About trendwatching - why is it important?

With so many changes happening in the tech world, which often dictate changes across sectors and markets, it’s difficult to differentiate a trend from a passing fad. And while it may take years for some trends to become the standard, companies that spot them in time could end up achieving great success. Just like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change,” and this is especially true in the business world.

The reality is that there are companies that grew ‘big’ in the corporate world quite rapidly, only to sink and disappear just as fast. Failure  to realise that the business world is dynamic can be detrimental. And with the proliferation of tech innovations and growing consumer demands, businesses have to be vigilant and adaptable. In short, it’s of vital importance for them to recognise and adopt new trends to be able to remain competitive on the market, retain existing customers, and attract new ones. This is why trendwatching is essential. And for successful organisations, this isn’t a revelation, but rather a key element of the strategy they rely on to keep them at the top.


Trendwatching is becoming a highly demanded job

According to the consultancy organisation Extend Limits, trendwatchers are people who focus on predicting “how trends will influence our daily lives in the near future”. They’re different from trend forecasters and futurists, who predict trends that will emerge in the distant future.


Though trendwatching is a relatively new profession, trendwatchers’ knowledge and expertise are in high demand. Some institutions are even offering courses in this field, allowing people to become certified experts. For instance, the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands offers a minor programme in trendwatching to help people learn how to detect, visualise, and apply trends to business organisations. This 21-week programme is designed to teach students to systematically trace relevant trends and transform them into accurate inputs for companies. Those who complete the course will be better prepared for the future, and won’t have any problems surviving and thriving in this changing landscape.


How can companies spot and interpret trends?

Staying ahead of trends is easier said than done, but playing catch-up can be even more difficult. If a company gets too comfortable with its current success and doesn’t adapt to emerging trends, it can be destroyed by its rivals. To prevent this from happening, enterprises of all sizes and from various industries are focusing on trendwatching. Companies such as the consumer goods corporation Unilever, the insurance firm Aviva, and the media brand MTV are all turning trends into opportunities. And even companies with smaller budgets can do the same. Using a few trendwatching tricks, they can spot and prioritise trends on their own. Probably the least costly method of identifying emerging trends is by listening to your customers. This allows companies to easily discover their preferences, and learn which services or products customers demand the most.


Besides analysing their customers, brands should also pay attention to their competition. Knowing what their product offering is, or which technologies they rely on to target consumers, could help enterprises to stand out from the crowd. Although most companies focus on trends relevant to their industry, sometimes companies should look beyond their sector. It’s not rare for a trend to start in one industry, and then move to other sectors. In fact, most tech trends today are easily transferable to different industries, and companies should be well aware of this.


According to Duke Corporate Education, which provides learning and development services, trendwatching should “be everyone’s job”. Employees within an organisation should be able to “identify trends and new ways to add to the customer value proposition”. To become good trendwatchers, employees should pay attention to several factors. For instance, one of the factors that determines a trend is how often something occurs. Besides frequency, successful trendwatchers know whether a service or product adds direct or indirect value to consumers, and how much they’ll be ready to pay for it. All this helps companies in creating future strategies and predicting the volume of their transactions.


Trendwatching offers a better way for businesses to envision the future

The market is becoming increasingly competitive, and to stay relevant, companies should be aware of new innovations and ideas. Clearly, proper trend identification is essential in the business world. While some companies underestimate the importance of trends, some decide to go all-in on every trend they detect. To gain success, it’s important to find a balance. Trends help to better envision the future, and incorporating them into business strategies will prevent you from falling behind. As the competition gets tougher, trendwatching will become even more attractive to enterprises of all sizes, helping them be better prepared for the future.