It can be tempting to invest in the latest technology, marketing strategy or fashionable product line, but how do you know which ones will fade away and which ones will make your bottom line flourish?
It’s not unusual for businesses to make huge investments based on the latest trend. Picking the right trend to get on board with can open up a whole new market, along with a ready made customer base. But not all trends are here to stay. For business owners, knowing which ones are going to last – and which will soon fade away – can be the difference between success and failure.
So how do you recognise products and services that will stand the test of time? Here are five signs that the latest trend is one worth investing in.
It meets a basic need
Ed Hebblethwaite, strategy director at Williams Murray Hamm, recommends thinking about a trend in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the theory that the essential elements of life can be divided into five tiers. At the bottom are the basic needs, such as food and rest; as you advance up the tiers they become more complex – from intimate relationships through to self-actualisation. Trends that will last, he says, answer fundamental human needs.
Nick Harrison, co-lead of Oliver Wyman’s Retail Practice, agrees that meeting basic needs is key. “If a trend towards a new product or service meets a perennial need better than the alternatives … it will not be a flash in the pan,” he says. “Trends that are based on the ebb and flow of fashion, tastes or preferences will be like the latest hot toy at Christmas or this season’s dress: not built to last.”
It’s relevant to your customers’ lives
“Long-term trends are driven by our lifestyles,” says Hayley Ard, head of consumer lifestyle at innovation research and trends company Stylus. “The most astute forecasters are the ones who are acutely attuned to our changing needs, values and contexts. To scope out the range of a trend, think about how it serves our shifting priorities.”
She says relevance is one of the “three Rs” – alongside resonance and reach – that are key to spotting which trends will last. It’s all very well noting that a new product has found a substantial market – but unless that market overlaps with yours, the trend isn’t relevant for your business yet.
It fits your brand identity
Deciding whether you can cater for a trend while remaining true to your brand is vital, says Hebblethwaite. “There are hundreds of trends happening at any time, but only a few of them will be relevant to your brand.” Choosing the right trend to pursue needs to be balanced with maintaining your brand identity – or you risk looking like you’re just “nailing your colours to the nearest thing”.
It keeps popping up – in different fields
If you start to see a trend being repeated across different areas – the media, university studies, laboratories – then it’s quite possible that this one will stick around. Turning up in a variety of fields suggests the trend has proved its usefulness in multiple contexts – and will likely soon start cropping up elsewhere, too. “That interconnectedness is important,” says Hebblethwaite. “If you’re seeing it across several industries, that’s a sure sign that it’s got some legs and some longevity.”
It’s got your competitors hooked
Mark Wright, founder of SEO agency Climb Online, says taking a look at your competitors can give you an idea of which trends will last. If they’re already buying in they could well be on to something. “Maybe select three-to-five direct competitors and look at what they are promoting or talking about,” he says. “If you notice similar patterns and conversations, implement them into your own business plan and strategy.”