Some brands seem so in tune with what customers need and want it’s almost like they planted those ideas in their buyers’ heads. How do they make it look so easy? Three words: accurate trend forecasting.
It’s common for experts to predict what’s going to be “hot” in the coming months and years. You see examples of this in fashion, home decor, paint colors, technology investments, and other consumer goods and services. Barclays publishes a list of the top 150 investment trends to watch for over the next decade. Using these trends, companies will design new products and services around what they think their customers will want. This allows them to be first in line when introducing something new to the market with a high level of confidence that it will win over their buyers.
It’s true that no brand has a real crystal ball that can predict the future with 100% accuracy. But brands do have consumer intelligence tools that help them make educated guesses that are often the next best thing to a crystal ball.
Learn more about the power of accurate trend detection and how to do it with AI-enabled consumer intelligence tools.
What Is Trend Forecasting, Anyway?
Trend forecasting is the practice of estimating the next big trends in a given industry. These trends are shaped by a number of things, including shifts in culture, environmental changes, new technologies, and social issues.
When brands know more about what their audience is likely to need or want, they can develop better products to meet those needs and earn more revenue.
Why Accurate Trend Forecasting Matters
Companies can learn a lot from trend forecasting to form their products and marketing, including:
- Which products are likely to be in high demand
- Words and phrases that will attract users
- The colors people like
- The price points they expect
- The social values that matter to consumers
- How consumers prefer to buy (e.g., in-store vs online or via delivery app)
- Features and factors that are important to consumers (e.g., convenience over price)
For example, art collective K-Hole did exactly this when it developed the now-widely-used word “normcore.” At the time, the word “snowflake” was all the rage, used to describe whiny Millennials who thought they were special. K-Hole predicted that the next iteration of special would need to be the opposite of snowflake, so they coined a deliberately average, bland term with a definition to match.
And it worked: the fashion industry quickly embraced the normcore trend to include unbranded clothing items that ended up redefining streetwear. Consumers itching to separate themselves from the snowflake imagery ate up the overly normal fashion trends.
Other brands can benefit from accurate trend forecasting in similar ways. By knowing what consumers are most likely to care about and want from the brands and products they buy, companies can better allocate their resources to meet those expectations. It’s the difference between guessing with confidence and shooting in the dark — only one of these has a good chance of hitting the target.
Does Trend Forecasting Actually Work?
Anyone can guess what the next hot trends will be. But accurate trend forecasting hinges on data. It uses insights from consumers and market research to form predictions about consumers’ future buying habits. With accurate data, companies can develop more accurate trend forecasts that allow them to get ahead of their competitors and become market leaders.
The linchpins of successful trend forecasting are where the data comes from and how it’s collected and reviewed.
In the past, this process has been largely manual. Data scientists and market researchers would analyze past sales trends, pour through transcripts of focus groups and interviews, and try to pick out meaningful insights. They would also need to compare their findings with insights from other sources to reach a conclusion.
Many companies would skip the labor-intensive process of doing their own research and instead buy expensive industry reports. However, doing so meant receiving data that was relevant to the industry as a whole, which may or may not align with their unique product or customer base.
Today, there’s a better way: AI-enabled consumer intelligence. Consumer intelligence tools like Linkfluence automate much of the process and are constantly working in the background. AI consumer intelligence pulls from a number of sources across the internet, then compiles its findings into manageable insights. This way, users can pick out the most important information instead of digging it out of transcripts, reports, and disparate sources and systems.
How to Forecast Top Trends in Your Industry with AI Consumer Intelligence
Staying on top of new and emerging trends is an ongoing process, one that requires constant and careful attention from brands. AI consumer intelligence transforms trend forecasting from a one-and-done process into dynamic insights, helping companies always stay one step ahead.
Here’s how you can use AI trends forecasting to improve product development and decision-making.
Review Past Trends
Trends that once lost favor with audiences may get an upgrade several years later to delight consumers once again. We can learn a lot about trend forecasting by first looking to the past.
One area of interest is what market researchers call the “pendulum swing.” This implies that trends that are most likely to follow will be in stark contrast to what’s hot right now, like a pendulum swinging back and forth.
You see examples of this all the time in fashion. Consumers start opting for longer lengths once mini skirts have had their run, for instance.
Looking at past trends can help marketers make predictions moving forward. AI-enabled consumer intelligence keeps historical records of trends for easy reference while also finding new and emerging preferences.
Dial Deeper into Local Trends
Trend predictions can vary by geographic area. What’s hot in one market might not work well for an audience a thousand miles away. Changes happen quickly, too, so it’s helpful to stay on top of trends as they occur.
Local market conditions can affect how trends develop and how long they last. Things like culture, social values, current events, income and education, local interests, and available resources all play a role. AI intelligence tools can define what makes these local regions unique and the factors that are driving buying decisions.
What’s more, you can compare and contrast data in more than one region. For example, if you are a restaurant brand trying to find new markets for more locations, you can spot trends in multiple cities and states and compare them to the areas where your current restaurants are already doing well.
Go Big with Global Trends
Similar to the local factor, you can take a broader approach with trend forecasting by gauging trends on a global scale. Rather than tapping into local data, AI-enabled consumer intelligence tools explore the web to find what people are talking about all over the world. Because the tools aren’t limited to just one city or area, they have tons more data to work with and can produce even more insights.
Explore Audience-Specific Trends
AI automatically segments audiences based on factors that might not even be on marketers’ radars. It goes beyond basic demographic information to include things like shared interests, buying behaviors, and values. As AI analyzes your target audience’s conversations and sentiments, you can make better judgments as to how they may respond to your brand and products or services.
Helpful Tips for Using AI Consumer Intelligence in Trend Forecasting
If you’re just getting started with trend forecasting or you’d like to improve your approach, keep the following tips in mind.
- React in a timely manner. Consumer preferences are continually evolving, and they can shift quickly. Treat trend forecasting as an ongoing project rather than a once-a-year or once-a-quarter initiative. This way, you’re always in tune with what your audience says and feels so you can keep pace with their expectations.
- Tap into every possible source of information. Getting consumer insights isn’t just limited to surveys, focus groups, and interviews like it’s been in the past. People are having conversations and sharing their opinions in every corner of the web. Wherever your audience is talking, that’s where you should be looking. There’s no such thing as too much information, especially when you have AI consumer intelligence to do most of the work for you.
- Take advantage of done-for-you tools. Linkfluence makes it easy to capture conversations on your behalf and compile them without manual labor. Going beyond your own sales data, you can track trends across local and global audiences at scale. See how trends and sentiments change over time. Continue meeting changes in demand to show your customers why you’re the best choice for their needs, all while reducing the guesswork and time that deep market research once took.
Empower Your Trend Forecasting with AI Consumer Intelligence
No longer just the work of data scientists and social media gurus, brands can empower their strategies with done-for-you insights with Linkfluence’s AI consumer intelligence. Our platform goes beyond basic social listening to capture and analyze sentiments in real time and turn information into insights into action steps.
Discover how AI-enabled consumer intelligence can transform your trend forecasting. Contact us today to request a demo.