Being aware of industry trends is crucial for any business. It allows brands to take advantage of available opportunities as well as avoid potential threats. And advanced consumer trend analytics makes all difference here, as trends move fast – and not all of them are worth a brand’s time or investment.
How does a brand identify relevant trends, particularly in the B2B space? And why should they even bother trying? Let’s find out, covering:
- What trends matter and which trends do not
- How to distinguish between the two, with advanced trend analytics
Many brands recognize the importance of monitoring trends, of course. But the struggle lies in identifying the difference between trends and fads. As we can see below, conversation about trends steadily grows, while fads fade away – but how does one sort out the difference short of monitoring mentions after-the-fact? This is where advanced consumer trend analytics comes in.
Why Trends Matter in the B2B Space
A trend is an observable change in the general behavior of buyers in the marketplace. And trends have something in common: The quest for something better. This is distinct from fads, which arise out of novelty, boredom or temporary convenience, as we’ll see.
Trends are a good way for businesses to understand their buyers’ problems. As they seek proper solutions, buyers also reveal how their challenges are evolving and why existing alternatives are not working. With this information, businesses can develop fitting solutions. This is key, as a change in the behavior of one buyer signifies a change in their circumstances. When this happens at scale and you have many different buyers moving towards the same direction, it means the market itself has stirred.
B2B trends can help you not only recognize this shift but also predict where it’s headed by extrapolating the current state. This gives you a good head start to prepare for the change.
And trends help businesses grow, revealing opportunities for growth as well as challenges, with hard evidence that you need for good decision-making. Think of how hard it would be to persuade other stakeholders if you explained all your hypotheses with a “hunch” without illustrating from the real world why you felt so strongly about it? Advanced trend analytics provides that.
In the end, trends are much more than something to “jump on” for the short term. They are critical to the long-term success of your business. But speaking of the short-term, fads are the evil twin of trends – and they’re incredibly deceptive, and uncommon, in the B2B marketplace. Businesses may not realize the danger in this misidentification, so let’s clarify.
The Danger of Following Fads
Across the street from trends, we have fads. A fad is a strong enthusiasm for something that grows suddenly and spreads fast. Fads are usually short-lived. You would not expect to see fads within B2B where the buyers are perceived to be rational and more level-headed than in B2C. Yet, B2B buyers are not immune to such widely shared short-lived enthusiasm. Equally enthusiastic B2B sellers on the other hand, often erroneously interpret such behaviors as shifts in the market.
This happens when business leaders make decisions based on wrong information. Failure to verify data, trusting the first or few sources, and confirmation bias are some of the factors that come into play. It can also result from the desire for quick results which can blind the average business leader. The hype surrounding a fad can make it seem more stable than it is.
Adjusting to any real or perceived change is demanding for an organization. It can be overwhelming for the leaders and tasking for employees, not to mention that it may require significant financial commitments. When businesses follow fads, they risk jeopardizing their operations for a passing cloud.
That said, it is possible – not always but sometimes – to take advantage of a fad. Just because it is short-lived doesn’t necessarily mean there is no money to be made out of it. For instance, let’s say you are a shoe seller who has noticed a sudden spike in conversation about how great Crocs are. You have a sixth sense that tells you that it is just a fad so you know plastic shoes are never going to replace conventional footwear. You are not going to change your business model based on this, but you can still stock some Crocs and supply the sudden demand while the fad lasts.
In short, you want to know a fad when you see one so you can ignore or exploit it. And allocate the appropriate time and budge toward it – or not. Here’s how.
How to Distinguish Trends from Fads
Business leaders need to know how to distinguish trends from fads. Here are some of the signs to look for and ways to spot and monitor them over time.
1. Trends Withstand Data Analysis
Rather than starting with an unknown variable (pattern waiting to be discovered), you can start with a known (a suspected trend). A real trend will stand up to scrutiny while a fad will buckle under the pressure.
Businesses use trend analysis to spot these patterns and make predictions about the future. The process involves collecting data from multiple data sources and reviewing it to discover key insights that signal emerging trends. This can be top conversations happening in a category:
And it can also be slow, consistent growth over time of trends that aren’t in the top ten by conversation volume, but speak reveal how the trend is transforming a category. This offers insight around products and services to offer that speak to specific needs or challenges within the trend:
You can also predict future events based on what happened in the past. And applied in reverse, this process can be used to evaluate a trend!
Let’s say you want to find out whether Americans truly love kale. You can pull data on how people have been searching for information about the vegetable and the relevant conversations up to this point. You may find that interest peaks occur around certain events such as a demonstration on a popular show or during the holidays. Is this a trend or a fad?
Although based on a solid trend – i.e. healthy living – you may discover the love for kale is inconsistent and may want to cancel plans for that kale cereal. Or your analysis may reveal a steady, growing love for the leafy vegetable and decide to be first to market with something new! Either way, your decision will be data-driven, and that’s essential.
2. Trends Bring Sustainable Solutions
Although the environment is super important in every industry right now, this isn’t what we mean by “sustainable.” Rather, we mean a trend’s ability to endure over time, offering solutions that will win in the market – at least until something better comes along.
Trends come to replace. They last so long that eventually they become commonplace and that is the only way they stop being trendy – because they have become the new standard.
For example, digital marketing was a trend once. It was a way to reach the small but growing number of consumers that spent some of their time online. At the time, most businesses could do without digital marketing. They could reach the majority of their target consumers using methods that had worked thus far. But now we are in a different age. Most businesses have to have an online presence. Digital marketing is no longer a trend, it is a standard of doing things. In fact, the current conception of it is marketing in a digital world.
3. Trends Gain Momentum over Time
One of the obvious signs of a fad is that it blows up suddenly and causes a huge display while it’s hot. On the contrary, a trend gains momentum slowly over time. A trend establishes a strong foundation quietly. When a thing becomes trendy, it has first gained root with a relatively small number of buyers. This is why in the early stages, trends have to be “discovered” whereas fads just smack us across the face.
It comes down to appeal. Fads have a shallow appeal, which like a sheet of paper, catches fire easily. But trends have deep appeal – not easy to love but once you do, you don’t let go.
Back in 1995, Newsweek explained why the web wouldn’t “be Nirvana.” The author Clifford Stoll basically said that newspapers were irreplaceable, online education was impossible, and audiobooks were unthinkable. At one point he mocked, “Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the internet. Uh, sure.”
Reportedly, Newsweek went full digital a decade ago. The internet took its time but it arrived and stayed proving wrong the predictions of many experts. But you know what is struggling to survive the new century? Print news.
4. Trends Hold Business to Higher Standards
Trends herald significant changes in societal values. Be it ethics, culture, wellbeing, or spirituality, trends are often pushed by something behind that transcends commerce.
Take, for instance, what is happening in Customer Service. We are now headed to an era of hyper-personalization at scale, where businesses will deal with their customers on a more personal basis than ever before. How did we get here from a time when business would dictate the product you were going to have, how you were to be treated, and what price you were going to pay? We gradually moved to customer-centricity, the customer became king and now the king is telling businesses how to treat her, what is acceptable in the production process, and what it can charge for its products. And you can bet brands are listening closely for this intel – those who remain in business are, at least!
And that’s really what advanced trend analytics all comes down to: disruption is inevitable when you aren’t paying attention to what’s trending – and even then, it’s still inevitable, but you’ll be ready. Maybe you’ll even be the disruptor? Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you how!