An easy-to-follow framework that will help you not only unpack and understand any consumer trend, but also help you apply it to launch successful consumer-facing innovations of your own.
Consumer trends are, at their heart, an essential part of uncovering innovation opportunities. Otherwise they’re just intellectual masturbation: diverting, pleasant and entertaining, but with little real purpose ;)
Yet we frequently hear that ‘trends’ feel mysterious and opaque. Which is where the CONSUMER TREND CANVAS* comes in.
* Generously ‘inspired’ by Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas ;)
How and when to use the canvas.
- Download a blank CONSUMER TREND CANVAS – Print it out, as big as you can! Use it to structure an innovation session with your team or a client.
- Take a trend – Either from us or elsewhere.
- Start with the left hand side ‘Analyze’ – Add supporting insights, data and examples. Keep circling back to re-examine how the segments relate to each other. Insights in one segment may highlight other elements of the trend and help you uncover truly novel concepts.
- Then turn to the right hand side ‘Apply’ – To identify how, where and for which consumers you could apply the trend.
- Finally capture your new innovation ideas! – Congratulations! Your new ideas will be deeply grounded in what consumers want, and therefore more likely to be successful!
The left hand side of the CONSUMER TREND CANVAS will help you unpack and understand the trend.
What deep consumer needs & desires does this trend address?
Consumer trends – and consumer behaviors more broadly – are ultimately driven by these rarely-if-ever-changing basic human needs and desires. Identifying these underlying needs is central to understanding any consumer trend.
Where to start? How about these:
Social status / Self-improvement / Entertainment / Excitement / Connection / Security / Identity / Relevance / Social interaction / Creativity / Fairness / Honesty / Freedom / Recognition / Simplicity / Transparency
Drivers of Change
Why is this trend emerging now? What’s changing?
To analyze change, think Shifts and Triggers.
- Shifts are the long-term, macro changes that are playing out across years or even decades, that while not consumer trends themselves, will shape both the direction and flavor of a specific trend. For a good summary of the macro shifts currently shaping the world, see Bain’s overview of Big Trends (such as urban transition, ageing world and climate challenge).
- Triggers are the more immediate changes that drive the emergence of a consumer trend. These can include specific technologies, political events, economic shocks, environmental incidents, and more. For example, the Covid pandemic accelerated the ‘HANDS OFF-BUT HUMAN‘ trend.
Try looking at the data behind the trend. Rapid growth or sudden shifts, even if the absolute numbers might be small, are worth attention.
Emerging Consumer Expectations
What new consumer needs, wants and expectations are created by the changes identified above?
Where and how does this trend satisfy them?
New consumer trends emerge when basic human needs bump up against external change to create (or unlock) new needs, wants and desires. And identifying these unmet needs and wants is the holy grail of understanding trends, as it will present you with compelling innovation opportunities.
To identify emerging needs, wants and desires, look for expectation gaps between what consumers want, and what they currently have.
Try asking yourself “What do the consumers embracing the brands, products and services that embody this trend now want and even expect?”.
One further tip: pay careful attention to other industries. Consumers don’t think in industry silos. New expectations of quality or service will usually be set outside your industry, but they won’t remain there for long.
How are other businesses applying this trend?
Seeing what other businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profits, governments even, are already doing with the trend is a great way to better understand it (and gain inspiration ;).
Indeed, very few ‘innovations’ are totally new. Most (successful) innovation comes from combining seemingly unrelated elements, or taking something and deploying it in a new context.
So try this: look at existing business innovations, understand them, then adapt them to your business. To gain as wide a perspective as possible, look specifically at other industries, other regions or cultures, or other types of business (e.g. corporate versus start-ups).
The right hand side of the CONSUMER TREND CANVAS is all about identifying what meaningful opportunities this trend can present for your business.
How and where could you apply this trend to your business?
We’ve long said that when thinking about a consumer trend, it helps to consider how and where it could impact your business using these four areas:
- Vision: How will the deeper shifts underlying this trend shape your company’s long-term vision?
- Business Model: Can you apply this trend to launch a whole new business venture or brand?
- Product / Service / Experience: What new products and services could you create in light of this trend? How will you adapt your current products and services?
- Campaign: How can you incorporate this trend into your campaigns, and show consumers you speak their language, that you ‘get it’.
How and where you apply the trend will depend on your business. Not all trends apply equally to all businesses or regions.
Which (new) customer groups could you apply this trend to? What would you have to change?
Say ‘trends’ and many people instantly think of demographics. And of course, consumers that share certain traits (whether in age, income, lifestyle, tribe, location etc.) will often have similar tastes and preferences.
But when it comes to applying consumer trends, try thinking beyond those who are currently living the trend. Indeed, thinking about what changes you would have to make, to make this trend relevant for other (new) demographics is a great way to come up with new innovations.
Need further inspiration? Then look to the margins and at what extreme users are currently doing. New consumer behaviors usually start with certain (niche) segments, before evolving and spreading throughout the mass market.