5 ways to use trend forecasting to understand what your future consumer will do next

The word ‘trend’ trips a lot of people up. It’s highly subjective and has been given new meaning in the past few years as we see topics and posts ‘trending’ on social media from ‘cottagecore’ to ’cowboycore. With an incessant TikTok culture and a scrolling feed of fads and aesthetics going viral, it can be challenging to know what your business should be paying attention to.  

If you are struggling to know how to understand your future consumer, we’ve created a complete guide to using trends to unlock growth and transform your business. You can also find more useful resources including our A-Z Glossary of Trends here. 

In this complete guide to trend forecasting, we’ll cover: 

But before we explain what trend forecasting is, let’s begin with understanding the difference between a trend versus ‘what’s trending’. 

‘What’s trending’ refers to fads that experience rapid popularity before fading away just as swiftly. 

Head of Foresight at Reddit, Matt Klein explains, “Most of the signals considered “trends” today are really nothing more than frivolous entertainment. In short, we’ve come to confuse what is “trending” with what is a trend.”  

By contrast, a trend is rooted in identifiable sets of cultural drivers. Trends typically have global reach and are long-lived and evolving. In essence, a trend is a shift in the way people think and consequently act. 

The sharp spike in popularity of the Stanley Cup is a great example. 

On the surface, the virality of the Stanley Cup appears to be ‘trending’. However, the success of this product is deeply rooted in a much larger collection of intersecting consumer macro trends:  

  • A move away from disposable cups to more sustainable long-lasting materials due to legislative change and rising environmental awareness among consumers 
  • Growth in interest in hydration stemming from health and wellbeing trends  
  • Prevalence in transient and convenience-seeking lifestyles  

Rather than reacting to ‘what’s trending now’ it’s the brands and businesses that use a forward view to inform their strategic decision-making and can successfully predict how their audience will change – both attitudinally and behaviourally.  

A strong grasp of future trends and consumer attitudes enables brands and organisations to mitigate risk and make more informed commercial decisions.  

“Successful companies are able to look beyond what their customer is drawn to today, and create a process for understanding what their future customer will think, feel and do. They make confident, more informed decisions.” Joanna Feeley. 

What is trend forecasting? How can we see a future others can’t yet see?

Trend forecasting, foresight and futures studies are all disciplines that can help companies see beyond the horizon line. Whilst they are often perceived as mysterious and complex, its essence, they are all simply tools to help us think more deeply about change.  

At TrendBible, we use a blend of trend forecast and foresight methodologies to paint a picture of a preferred future for our clients, one where they can drive distinction and develop products and experiences that meet customers future needs.  

We research trends by looking for ‘weak signals’ which we cluster into emerging themes and imagine new bold futures using methods like scenario planning. We curate panel discussions inviting inspiring thinkers, academics and practitioners to join our team of trend experts six times a year to keep our thinking fresh and challenge our perceptions.  

Can anyone forecast trends?  

There’s no clear pathway to becoming a trend forecaster, but it’s usually a combination of education, honing research skills and gaining years of significant experience in the field. By cultivating skills in research, analysis, critical thinking, and creativity, trend forecasters can gather information from diverse sources, interpret data, and identify emerging patterns and themes. Curiosity and a high appetite for change are common traits which unite all trend forecasters. 

“Trend forecasters always have interesting stories of how they got into the industry,” says Wendy Lowe, Trend Editor at TrendBible. “The study of culture is what has taken me into the world of trends. It’s how I learnt how to really research and develop a forecast.” 

What’s the process behind trend forecasting?

Today there are many types of trend forecasting agencies, each with their own specialisms and methodologies across different industries, sectors, or aspects of trend analysis. 

As a leading authority on the future of home, interiors, and householder lifestyle trends, TrendBible know that they are influenced by a very specific set of circumstances. We forecast what they will do next using research models and methodologies specially designed to predict new behaviours and taste shifts at home and in family life, rather than relying on models created for other very different consumer industries like fashion. 

 

TrendBible

Our rigorous 4-step trend forecast process includes: 

1. Research 

Our trend researchers scan for weak signals of early change across a broad range of lifestyle factors, economic drivers and cultural indicators. 

2. Analysis 

The implications of change are mapped out across several future scenarios, which begin to identify patterns that cluster findings into clear themes.  

3. Forecast 

From the research and analysis, a hypothesis can be developed. Expert opinions are layered in by hosting trend panel discussions and interviews to build a rich and informed vision of the future.  

4. Refinement 

A number of contextual lenses are applied to the trend forecasts so they are robust and inclusive, eliminating unconscious bias through the application of a geographical, inclusivity and cultural lenses. 

How do businesses use trend forecasting? 

Our objective at TrendBible is to help brands and businesses use trend forecasts to do something that differentiates them. This means identifying the golden opportunities and articulating the challenges that these forthcoming shifts may present for their business. For some businesses, this isn’t always about being first to market, it’s more about how they continue to remain relevant to their future consumer. 

Chris Morgan, Senior Product Manager at Ronseal, explains, “To break into the paint market, we knew we needed a point of difference in a highly competitive industry, so we introduced ‘one coat’. It can be used in any room in the home and can paint multiple surfaces.” 

“The colour-drenching trend forecast by TrendBible justifies the need for “multi-surfaces”. Being able to apply these trends in an on-brand “Ronseal” way means we can bring this product to the mass market.”  

“We’re not trying to drive the trend, but simply be the brand that consumers can trust to get the performance and look that they want.” 

What impact does trend forecasting have on businesses?

Trend forecasting helps businesses anticipate future consumer wants and needs, inform and validate strategic decisions, drive innovation, guide brand and marketing strategies and mitigate risk. It empowers businesses to adapt to market changes and react to emerging opportunities. Here are five ways trend forecasting can transform businesses: 

1. Anticipate future consumer needs 

Trend forecasting identifies emerging consumer needs, enabling businesses to proactively develop products and services, gaining a competitive edge. 

2. Identify viable market opportunities 

Trend Forecasting identifies niche markets or new segments, allowing businesses to seize opportunities and drive growth. 

3. Drive innovation 

Trend forecasting inspires innovative product development, aligning offerings with future consumer preferences.  

4. Inform brand and marketing strategy 

Trend insights inform strategies to resonate with evolving consumer lifestyles, fostering brand loyalty and attracting new customers. 

5. Eliminate risk 

Trend forecasting aids in strategic decision-making, minimising risks and maximising opportunities in product development, marketing and brand extension. 

Your key takeaways to remember about Trend Forecasting 

To conclude our complete guide to trend forecasting, the main takeaways are:  

  • Know your trends from your fads. Adopt a ‘forward view’ behind your decision-making. 
  • Trend Forecasting is simply about understanding change. For some businesses it can mean being first to market, for others, it’s about remaining relevant to their future consumers. 
  • Trend Forecasting helps transform businesses by anticipating future consumer wants and needs, to confidently inform and validate strategic decisions, drive innovation, and mitigate risk. 

Are you ready to adopt a ‘forward view’ in your business? 

It’s our obsession to help individuals in businesses reach their full potential through trends. If you’d like to speak to us about how trend forecasting can inform your business contact us here. 

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