Navigating Trends In Today’s Uncertain World

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 4 May, 2020 | Untapped Thinking

We are bombarded by how trends are evolving as a result of the rapidly changing Covid-19 crisis, but how do we navigate these? At what point and how do we change our innovation programmes to design for the future? As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter describes, we are currently in a period of unprecedented Crisis and after we emerge, we’ll enter a period of Chaos. If harnessed in the right way, this will present us with huge opportunities to innovate and create a successful future. We can’t say for sure what will emerge but there are things we can do today within our businesses to plan for the future.

The Past

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As Suzanne discusses in her recent blog on how the Home HQ trend will evolve, there were already clues before lockdown that people were looking to avoid commuting and seek comfort and pleasure from home activities.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and relevant not just in turbulent times, but also in any trend insight understanding, to help define the trajectory of where a direction has come from, where it’s at now and where / when it will go in future. A turbulent couple of decades including amongst many other factors a recession, Brexit, the rise of online dependency and climate change have been exhausting. Megatrends emerged such as sustainability and subscribing to a purpose, ubiquitous wellness, self-care and investing in the present, reaching back to ancient solutions and diverse fluid cultures and societies. Elements of these trends will morph and shape future trends.

The Present

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Today’s successful brands and businesses have designed their offerings and messages in response to yesterday’s resonant human insight aligned with cultural discourse. Innovation pipelines will have been shaped by integrating trends. But then Covid-19 happened and many things have changed dramatically. How do we adapt and respond? 

There are numerous examples of businesses pivoting to meet current demands. For example, distilleries and cosmetics companies are using their know how and facilities to manufacture hand sanitiser and PPE. The food and catering industry are having to innovate with direct to consumer sales offerings. Many travel and entertainment providers are offering virtual holidays or experiences.

Staying close to our consumers always pays out, but during times of rapid change this is particularly important. There are numerous survey providers regularly tracking behavioural changes across a wide range of categories. As an example, we learn from a Hunter study conducted in the US on 2 April that while 39% claim to be eating healthier foods, 40% say they are now eating more indulgent foods.  We may well want to back up this data with and a qualitative understanding of what’s behind this.

As per my blog of 17 March, well designed online research can help you determine answers to the following as people interact with brands, products and services in their current situation:

  • What are they doing / not doing and why? 
  • How are they responding to the brands and products they are interacting with?
  • What are their pain points and what is causing these?
  • What are their current functional and emotional needs?

Answers to these questions will help you reset your offering via claims, a story or agile product twist that will resonate with people in today’s climate.

The Future

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Equally important is understanding that people are not good predictors of their future behaviour, especially in turbulent times. A couple of weeks ago I received a survey from my car insurance provider asking what outings I intended to make after lockdown. I found it impossible to answer, since I didn’t know when this would be, what my needs would be and how I would feel. I could only tell them what my needs were at that moment and how I felt about being deprived of specific journeys. So, what can we do to ensure our innovation pipelines are future-proofed?

  1. Agility is key.  Regularly checking in with our users as things change will help us identify habits and needs as those changes take place. Then pivoting with an effective response faster than those around us will pay out. 
  2. Scenario planning and laying out these specific “What if…” situations for our consumers in online qualitative research can then allow us to use personification techniques to help people imagine and probe how they would feel and what they might do.
  3. Trend experts skilled at tracking the trajectory of trends can look for evidence of what was emerging before, what is emerging now and use this to predict how these may evolve in future scenarios.

Until we move out of the current crisis and know what the future will look like, we won’t know exactly how this will affect individuals and their needs. But pivoting now to strengthen relationships with and demonstrate to our users that we’re right there with them and planning for the future are paramount to building future business. Find out more about how Untapped can help you with this challenge by getting in touch.

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