Finding The Trends Before They Affect You.

Recognising trends is really about constantly feeding your “unconscious competence” with information. What appears intuitive is really a well-honed ability to see patterns. The most far reaching trends, the ones that really alter the status quo, come about as a “collision of contexts” – the economic context, the social context, the physical context, the competitor context and the shopper’s individual context (as it affects their shopping behaviour).

It helps if you are naturally inquisitive and passionate about how things work and what is driving them, rather than being someone who is driven by tactical solutions to symptoms.

For most people interested in trends, the internet and technology have been invaluable. There are a myriad of great internet sites that provide source material from economic analysis to industrial design trends. But the biggest source of trend input should be observation – of people; of businesses; of governments; of media; of leaders; of trend-setters. When you are talking about transforming retail businesses and making them more productive, you cannot get carried away by sexy fads in a single area.

The “collision of context” approach is where you look for patterns that overlap all the areas that inform and are informed by a business and its customers – they’re the real trends (rather than fads) that will affect future prosperity. They are the ones you have to know about because they will radically affect your outlook.

I am a retail business consultant but – apart from working in shops as a teenager to earn pocket-money like many people do – I got started in business in radio. In radio you learn the skill of using research and insight to feed your so-called feel for how to shape your product. You are ultimately judged by research because your revenue is directly related to your research numbers (ratings).

Most media sells on an audience cost per thousand basis and so you learn the loop of gathering research and information (formal and informal), developing a hypothesis, testing it, executing it and then ultimately being judged by research. From there I went on to consulting and was running one of Australia’s more influential marketing consultancies – The Banks Group – by my mid 20’s. I’ve worked with major consumer brands and retailers for over 25 years now and part of the joy I get from my work is how fluid and constant change is.

Trend is really all about change and if you make embracing change a constant companion there really are no surprises because you a continually seeing and dealing with it.

Try the “collision of context” approach for yourself and see if you can make it a regular discipline that you incorporate into your business life. If you recognize what is happening, you are far better prepared to take advantage of it. Of one thing you can be assured – change is a constant in retail life. You can either flow with it and prosper or resist it and break.

I for one prefer to be in the flow.