How to spot the potential of a trend and use it for your advantage
“When you know, you know” – do you recognise yourself in this quote? Are you the type of innate trendspotter who instinctively knows when that small flurry of interest around a film, product or belief system is about to go viral?
Chances are that life, work and the general deluge of information that bombards your newsfeeds day-to-day mean that trendspotting is not something you have much time to pursue.
If it’s an art that doesn’t come naturally then how can you learn to spot trends and, more importantly, how can you turn that acquired skill to your advantage?
The very first thing to do is to decide on what kind of trends you want to get ahead of, in order to profit from them. Chances are they’re the types of trends that manifest themselves in your industry. Take the fashion industry, an environment where spotting up-and-coming trends isn’t merely advantageous, it’s crucial.
Trendspotting in other industries too can also mean the difference between getting ahead of the curve, maximising profits or playing catch-up.
While it’s deeply satisfying to know you predicted just how popular Fleabag was going to become, it only gives you pub kudos. The real advantages come when you can act on and benefit from those perfectly honed instincts.
Surprisingly, instinct plays only a very small part in what it takes to accurately predict trends and like most things that are worth learning, hard work, patience and a degree of luck make up the crucial ingredients to this particular pie.
For starters, when spotting a trend there are some key elements to it that must be analysed and a successful trendspotter will tell you that an idea, in order to become a trend, must meet a need. That need might be something as basic as the tools we need to live – food, drink, sleep and so on. Or it might be more complex: love, intimacy, entertainment or intellectual fulfilment. But what it must do is provide something that wasn’t there before, or at least improve on whatever wasn’t quite hitting the mark.
If you’re in the financial market then you’ll find this metric a little too basic but financial forecasting aside, a business trend must meet the needs of its customers. If this is a little too intangible then the more data-driven among you will be relieved to hear that good, old-fashioned statistics and metrics also play a crucial role in spotting a trend. If you’re seeing peaks in customer engagement around certain keywords or concepts and across differing industries, then you might just be on to something.
For example, artificial intelligence. Even as little as two years ago, AI was still considered an emerging technology for small businesses. Yet customers’ experiences were noticeably enhanced and improved when AI was present for functions such as online shopping. Not simply automated actions but rather smart, learning AI that uses a customer’s location to create offers and delivery solutions that are practical and enticing, alongside other learnt tasks that only the smartest of technology can offer.
The forward-thinking business owner, using the fact that this is indeed meeting a need and seeing it used across different industries, might explore some business solutions around this trend for better business practice and customer engagement.
Trendspotting can be time consuming, so let others do some of the hard work for you by signing up to websites that specialise in exactly this kind of deep analysis. Read everything you can about your industry and stay on top of news and developments.
While you might find yourself beginning to spot trends through this kind of information gathering and through analysing your own website and social media data, there is the danger that you may jump on something that doesn’t fit your goals or brand identity. In short, not all trends are created equal and the bandwagon isn’t always appropriate to jump on. Instead, when spotting trends, ask yourself how they might benefit you and your business specifically. Consider if they are worth investing time and money in and if you’ll see real life profit from these actions.
Take time too, to look at what the competition is up to. What are they championing and pushing? Are these products or services being talked about on social media, outside their own efforts? Are they popping up on other sites or across other industries? Use this analysis to inform some of your own strategic marketing.
When you’re in business, so much of your time is spent being a jack-of-all-trades and trendspotting might seem like one more drain on your time and money, but this is a skill well worth your efforts. Yes, there’s the pub kudos of knowing what’s going viral but for your business, getting ahead of the curve when it comes to technology or knowing which of your products is going to take off over the next 12 months, that’s golden.