Trendwatching may be critical to the survival of your business

Industries: Management
  • Consumer trends, market trends, and social trends
  • A trendwatcher studies trends and attempts to predict the future
  • Who uses trendwatchers anyway?
  • Futurists and trendwatchers are becoming increasingly valuable

Many companies and organisations are either oblivious to or incurious about trends and developments in their industry. They focus primarily on short-term, day-to-day business. But contemplating the long-term is what will allow businesses to survive the exponential changes that are taking place. In many ways, the future is already here, and companies should be zooming in on trends and developments that are likely to impact their business, whether positively or negatively. This can be a tremendous undertaking, however, especially if you don’t know how to go about identifying and analysing trends. It requires special expertise, something only a trendwatcher or futurist can provide.

Consumer trends, market trends, and social trends

A trend is a long-term movement that we observe in society. It develops as something out of the ordinary, but with time, it becomes the norm. For instance, someone adopts an innovation, an idea, or a way of life; others copy this until the innovative and novel become a change in our attitude or a shift in our social conditions. Trends leave a mark and become a part of everyday life. And there are different types of trends – for instance, consumer trends, market trends, and social trends. Consumer trends answer questions like “how do our customers behave?” – with “they’re shopping more and more online”. Market trends provide answers to questions such as “what’s going on in our industry?” – with “there’s a growing demand for chair lifts because of the ageing population”. Social trends have an effect on our environment. They answer the question “what type of world do we live in?” – with, for instance, “increasingly globalised”. The challenge is to figure out which trends affect your business or industry and how to turn that information into actionable insights.

A top-down view of a group of 15 people standing in a circle looking up, with a bar graph and three circles with words on it in the centre
A trend is a long-term movement that we observe in society.

A trendwatcher studies trends and attempts to predict the future

According to Wiktionary, a trendwatcher or futurist is “one who studies trends and attempts to predict future trends”. Trendwatchers are primarily employed or subcontracted by large organisations such as businesses in the manufacturing industry, energy companies, the government, and the military. Their job is to observe and study how things are changing and make predictions. Trends emerge as disruptors and innovators, addressing customer requirements in new, creative ways.

Trendwatchers spot these trends from the moment their development starts and determine whether they have staying power. They talk to people from various backgrounds and industries and research social, economic, technological, environmental, and political developments to make sense of the global forces that are likely to shape our attitudes, beliefs, values, and customer demands. Then, they make predictions about what impact those factors will have on the future of a business or organisation and offer actionable insights, strategies, and opportunities for innovation.

Who uses trendwatchers anyway?

Some well-known companies that have employed or subcontracted trendwatchers are Google, Tesla, Ford, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Intel, and General Motors. In addition to its in-house futurist and co-founder Ray Kurzweil, Google also employs external futurists for business planning and strategic foresight. And Ford has been working with futurists and trendwatchers for five decades. Its futurist actually played a prominent role in the alliance between Ford, Uber, and Google. Companies in the tourism industry also increasingly make use of trendwatchers, as their sector is affected by technologies like virtual and augmented reality and the fact that society is becoming increasingly multicultural – giving rise to the need for valuable industry insights.

Futurists and trendwatchers are becoming increasingly valuable

Companies have survived for years without futurists or trendwatchers, but launching new services and products and retaining customers is becoming increasingly complex. Many organisations struggle to gain a proper understanding of what the future holds, and CEOs and managers are often too busy running their business to have time to think about the bigger picture. But the world is changing fast, and if you’re unaware of new trends and what they mean for the future of your business, chances are you’re moving in the wrong direction even faster. This is particularly true for older, established organisations with long product development timelines. Futurists and trendwatchers are valuable, that much is clear. They can anticipate important trends, provide critical insight and vision, and translate these into strategies, helping organisations adjust as changes unfold so they can meet evolving customer expectations and gain a competitive edge over competitors.

Industries: Management
We’re in the midst of a technological revolution and the trends, technologies, and innovations to look out for are all game-changers. They bring competitive advantages, increase the effectiveness of operations, make our daily lives more efficient, improve healthcare, and significantly change the landscape and beyond.

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