What is Trendwatching?
Numerous businesses and organizations must pay more attention to their industry’s evolving trends and developments.
Their attention is fixated on immediate, daily operations.
However, it’s the consideration of long-term scenarios that will enable companies to navigate through the rapid changes occurring today.
In many respects, the future has already arrived, and companies must focus on trends and developments that could significantly influence their business, for better or worse.
This task can be challenging, particularly for those needing help identifying and interpreting these trends. It demands a specific set of skills, typically found in a trendwatcher or futurist.
Types of Trend Watchers
Trend watching, a dynamic and multifaceted field, encompasses various professionals, each specializing in different time horizons and impacts of trends.
At the forefront are Trend Watchers, who concentrate on the immediate effects of emerging trends, typically within three years, assessing how these trends will modify our daily lives in the near future.
Moving along the timeline, trend forecasters step in, focusing on a slightly longer horizon and predicting societal changes and trends that will become significant in the next five to ten years. Their insights are crucial in shaping mid-term strategies and adaptations.
Futurists are at the far end of the spectrum, whose work transcends mere trend analysis. They delve into envisioning how these trends, compounded over time, will sculpt the landscape of our world beyond thirty years. Their projections offer a broad and imaginative view of future possibilities, influencing long-term planning and innovation.
What is a trend?
Trends represent gradual yet significant societal shifts, emerging as unconventional practices or thoughts before gradually being embraced as standard. Take, for instance, the adoption of a new idea or lifestyle. Initially unique, others gradually embrace it, eventually transforming societal attitudes or norms.
These trends imprint themselves into our daily existence. They come in various forms, including consumer, market, and social trends.
Consumer trends delve into customer behaviors, answering questions like “What are the shopping habits of our customers?” with insights like “They increasingly prefer online shopping.”
Market trends focus on industry-specific developments, responding to queries like “What changes are occurring in our industry?” with observations such as “The aging population is driving a higher demand for chair lifts.”
Social trends impact our environment and address broader questions like “What kind of world are we living in?” with responses like “It’s becoming more globalized.”
The key challenge lies in identifying which trends are relevant to your business or industry and leveraging this knowledge for practical strategies.
What kind of industry trends exist?
Microtrends, often called ‘market trends,’ are essential in understanding consumer and market dynamics. These trends are identifiable through clusters of ‘signals,’ tangible developments like new products and services. Typically, microtrends span an average duration of 1 to 5 years. A relevant example can be seen in initiatives like Too Good To Go, Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables, and Forgotten Fruit. These signals share a common theme: they all present solutions to combat food waste, thereby collectively forming a microtrend.
Macro trends and megatrends are critical to understanding market and consumer behavior dynamics. While megatrends are broad, long-term movements that affect various aspects of society and business, macro trends are more focused and short-term, typically spanning about two years.
They offer a detailed forecast of their impact on consumer behavior, integrating current social, economic, and cultural factors.
Consider environmental sustainability a mega trend—a widespread, long-term shift impacting numerous sectors.
Within this context, a corresponding macro trend might be the emergence of zero-waste packaging in consumer goods over the next two years, reflecting immediate market shifts and consumer preferences under the larger sustainability umbrella.
Additionally, there are Seasonal Trend Forecasts, also known as Trend Books. These forecasts are vital for designers, product developers, and marketers, providing insights into householders’, families’, children’s, and tweens’ attitudes and lifestyles up to two years in advance.
They encompass various topics, from broader lifestyle contexts to specific details like color and design inspiration. These guides are crucial for each season, helping businesses develop products that are not only commercially viable but also align with evolving consumer preferences.
For instance, a Seasonal Trend Forecast might anticipate a shift towards earthy, nature-inspired color schemes and sustainable materials in home decor for the upcoming Autumn Winter season.
This prediction could arise from increasing consumer interest in eco-friendly living and a preference for incorporating natural elements in indoor spaces, mirroring broader lifestyle and environmental concerns.
Such a specific trend would inform designers and businesses in crafting products and marketing strategies that resonate with consumer needs and preferences for that particular season.
How does society adopt trends?
Trends in society follow a distinctive trajectory akin to the spread of cultural genes. Initially, a select group of innovators and early adopters embrace a new idea, product, or lifestyle. This early adoption phase is crucial, as these pioneers pave the way for broader acceptance. The trend gains momentum as more individuals start imitating and integrating this new element into their lives.
This process can be visualized on a graph where the Y-axis represents the level of adoption. The initial rise is gradual, but as the adoption rate increases, the trend shifts from being an outlier to a more normalized aspect of society, either in specific communities or globally.
The X-axis, on the other hand, charts the timeline of the trend’s evolution. Both the time it takes for a trend to mature and its adoption rate are instrumental in understanding and defining the life cycle of a trend.
This model illustrates a trend’s growth and highlights how these evolving patterns continuously shape and reshape societal norms.
How are trends analyzed?
There are several approaches toward trend watching; various models are utilized to navigate and predict future market movements and consumer behaviors.
The PESTELE research framework stands as a comprehensive tool in this domain. It expands the traditional PESTEL model, integrating Ethics into the mix.
