Trends are a manifestation of the external forces acting on your category. Evaluating them is a key activity in the opportunity mapping process. There may be political, legal or regulatory changes that open up opportunities for your business (especially in the finance industry currently), but more commonly there are three types of trend that will help you to reframe your business and the value it can deliver.
1. Consumer trends
These trends reveal how consumer attitudes and behaviours are changing, typically evidenced by businesses that are driving this trend through innovative product, service and brand activations. It is very important to understand the consumer trends that are most relevant to your customer base, because these can be an early indicator of how their expectations of your organisation will evolve in the near future.
There are some great consumer trend resources out there, but three of my favourites are:
TrendWatching: well presented and much more tightly curated than some of the other trend platforms out there. A lot of the content is pay-walled these days, but it’s worth looking into if you have the budget.
Cassandra Daily: delivers a new product or marketing trend into your inbox every weekday morning, backed up with three examples. Particularly strong on CPG and lifestyle branding.
JWT’s Future 100: only published once a year, but a really thought-provoking set of cultural insights with a focus on lifestyle, technology and communication.
2. Socio-economic trends
These are the macro trends that are broadly affecting people all around the world, such as urbanisation, mobile connectivity, changing demographics, or the economic performance of key global markets. They provide the big picture context that often explains some of the more specific consumer trends you’ll come across. Socio-economic trends don’t tend to evolve quite as fast as most consumer trends, but revisiting them can sometimes bring to light surprisingly obvious opportunities that were previously ‘hidden in plain sight’.
3. Technology trends
Technology is a huge driver of disruption, so it usually pays to single out tech trends for special consideration. Themes such as automation, artificial intelligence and disintermediation are transforming businesses across the spectrum, and advances are being made all the time. Do not underestimate the speed of progress! Staying on top of the tech landscape and gauging the maturity of emerging technologies is a critical activity in opportunity mapping, because it helps you understand timing: which opportunities are presenting themselves right now, and which are still a little further out? Timing is hugely important, and I’ll be writing a separate post about it soon.
In terms of sources, there is a huge amount of information out there on tech trends, along with points of view on how technology is shaping the world we live in. Personally, I lean heavily on respected sources like Wired Magazine, The Verge, Gigaom and a16z.