ourselves in and use to better connect with our consumer, so that we can informatively imagine how the future will impact our business and most importantly, what opportunities this future can provide.
Trends are the windows to the future.
Are your curtains open?