Hey friends! It’s your favorite (and technically the only) Customer Success Coach from SMAR7 Apps, Patricia here again!
Do you ever find yourself wondering how some companies can predict trends before they are even established, stocking their store with the hottest products before their customers even realize that they want it?
Is it magic?
Do they have the ability to look into the future?
Eh, kind of, but more on that later.
Spotting and staying on top of trends is a whole skill set separate from what you have learned while getting into the digital retail sector, and it is not a skill that you can develop overnight.
It becomes a second job, on top of the one you’re trying to run, but as with all things- the more you study and practice, the easier it will be to master.
So back to our question of trendspotters and setters being able to look into the future.
The real answer is no– because no one has that superhuman capability.
What they can do is make predictions based on past and current consumer trends and create well-educated hypotheses to form their decisions.
Are you overwhelmed by all of my research jargon?
My apologies, but you shouldn’t be.
Before we dive right in, there is something we must settle.
Now before we get into it, I must disclose: I am not warning you to stay away from fads at all costs, because they can be profitable for their short-term existence, but if you want your company to evolve and grow, you want to be able to distinguish between the two accurately.
So what gives?
Fads are usually overnight sensations, their popularity grows quick and fizzes out as soon as everyone hops on board, so that means you always have to be on the lookout for the next product to cycle in – very exhausting.
Trends, on the other hand, have a sustained growth pattern, no sharp uptick and usually have a plateau phase that can last for years.
Below I have included some visuals of what each a fad and a trend look like plotted out on a graph; these will be valuable to reference too in a later section of this article.
Now that we have gotten through spotting the differences- let’s move on to the techniques of predicting trends.
Yes, I know that money is not expendable and that half of these agencies cost around $500 for their most basic monthly service – but just like every reputable company today, each of them has highly informative blogs that you can subscribe to for free.
I know there is congestion on the internet with thousands of these agencies, so it may become overwhelming finding the ones that have the most accurate predictions and information- that is why the American Marketing Association comes out with a list of the top 50 companies that meet their gold standard each year.
Check out who made it on 2018 list!
The one company that stood out to me the most has been making the list year after year, and that company is Mintel.
Mintel’s blog sections their articles into different niche categories that make it easy for you to find the information you require based on your particular needs and business interests.
There is also Glimpse which is a digital newsletter that sends monthly reports straight to your inbox.
Glimpse offers extremely affordable plans, with their most basic plan starting as a free subscription!
My one tip for all of you reading this post: take advantage of the wealth of free resources out there, even if you have to do a little more digging around to find your answers.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but so many entrepreneurs are so busy doing other tasks that they don’t prioritize communicating with their customers the way they should.
Your customers are what fuel your business, so it would make sense to be able to set apart an hour each day and focus on communicating with them directly.
Don’t get this confused with answering support requests or responding to customer emails – I’m talking actually engaging with your customers, building a relationship with them.
There are four ways I am going to recommend going about this.
Companies like Nasty Gal and Free People engage with their customers via Instagram polls – gameifying the interaction, making it more likely their followers will join in.
Nasty Gal asks their audience about their style preferences and what type of interests they partake to create a product line that aligns with their customer’s style and personality.
Check out some of their poll-style questions below!
If you do not have a strong Instagram presence, Facebook offers a similar setup, you ask your audience a question, and they will vote which answer most closely aligns with what they think is best.
The best part is, you can offer a 10% discount code to those customers who selected the poll’s most popular answer – giving them an incentive to take part and most likely winning a sale out of it!
If social media isn’t your thing, or you genuinely don’t have the time to create poll setups, you can take our lead here at SMAR7 Apps by brazenly flat out asking your customers what they want.
Just as we ask what type of content you would prefer to see …
… you can ask your customers what made them decide to shop with you today or what they would like to see more of on your store.
If you want to avoid any polls or games to engage your customers with, we get it, you are busy and may not have the time to dedicate to adding another task to your day – so you can directly monitor your customer’s engagement with your posts and ads. It’s a great way to figure out your customer’s interest by looking at the average likes and types of comments and actually replying to those comments and engaging conversation.
Aside from directly asking your customers what they want, subscribing to and actively joining interest-based groups will yield some of the best results.
Think about it – aside from what is currently trending, your customers follow blogs, influencers, and podcasts that bring to light new and buzz-worthy products. These are the most impressionable outlets your customers have – so once they see someone they closely follow boasting about a new product or movement, you better believe your customers will follow suit.
So while keeping that in mind, subscribe to a few blogs related to your niche and make sure to carve out time each week to actively read and learn – this is part of your product research, after all, so make sure to prioritize the time.
Follow influencers in your niche on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube and pay close attention to the ways they engage with their followers and the way their followers engage back. You can get great ideas for your copy whether it’s for ads or product descriptions.
