Your Go-to Guide to Business Trendspotting

Katie Fleming

Katie Fleming

Co-founder and COO of Owner Actions

A person looks through window blinds while engaging in business trendspotting.

Trends can pay off in big ways for business owners positioned to capitalize on them. Sometimes, being in the right position comes down to luck. At other times, it’s a stroke of genius. Those who get it right in this way usually spot something glistening on the horizon. Then, they consider what they’d need to do to succeed if that factor came to be and take steps to prepare their businesses.

Leaders who do this are trendspotting, a practice becoming much more important as trends shift and technologies emerge at breakneck speed.

In this article, we’ll help you learn the essentials for business trendspotting so you can put it to use in your organization.

 

What goes into business trendspotting?

Business trendspotting involves a wide range of elements. You may be able to spot glimpses of trends in the following ways:

 

By observing the pathways your customers are using to find your brand

Pathways change over time. Today, you may find that most of your users find your site through web searches. But if you observe carefully, you might see upticks in people entering your site from social media pages, influencer pages, other web pages, apps, or through collaborative email efforts.

Here’s what you can do today: Start tracking how people come to your site (and what they’re doing once they get there). Google Analytics is a tool that can help you with this task.

 

By learning what your customers are doing with your product or service

It’s easy to make assumptions about how your products are being used, but when you talk with customers, you might learn about creative uses of your products that provide glimmers of trends. Study these uses and look for opportunities to exploit them to create explosive growth for your business.

Here’s what you can do today: Follow up with your customers. Ask what they love about your product and how they’re using it. Then, go a step further, and ask if there was anything they wish it could do, which may include new features, additional functionalities, or integration with other products.

 

By talking to your employees

Your employees see shifts in customer requests firsthand. Ask them about the new requests they’re fielding, features people are starting to ask about, and emerging concerns that were never in place. Listen to what they share. You might gain insights that will drive you to pivot your design, tweak your marketing pitch, or redefine your customer base.

Here’s what you can do today. Set up a monthly trendspotting session with your entire team. Invite them to share what they’re seeing, provide examples, share the frequency of requests, and offer their own insights that can help your business prepare for big shifts in your market.

 

By looking outward to other industries

Often trends emerge in a small, finite area before finding new applications. This is especially true with technologies, modes of delivery, and other rapidly developing features.

Here’s what you can do today. Follow tech and retail thought leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn. Listen to what they’re excited about. Then, dive into the research and see how it might apply to your industry, business, or consumer.

You can also find and follow trends on the websites such as Trend Hunter, Trend Watching, and SpringWise and in research reports such as this one from Gartner.

By measuring everything that’s measurable

Start keeping metrics on sales by product line, category, customer segment, region, and any other parameters that matter to your business. Study shifts and try to pinpoint causes so you can sort anomalies from the true start of trends.

Here’s what you can do today. Create scorecards. You can record data and track trends on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to examine whether you’re on course to achieve your goals or if other factors may be shifting the market. ConceptBoard offers a free template you can use to get started.

 

I found some trends. Now what?

The steps you take may help you spot emerging trends, but only a select few will be relevant to your business and appropriate for you to pursue.

The ones that matter are those that can help you reach new customers, incorporate new forms of value into your products or services, or serve your customer base more effectively.

Here's how to decide whether to pursue a trend:

 

Think about the impact it could have on your customers, business, or industry.

Who will it benefit? Which parts of your business would need to pivot to respond to the trend? Will you fall behind by not jumping on board?

 

Study the maturity of the trend.

Is the trend a brand-new idea? Are people in your industry already experimenting with it? Are your customers engaged in the trend in other parts of their lives? Is the trend being adopted by some members of your market but not by others?

 

Imagine how the trend might evolve.

Is the trend becoming so popular that it’s become mainstream in its current form? Is it a hint of an idea that has yet to be shaped into its end form? What do you risk by jumping on board too soon or too late into its evolution?

 

With each of these factors considered, you can decide if a trend should be pursued, when it should be pursued, and what you intend to accomplish by investing in it today. These considerations are important because there is risk in jumping on (and investing in) trends—and because your resources to do so are finite.

Talk to your customers often. Ask questions to uncover the trends that matter. Then, determine how to capitalize on them in ways that will add value.

What’s next?

While your business is working on trendspotting, take time to firm up your marketing and strategic plans. Log into your owner’s portal for articles and step-by-step guides that will help you get started.

Want to take on other tasks?

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