27 May 2024, 13:41
By Phil Pond Jan 22, 2014

The potential of trend forecasting

Few understand the potential of trend forecasting within a business, beyond basic product development. In this article, Phil Pond, co-owner of interiors-focused business development and trend forecasting company Scarlet Opus, explains how trend forecasting can be used throughout a business in marketing, PR and other activities …

Mention trend forecasting to most people, and the majority are unsure what it’s about – and those who have heard of it, well, they mostly associate it simply with pattern and colour. But, to use it so, is to almost completely waste the true value a good trend forecaster can add to a company’s work. There are very few business tools available that, if used well, are guaranteed to improve business performance every time.

The more broadly trend forecasting is integrated into a company’s total activities, the bigger the performance improvement will be. An improvement in results and performance will be seen in many different areas – production and design costs decrease, PR success increases, product ranges can be smaller, the number of slow-moving lines decreases, sales increase. All of which, ultimately lead to better profits.

Trend forecasters inform clients about the future wants, needs and desires of the consumer. The biggest, most valuable resource that this information gives to a product development team, manufacturer, retailer, interior designer or marketing department, is time – the pressure on the different business teams in any company is significantly reduced because the trend forecaster extends the time in which the whole cycle of product development has to be completed.

Instead of ‘spotting a trend’ at an exhibition, then rushing to bring your version of a product/service to market before the trend has diminished; engage with a good trend forecaster who will provide you with the same inspiration six to 12 months ahead of the exhibition. In fact, the trend forecaster will add even more by giving you a back story for marketing to use, specific material, pattern, shape and colour guidance, as well as being able to explain why this will all match with a consumer desire.

Trend forecasting can give you a detailed view of those consumer desires up to two years in advance of the point at which your product should be brought to market. Imagine knowing what your customers will desire in two years’ time, and knowing it in quite some detail and with certainty.

Research has shown that company employees work more efficiently when they are relaxed and confident. Designers are more creative, salespeople convert more sales and PR events run more smoothly. If the risk associated with new product development (NPD) and services development is significantly reduced, your staff can focus on writing the best PR, producing targeted marketing support materials and preparing, rehearsing and enacting sales presentations that will demonstrate to buyers how well your company understands what consumers want and will pay to get.

“An improvement in results and performance will be seen in many different areas – production and design costs decrease, PR success increases, product ranges can be smaller, the number of slow-moving lines decreases, sales increase”

Dr Robert Passikoff, founder of research consultancy Brand Keys, says of 2014: “Consumers expect more. Over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.”

This describes beautifully the gap that trend forecasting will fill for any company. Why then aren’t more companies engaging with trend forecasting? The answer might lie in these two thoughts: it requires taking quite a leap of faith to engage with someone who tells you that they can see your future in detail with certainty!; and it’s possible that creatives might see trend forecasting agencies as an external design source, instead of an external design resource.  

Trend analysts, spotters, reporters, colour and trend consultants all play valuable roles – but a trend forecaster creates time and will:

• Inspire design teams to create products in materials, patterns and colours that the consumer will want to buy. Global social, political, cultural and natural events influence how the human race behaves and what we want to surround ourselves with.

• Train salespeople how to support product presentations with the right trend information to help buyers to choose their products to meet consumer demand. If you’re the salesperson supporting the buyer with consumer insights, or presenting products within design/consumer trends that match his/her own company research, you have a headstart on competitors.

• Ensure that marketing teams understand what caused a trend to emerge and how the consumer will feel as a result. This will facilitate excellent content marketing to be prepared, in particular leveraging consumer marketing by suppliers of complementary products.

• Identify which trends specifically suit a company and its product offer/sector, enabling a more focused product offer to be developed. A trend expert can identify which trend next year is best suited to ‘bathroom’, or ‘dining’. 

• It is crucial to identify trends for interiors that will have longevity, giving manufacturing/sourcing teams the opportunity to optimise production planning.

• Guide social media activity to use back stories for each trend and images of complementary products that will drive wide consumer engagement.

• Prepare inspirational PR events for the press, satisfying their hunger for future trend information. Expert endorsement is gaining traction with consumers over celebrity endorsement.

• Design exhibition stands reflecting future trend themes, making them stand out as unique amongst other exhibitors and providing the visitor with a unique visitor experience.

• Design a retail outlet/showroom from layout to look and product display to deliver a shopping experience the consumer wants. Men and women shop differently – showrooms that reflect this are more successful.

• Help buying teams translate the trend information into design briefs for manufacturing partners, or buying guidance for retailers.

• Guide website development to better match visitor motivation and encourage higher conversion rates.

There is so much value that trend forecasting can add to a company’s activities in all areas that it needn’t actually even include the obvious, product development. A business with a ‘fixed’ product design, for whatever reason, will still be more successful if it markets those products within the framework of consumer wants, needs and desires.

We’re often asked “how much growth?” and our answer can’t be a definitive one until we know the extent of our involvement. If our trend forecast is only integrated into the NPD programme, it will be less than if the background information is also used by the sales and marketing team – and it could be even more if the PR campaigns utilise both the information and trend forecaster as endorsement. It’s realistic to engage a good trend forecaster with the expectation that sales revenues will increase by double-digit percentages, with a similar reduction in relative costs.

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