Running a business without trend analysis is like working in the dark

  • Trends help solve problems and represent new ways of life
  • How is trend analysis done?
  • Being proactive – not reactive – means the difference between succeeding and failing
  • Don’t get left in the dark

Imagine trying to create something without being able to see. That’s what it would be like to develop a new product or service without any understanding of how it would fit into society and its values. Many companies struggle with spotting, understanding, and acting on trends, and as a result, miss the boat. Think Blackberry, who didn’t see the smartphone evolution coming, or Kodak, who ignored what was happening in the market and got left behind. Identifying and analysing trends is crucial, as it gives insight into what’s relevant to a business or industry, and can impact an organisation’s future success, profitability, and staying power.

Trends help solve problems and represent new ways of life

Trends can be identified by discernable and explainable growth, driven by audience needs. They help solve problems. Seth Godin, best-selling author and founder of Squidoo and Yoyodyne, writes, “A trend gains power over time, because it’s not merely part of a moment, it’s a tool, a connector that will become more valuable as other people commit to engaging in it”. One example of a trend is the increasing popularity of social networking – it connects people and has turned the world into a global village. Stopping smoking is a trend as well – it allows us to live longer and healthier lives. Another example is evidence-based medicine – healthcare on the basis of the most up-to-date, reliable, scientific evidence – which eliminates guesswork and saves lives. These trends continue to grow, they solve problems, and represent new ways of life. To stay on top as a business, knowing how to leverage trends is crucial to survival.

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Trends can be identified by discernable and explainable growth, driven by audience needs.

How is trend analysis done?

According to Wikipedia, trend analysis “is the widespread practice of collecting information and attempting to spot a pattern to predict future events”. To stay ahead of your competition, it’s important to evaluate changes in your market. Trend analysis looks at how a particular industry started, how it’s developed, and in which direction it’s anticipated to go. An example is the birth of mobile communication, the rise of the smartphone, and the resulting transformation of the market. Of course, in addition to technology trends like “what’s the next big thing my customers are looking for, and how can technology meet that need?”, one also has to look at changes in the economic and the political landscape, which may also offer valuable insights that are important to your business.

Staying up to date with trends requires all manner of investigation, including collecting primary data, continuous scanning of the literature, and following prominent issues in academic journals and the media. Then, notions of change are tested with findings from research done by online forums, focus groups, universities, and research agencies across the globe. Piers Fawkes, the founder of PSFK, a leading business intelligence and trend reporting company, says, “You need to look for patterns within the data, see a volume of similar ideas, speak to experts to understand it and then dissect the speed of the trend and how it will likely evolve”.

Being proactive – not reactive – means the difference between succeeding and failing

Whether you’re staying on top of trends – monitoring, analysing, and acting – determines whether you will succeed. Companies need to be proactive, not reactive. They need to continuously find ways to stay relevant and compete, or even out-compete, to secure future growth. A study from Innosight estimates that nearly 50 per cent of today’s S&P 500 companies will no longer exist in ten years’ time. That should wake you up.

Digital representation of a tablet on top of which are 3D bar and pie charts and a magnifying glass enlarging the word 'trends'
Whether you’re staying on top of trends – monitoring, analysing, and acting – determines whether you will succeed.

One important part of being proactive is trend analysis. It leads to important findings and insights and provides context to help organisations find a balance between their aspirations and reality. It answers questions such as how to get and retain your customers’ attention in a world where attention spans seem to be getting shorter all the time. It can shed light on how to gain consumer trust in a society where there’s a growing distrust in the media and advertising. It can help companies answer questions like “will this idea make our customers’ lives easier? Happier? Healthier? More efficient?”

Don’t get left in the dark

It may not be all that complicated to recognise major technological, economic, or social trends. But trends that seem unrelated to your company’s core market could profoundly influence consumer attitudes, aspirations, and behaviour. If these seemingly unrelated trends aren’t taken into account, your business may miss opportunities for innovation and growth. It’s hardly an epiphany that our daily lives are significantly impacted by the digital revolution. But what may not be so glaringly obvious is that most digitally-savvy people tend to focus on short-term goals,  multi-task, and want instant gratification. That particular insight is as relevant for a smartphone manufacturer as it is for a makeup company, and ignoring these trends can cause a divide between companies and their customers. It can mean being left behind, lead to irrelevance, and ultimately, hasten the demise of the company.

Free e-books for 13 sectors.

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This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business.

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