Whether or not we are aware of it, we are all influenced by our surroundings. Advertising, marketing and PR all work to reach into our subconscious and manipulate our thoughts so that we want to buy what they are selling. In your business, you can forecast trends and predict consumer behavior to help you build a successful range of products and services. Before you start sifting through the tons of information and news feeds out there, in an attempt to identify trends, it’s vital to know the difference between trend spotting and forecasting.

Trend spotting is easy. You can follow influencers, and read blogs and be aware of the current trends everyone is crazy about. There is no denying that there is valuable information within trend spotting, and you can certainly capitalize on it. If you spot a trend early on, you can be sure that it will continue to gain some momentum over the next few months, sometimes even longer. Trends tend to evolutionary. While trend spotting may be useful in helping your business to acknowledge the latest craze and engage with current customers, it is extremely hard to respond to with product. It also doesn’t allow you to understand why these changes are occurring, and how to better prepare next time.

Trend forecasting is based on solid research and precise methodologies, as well as relevant experience in your field. Most importantly, trend forecasting is measurable. Think of it this way – trend spotting is understanding what’s hot now, while trend forecasting is predicting what comes next.

  • Trend spotting allows companies to replicate what’s happening now but forecasting considers the broader socio-economic-cultural shifts driving change.
  • Trend spotting requires an immediate response, trend forecasting looks ahead so brands can be well prepared.
  • Trend forecasting can have influence across the entire business, from strategic brand decisions to product design and marketing.

You might ask why should you bother to forecast trends? As a small business owner, it should be an essential part of what you do for your company. It’s not easy to do, but if you’re able to forecast a trend, you’ll know how your customer base will think, feel and shop a couple years from now. Do you think that might give you an advantage? Absolutely. You’ll be able to produce the products and services they want at the time that they want it.

In an era of social media and hyper-connectivity, trend forecasting is becoming more and more important for business. And it is therefore also becoming a big and highly competitive business. However, how do you recognize which early trends are right for your business?

When considering if a trend is right for you, one of the first steps is to recognize and understand your own brand’s DNA. What is it that makes your company’s brand authentic? Once you know that, it makes it a lot easier to remain authentic to your company and your message while tapping new trends. Furthermore, a common misconception is that to tap into something new, you need to appeal to the trendsetters. Granted, these trendsetters are usually early adopters, but if you introduce an idea too soon, it could mean missing out on your regular customers at the point when they are ready to buy into that trend. These are the customers that keep coming back to you. Trendsetters are likely to buy from you only once. Finally, you need to know the difference between trends and fads. A fad is here today and gone tomorrow. With a trend, the pace of change is much slower, and consumers like items with longevity and versatility.

Why is trend forecasting important? It is important for you to take care of your company and its brand. Part of doing that is continually fine-tuning your approach to understanding consumer behavior and what they want to buy. Ultimately, that is the key to you and your company’s success.