By April Bertram
Innovation Management Director
In today’s world of innovation, the pace of change can be overwhelming at times, especially in product development. Consequently, it’s imperative to be looking around corners. Many of us are aware of the topical trends that we hear about day after day, the ones that have reached a tipping point like the “Internet of Things” or the “Sharing Economy.” All too often though, we build new innovations without considering some of the many other trends that have been building over time, but are still slightly under the radar. These could present either significant opportunities or threats to your business or innovation.
But how do you find these trends? Here’s a look a three ways to stay informed on emerging trends:
Talk to your customers. Regardless if your customers are consumers, retailers, or distributors, you’ll find they’re often the first to notice patterns trending over time. Setup a system to share about these findings, like Salesforece1, so you can prepare for the potential change, and incorporate into your projects before the trend reaches the masses and your competitors.
Follow trends—in and out of category. The thing about trends is you need to expand beyond just your particular market. You need to broaden your domain and look outside your area of familiarity. Often, the most successful innovations occur from making connections to trends already active in other industries and applying them to your own. Take advantage of this knowledge and utilize the PESTLE (Political, Environmental, Social, Technological, Legal or Economic) model for exploring a broad range of trends in a variety of categories.
Have you noticed an increase in self-serve methods in many types of establishments? Convenience that started with airline check-in kiosks is now present at grocery stores, movie theatres, and many other places. Consider how you might better serve your customers through offering forms of self-service. More importantly, consider how these self-service methods will change buying patterns and behaviors. Is this a threat or opportunity for your products? Will you lose revenue typically associated with impulse buying? Or is this an entirely new revenue generating opportunity for your product or business?
Subscribe to relevant trend reports. Let’s face it, we only have so much time to watch for patterns to evolve into trends. Rely on influential industry individuals or resources that are already tracking trends and providing the latest insights and synthesizing information. It doesn’t have to come at a cost though, there’s a plethora of free reports out there just waiting for you to subscribe. I have several free subscriptions to SmartBrief to stay current on the latest trends. You can subscribe here: http://www.smartbrief.com/browse-topics#.VUuSAPlVhBc. Or you can invest a small monthly fee to access the most up to date trends with strategists outlining what it means to business. Set aside 30 minutes each week to scan reports and assess what’s happening in the market, and create a system to save your insights to be easily accessed and shared with others.
Just tracking trends though is not enough. It’s what you do with the information that matters. Dedicate time to decide which ones are most relevant to your product portfolio or business, and then determine how and when you will incorporate them.
While it may seem like it takes too much time to track and dissect trends, in the world of innovation it can make the difference between failure and success. It’s better to invest your time up front to analyze, prioritize, and plan scenarios to future proof your innovations. All too often, companies invest a significant amount of resources into developing a new innovation or business model, to find out shortly after launch that an idea they have implemented is impacted by a trend that has reached its tipping point and in return requires them to go back and completely reinvent the product. By embedding a system for trend analysis and a process for development you can save time and money in the end.