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How to spot consumer trends early

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If you want to get ahead in business and beat the competition, it’s really important that you are able to not only follow trends, but identify them before they become big, so you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure your target audience are coming to you instead of the other businesses in your niche.

In order to identify what’s going to be fashionable in your niche tomorrow, rather than what is fashionable now, here’s what you need to do:

Know exactly what a consumer trend is

You’re never going to be able to identify the next big thing for your business if you don’t even know what a consumer trend is, so before you do anything else, make sure that you know exactly what trends are. Trends are fundamental wants, needs and desires that appeal to the social, economic and technological aspects of life. They are things that people want and need and that makes them quite easy to identify if you do indeed know your market.

Follow the latest innovations

It makes sense if you want to predict the next big thing, that you stay on top of any innovations in your niche. For example, if you’re a phone company and you follow phone technology, should you see that a company has created a battery that only takes 15 minutes to fully charge (we can but dream) you can be pretty certain that fast-charging devices are going to be the next big trend, although you are only ever betting when you try to identify new consumer trends – nothing is for certain.

Attend trade shows

Attending the top trade event in your niche, and actually, as many trade events as you can manage is an excellent way to identify any possible future trends by seeing first-hand what your competitors are doing; what products and services they are offering, and what they are talking about. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to have some idea of what they are doing, so you can ensure that your business does it better. Of course, trade events are also good places to pick up extra business with the products and services that you have now.

Know the difference between fads and trends

So there’s nothing wrong with cashing in on a mere fad with your business, just like it makes sense to cash in on a trend, but it’s important that you know the difference between the two because a fad is something that will only be around for a short time before everyone is bored of it, which means that you shouldn’t invest too heavily in it. This is in stark contrast to a trend which is something that emerges due to external changes in technology or practice which make the old way of doing things obsolete or unattractive. It’s like the smartphone making dumbphones and to a large extent laptops and PCs almost obsolete for people surfing the net in their own time. It is something that is here to stay. You need to be able to separate them out if you want to invest in trends for the future rather than fads for the moment.

Don’t just rely on market research

Yes, market research is important for finding out what your target audience likes, wants and needs, which can help you to get some idea of what future consumer trends might look like for them, but it is far from being the be-all-and-end-all of the matter. You see, most market research relies on gathering data from yesterday, so although it tells you what your customers like and what kind of products and services they have used in the past, it doesn’t tell you much about what they will be doing tomorrow. You need to know this and look at new ways of predicting what they will be doing, maybe by researching upcoming technologies or asking them which problems they would like to have solved in the future, or best of all, by letting your own imagination run wild to see what great ideas you can come up with.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

If you want to spot consumer trends early and get ahead of the competition, you’re going to need to experiment with your innovations and you’re going to have to create many things, some of which will fail. You need to be able to not place too much emphasis on any one idea or product when you’re doing this because if you let one success or failure blind you to other ways of doing things, you could end up missing the boat completely. I mean, numerous peer-to-peer sharing/lending sites have gone under in recent years, but many, like Airbnb, have been amazingly successful. Imagine if their owner had given up because one of those other sites failed, they would have missed the trend completely and probably still be trying to build a successful business!

Look outside of your industry

Although keeping tabs on what businesses in your industry are doing is an excellent way to get a heads up and work out those upcoming trends, it’s also a good idea to look outside your niche too because your customers do not live in a vacuum; they take their inspiration from various sources and numerous niches and by looking at the bigger picture, you may be able to take an idea from another industry, combine it with yours and come up with the next big thing as a result. Never limit yourself unnecessarily.

Talk to people

Perhaps the best way of all to work out what trends are up and coming is to talk to the people in your target market and those just outside of it. After all, they know their own minds better than you or any market researcher does; they know what they are passionate about what they want to buy; where they would like to be in five years from now, and that is valuable information for any business owner to have.

Here’s to the future of your business!

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