Podcasts are great to listen to as well because they allow you to get into the mindset of your customer – and a bonus is to pay attention to any paid advertisement the speaker mentions because whatever they are advertising aligns with the interests of their listeners – aka your customers. The advertisements provide an excellent resource for product hunting and studying the competition.
Discussion boards and forums like Reddit allows you to have the ability to discreetly partake in a conversation that your customers are having without having to engage actively.
Journals and newspapers are always great to pay attention to for general trends in markets and products – even though they may not be laser-focused on your niche; they will provide insight on other aspects and communities that will give some inspirations for new products to try out.
If you want to save yourself the time of sifting through a whole newspaper, check out Nuzzel. Nuzzel is a news monitoring and tracking app that gathers up to date articles related to your industry, and takes the award as one of the best apps by Time, The New York Times, and Google Play.
Yes, I could easily condense this section into the previous one, but there are certain features with each social platform that is worth pointing out individually.
So as we all know, the hashtag movement has been a revolutionary pivotal point in our current society – a simple hashtag search unifies a whole social network on one page.
What does this mean for you?
Unbound market research.
Between Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook – you have 2.3 BILLION people to use as a sample population for insights on current interests.
You will need to use all forms of social media for this method to be completely valid, you can’t rely on just one source of information to be entirely accurate for your case study.
It’s best to have a wealth of sources to make an informed and educated decision on the varied opinion of what interests are and will be.
Once it is all compared on a broad spectrum, the products you find are going to be genuinely trending instead of a being a fad that will die out as soon as the first sale is complete.
Stay on top of what others in your industry are doing.
You want to examine, observe, and take notes to implement similar ideas to your practice.
Apps like MeetUp allows you to interact and engage with others in your industry either at live or virtual events or social gatherings.
Using networking groups can go way beyond product trends – pay attention to what your peers are implementing to enhance their user experience – which is an essential part of the purchasing event.
Ever wonder why you study groups are a requirement for students?
It’s because not everyone thinks the same way and have different ideas of how to get to the endpoint that may be beneficial to others – expand your base.
Companies like Etsy and Amazon have features enabled show popular searches and amount of favorites, respectively.
Amazon has about 310 million active customers while Etsy has approximately 20 million, that is enough of a sample size to determine the validity of the products selling potential.
Each platform is set up differently, to get access to Amazon’s favorite rankings, you have to click the New and Interesting finds banner at the top of the page and then you will be redirected thousands of products, each denoted with the amount of “likes” and “favorites” the Amazon buying community has judged.
Etsy is a little more complicated. To find their popular search list, you have to click the search bar in the header and hit your computer’s space button for the drop-down list to generate below the search bar.
All this does is populate a list of popular product searches – it does not provide which products are selling the most or have the most favorites. That information is easily attainable though, to find out how we do it, you can read my article on how to find proven products to sell on your store.
These are two separate tools that you can use in conjunction to make one super-trend-finding-tool.
The first, Google Trends, allows you to find the top searches for that day, month, and year. Although this is not a predictive tool by any means, you can view the trend path it has taken.
You want to set the search timeline for over a 5-year time span to get accurate data.
A search term with a steady rising line graph means that it is a sustainable, safe product type to choose – which means you can put it on your store knowing its not just a fad, but a real interest that people are continuously searching.
You want to avoid product types that have an erratic trend path, declining trend paths, or sharp notches that seem to disappear as quickly as they appeared because these are usually fads or duds.
If you don’t know where to start, have no fear, google trends has a Year in Search tab that shows you all of the most popular search trends separated by categories.
For example, if you sell men’s fashion, you can go to the fashion section of the year in search page and see what styles are most popular, I have included the fashion trends Year in Search below.
So now you can deduce that the typical fashion trend is grunge style, so you can fill your store with the same style of clothing.
Now, let’s get to using the two tools in conjunction.
On Google Trends you can subscribe to a particular trend or topic and get email alert deliveries straight to your inbox, cutting out the messy middle of doing all the research yourself!
By enabling Google Alerts to send these messages to your inbox, you will get updates on news and ideas consistently throughout the week.
To learn more about setting up google trends and alerts, check out Webfor’s step by step blog guide on it!
And finally, this one may be the easiest, most straightforward method of measuring trends that sell to your customers.
Observe which products and types have been selling the most to your target audience, and then do a clean sweep of what isn’t.
You can fill in the gaps of products you got rid of by introducing products similar or complementary to your hot ticket items.
If one of your best selling products is on the more affordable side, you can always introduce a high ticket version of the product and implement it as an upsell to increase your average order value.
You can also add products that are complementary to your best selling product and bundle them together also to increase that average order value.
As I mentioned earlier, it is not a skill that will be mastered overnight so make sure to check out our article on how to find proven to sell products in the meantime and leave any comments or questions in the comments section below!