I graduated this summer with a bachelor degree in Trend Research and Concept Creation and for the past four years, I have been studying consumer trends closely. When you’re trying to develop a concept for your business, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of trend research. By taking consumer needs and wants into consideration and knowing what shifts are happening in society, you can make sure that your business will be future proof. That’s why in today’s blogpost, I’m giving you a small introduction to trend research for beginners.
Trend Research For Beginners
What is a trend?
There are different definitions of trends, depending on who you ask. The definition we work with is:
“A trend is a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society.”
Step One – Spotting manifestations of change
Manifestations or signals of change are all around us. You can find them by scouting the news, reading blogs, watching videos and going to events (and by just looking around you). When you start doing trend research, you generally start by coolhunting.
Coolhunting is literally looking for new, innovative, cool products and concepts. Collect and document the things you find.
For example, when I was at the supermarket, I saw they added a card to the soda shelves with a color code system to indicate calorie categories ranking from low to high. I took a picture and wrote a small note and saved it in Evernote (I love using this program to save my signals). Another example of a manifestation is the WONDR pop-up experience in Amsterdam. For this experience, people pay 24,50 euro to go to this very Instagrammable “playground” to take beautiful Instagram pictures. You can feel these signals tell you something about consumer behavior.
You can start coolhunting by simply going to a city and look around at what you see, but you can also make a scan plan. A scan plan is an overview of the field- and deskresearch activities you plan to do. Working with a scan plan can also help you be more focused and organized.
Selecting your spots
When you have collected a few signals, you need to validate them by asking critical questions.
- is it innovative?
- is it inspiring?
- is it clear?
- is it reliable?
- is it an anomaly?
- is it creating impact?
Step Two – Formulating Trends
When you have selected the best manifestions, it’s time to start clustering them. It’s best to make sure you have quite a few signals before you start so you have enough to work with. I suggest having 50-100 spots. Preferably, you cluster trend signals with other people who have also collected spots. You can discuss and create the clusters together and you’ll have a lot more valuable insights.
You create a trend cluster by looking at the underlying values and themes in your spots. For instance, you find several articles about ‘Instagrammable’ new coffee shops in your city. Apparently, consumers want the places they go to to be beautiful so they can take a pretty picture to post on social media. However, maybe you also have a few articles on how social media is impacting our lives and you find that “online identity” is a theme as well.
When you have clear clusters of your signals, you can start validating them by doing more research. You’re going to look for more information and create a narrative for the trend.
Try to find good quality, trustworthy articles to back it up. Newspapers, magazines like TIME, Monocle and the Harvard Business Review can be great sources for that. You could also talk to experts in the field.
To validate your trend clusters, these are the questions you need to answer:
- Why is this trend happening right now?
- What is the specific shift in values and needs?
- Who started this trend and who is spreading it?
- Which phase is this trend in? (Roger’s Adoption Curve)
- Where can you see this trend happening already? (In your manifestations)
- What consequences can this trend have on our future quality of life?
Name the trend
When you have validated your trend, it’s time to capture its essence in a name. The title should give you a sneak-peek into the underlying values of the trend. If you’re not sure how to come up with a good title, here’s some inspiration of great trend names by www.trendwatching.com:
How To Research Trends
That were the basics of trend research for beginners! If you’d like to know more, I recommend reading Els Dragt’s book ‘How To Research Trends‘, which this post was based on. She was one of my teachers at Trend Research and Concept Creation and I found her classes very interesting. She knows how to explain trend research in a very clear and simple way that is never boring.
I hope you will take trends into consideration when you’re creating a concept for your business, because knowing what people want and need and providing that now and in the future can make your business extremely successful.
Don’t forget to check out our other Business Blogtober posts!