This framework gives a holistic view of the factors that impact a business or organization. By examining Political, Economic, Societal, Technological, Environmental, Legal, and Ethical dimensions, PESTELE provides a foundational framework that helps understand the key influences shaping market trends.
This broad perspective is crucial for identifying opportunities and threats in a dynamic business environment.
Another notable model is William Higham’s 4 C’s, focusing on the ‘Calculables’ and ‘Chaotics.’ The ‘Calculables’ refer to predictable events, such as the occurrence of the Olympic Games, which can be planned for with certainty.
This model emphasizes the importance of triangulation, connecting at least three trend drivers across multiple industries to ensure robust and relevant forecasts.
On the other hand, ‘Chaotics’ represents unforeseen events like pandemics or wars, which have significant impacts but cannot be anticipated. However, once such an event occurs, predicting its cascading effects on various life aspects is possible. This model underscores the dual nature of trend forecasting, balancing the predictable with the unpredictable.
The Catalysts of Change model, best expressed in the consumer trend canvas, is another pivotal tool in trend forecasting. This model showcases how significant global issues can drive future consumer behaviors and create new market opportunities.
For instance, the climate crisis might trigger a series of catalysts, such as changes in government policies, influencing consumer attitudes and emotions. This, in turn, leads to the development of new behaviors and market opportunities.
This model is instrumental in understanding how large-scale issues can shape consumer preferences and open new avenues for innovation and growth in various sectors.
Which Companies use Trendwatching?
Several biggest organizations, including industry leaders like Google, Tesla, Ford, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Intel, and General Motors, have adopted trend watching.
This strategic approach is essential for maintaining a competitive edge and aligning with the global movement towards sustainability and positive global impact.
One notable instance of this trend is the innovative partnership between Ford and McDonald’s. In this collaboration, McDonald’s supplies Ford with coffee chaf, a byproduct of coffee bean roasting, which Ford then repurposes to manufacture car parts, such as headlight housings.
This initiative exemplifies both creativity and a dedication to sustainability. The new material created from this waste is 20% lighter than conventional materials, enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing energy consumption by up to 25% during manufacturing.
Another example is the collaboration between Tesla and utility company PG&E to develop California’s world’s largest Virtual Power Plant. This project, known as the Emergency Load Reduction Program, aims to stabilize the state’s power grid, often threatened by heat waves and forest fires.
By storing electricity in Tesla’s Powerwall, a home battery system, during low-demand periods and then supplying it back to the grid during high-demand situations, this initiative effectively manages energy resources while contributing to California’s ambitious climate change policies. Tesla Powerwall owners in this program receive compensation for the energy dispatched from their units.
What are the best Trend Intelligence Platforms?
Every day, life is changing so fast that tools that give trend alerts are recommended for any business wanting to keep its competitive edge. These platforms track consumer sentiment by analyzing vast amounts of search data on Google and social media engagement stats. Therefore, they are keen on spotting popular trends before they take off.
Using these alerts for trends ensures you make content that aligns with the current and future zeitgeist.
Zeitgeist is a concept by German philosopher Hegel; its definition is the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
- Identifies new and emerging trends.
- Offers insights into trends across various sectors. (Both B2B and B2C products)
- Presents detailed data on current trends.
Exploding Topics is an effective trend-hunter platform that reveals the biggest business trends in various industries. Its strength lies in its ability to quickly detect new trends, benefiting the marketing world.
- Tracks the popularity of search queries.
- Provides insights into worldwide search trends.
- Delivers data visualization for straightforward interpretation.
Google Trends has emerged as a crucial resource for entrepreneurs, providing a window into people’s search behaviors globally. This access to real-time search data empowers entrepreneurs to ensure their ideas have fertile ground.
- Advanced trend analysis
- Delivers insights on market competition.
- Presents data through visualizations and analytical insights.
Semrush Trends provides an instant market overview and competitive digital insights that help businesses identify new market realities and emerging trends to discover growth opportunities. This trend hunter’s tool provides all-encompassing insights for any website, industry, or market across 190 countries & regions.
- Observes and tracks consumer preferences and patterns.
- Delivers reports and insights on emerging trends.
- Specializes in analyzing consumer behavior.
TrendWatching offers a wealth of insights into the marketing world, highlighting consumers’ shifting tendencies and actions. With access to trend data, marketers can predict upcoming consumer trends. These actionable insights help marketers improve their reports or guides, guaranteeing that their work remains pertinent and engaging for their intended audience.
Companies have long operated successfully without the need for futurists or trend-watchers.
However, the current landscape of launching new services and products and maintaining customer loyalty has become more intricate.
Many organizations need help understanding future trends, and CEOs and managers often find themselves too absorbed in daily operations to focus on broader visions.
Yet, the rapid pace of change in the world means that ignorance of emerging trends could lead a business down a path of misdirection, especially for older, established companies with lengthy product development cycles.
The value of futurists and trend watchers is evident; they can identify significant trends, offer essential insights and perspectives, and transform these into actionable strategies.
This helps companies adapt to changes, meet customer expectations, and maintain a competitive advantage.