Identifying and analyzing trends is an excellent way to get a jump on future business, but it's important to remember that the best trend analysis will depend on taking everything into consideration. With that in mind, below are some tips on identifying market trends for long-term success.
Make use of digital tools and analytics
Digital tools and analytics are an important part of identifying market trends for long term business planning. The accuracy and comprehensiveness of data have greatly improved in the past decade, and it is becoming increasingly easy to access.
Digital tools include things like online surveys, connected devices (Fitbits), e-commerce transactions, photo sharing sites, review sites (Yelp), and social media. Analytics software and aides like precollected datasets are an important part of understanding meaningful data from these sources. For example, a brand can consider a customer review on Yelp as an indicator of consumer sentiment.
Listen to your customers
It is important to listen to your customers if you want to identify market trends. Collecting feedback is one of the most well-known methods, but there are many other ways to do this. For example, having an in-store section where visitors can write down their thoughts about a product or complete a survey allows for immediate feedback to be collected. This method may be more useful than something like online surveys because of the immediate nature of data collection.
Your customers will give you a lot of good insight into what you should be doing to plan for the future. The combined wisdom of your customers often amounts to deep knowledge about current market trends and what you should be doing to take advantage of them.
Trends can remain hidden if you don't properly segment your customer base. For example, while some people bought the new iPhone 6 on release day, others may have waited to get a better deal or opted for a different phone. Customer segmentation can help identify commonalities and differences between groups of people so that you can develop strategies to target not only different demographics in your marketing efforts, but the right ones.
The most effective long-term businesses are those that can adapt as market trends change. This is probably the hardest part of identifying market trends for long term business planning because it requires foreseeing how people will react to future events and which products or services they will want. However, if everything goes right for a business, the success you see years down the road could be because of this data-driven proactive approach.
Purchase situation analysis
Purchase situation analysis is a great way to identify trends because it involves researching how people make buying decisions. Asking questions like "Why are you considering this product?" or "What are some of your alternatives?" will often tell you a lot about trends in the market. This information can be difficult to gather, but it is necessary for properly identifying market trends.
Knowing the answer to these questions can provide a lot of insight into what your customers want, and what you should be doing to ensure long-term success for your business.
Direct competition analysis
Another important aspect of identifying and taking advantage of long term trends is your direct competition analysis. Knowing about your competitors and how they operate is extremely important when developing a long term business plan. You should always be aware of what other brands in the industry are doing and how they do it so that you can adapt accordingly and ensure future success for your brand.
Competition analysis is important for this reason, because once you figure out how successful companies are accomplishing their goals, you can make plans to do the same thing. Additionally, if you can play off their strengths, you may be able to capitalize on emerging markets that they have not targeted yet. You can preempt future issues that may arise from market trends by knowing what your competitors are up to and how you should react.
Stay abreast of industry influencers and publications
Industry influencers and influential publications are great resources that can provide a lot of great insight into your customers and the state of the market as a whole. These people often have deep knowledge about trends in their industry, and sometimes they will publish articles sharing this information with everyone else. Pay attention to these types of publications because they could play a huge role in your ability to identify future trends for your business.
Learn as much as you can about both your customers and those who influence them because this information is invaluable to long-term success for your business. You should always be aware of what other brands in the industry are doing and how they do it so that you can adapt accordingly and ensure future success for your brand. Even if you don't understand the details, you can use these publications as conversation starters to learn about market trends and why certain things are happening in your industry.
You should continuously monitor your industry because it is always changing! However, if you pay attention to what's going on within your own company and with key influencers, you might be able to take advantage of your competitors and customers, you'll have a good idea of what to do in the future.
Always read up-to-date industry research and trends reports
It is important to not only read constantly on the latest industry trends and reports but to make sure your reading is current. If you read about an issue that has already been identified as a problem with the industry, you will be better prepared to take advantage of it if you are constantly reading. You can even write your own "report" to give yourself some fresh insight into the current status and future projections for your company and for your market in general.
Furthermore, as a company, it is important to read as much as you can about specific market segments and individual countries. For example, if your product appeals to a specific demographic, make sure you know everything there is to know about this demographic. This will help ensure that the products offered by your business meet the needs of those customers, and it will also give you a better idea of what your competitors are up to.
Indirect competition analysis
Your indirect competition refers to brands that are not targeting the same demographic, but may be targeting a similar demographic or offering a competing product to yours.
This is especially important because the actions of your indirect competition could have an effect on your company's profitability and success. For example, if you notice that a direct competitor of yours is experiencing higher than average growth rates in sales, you might want to analyze the reasons for this growth in order to make similar gains.
As a consumer, this is also important because it will help you get a better idea of what types of products are currently popular and which ones are not, further helping you decide what to spend your money on. If your company is seeing an increase in sales of one specific product, then you can probably assume that other customers are seeing the same thing. You might be able to use this information to help you decide what product will sell well in future.
Analysis of complementary products and services
Analyzing complementary products and services can help you identify trends by looking at the success of one product and seeing what kinds of other products it works well with. This could help you determine whether a complementary type of product might work well for your company, whether you might simply want to focus on doing a better job marketing a current product that pairs well with a specific other product, or whether there are opportunities for complementary partnerships.
For example, if you notice that sales of one product you offer are particularly high in conjunction with the sale of another product, you could try to find ways to make the two products work better together or market them as complementary. The same thing can go for services. If a certain service seems to go well with a specific other services, you might want to examine whether this is something your company could take advantage of.
Identifying competitive advantages for your product or service is important, but not as important as identifying the factors that keep customers coming back to you time and time again. If customers come back to your company instead of buying from other companies who offer similar products or services, then it is likely that your company has a competitive advantage.
Analysis of other industries
Looking at what other industries are doing can also provide you insight into long term trends because just as industries tend to branch out and become involved in new markets, this process happens on an individual company level as well.
For example, if you just read a report about how one major industry is increasing its focus on a specific region, it might be time to take a look at what your company could do with regard to the same region.
Foreign markets analysis
Foreign markets are a great place to focus on information on new and emerging trends because when a market becomes saturated in one country, it often spreads to other countries.
For example, if you notice that people in the United States are beginning to spend less money on home entertainment systems like big-screen TVs and game consoles, this could mean that they will start spending more money on mobile devices like tablets or laptops. Depending on your product or service offering, this could be good news for you. Or it could mean that you need to start developing new technology or products that will fit into the mobile device market and then marketing them as such.
Performing an environmental analysis is an integral part of good trend research because if you want to know what kinds of products and services will be popular in the future, you need to have an idea of what kinds of problems could arise for which customers might seek a solution.
For example, if you notice that many people are taking up cycling as a hobby or form of exercise, then this could mean that they might start looking for ways to transport their bicycles to races or trails. This could be an opportunity for your company to start developing bike carriers that attach to the back of cars, trucks, or SUVs so that customers can transport their bikes without having them eat up valuable trunk space.
Doing a good job of analyzing and understanding trends is what helps you create long-term business plans that will work for your company. Identifying market trends can help you see where the needs are in the market, whether the needs are being met by someone else, and if they aren't being met, what kinds of products or services would be perfect for meeting this need.