Understand and apply any consumer trend. Today.
Download as an easy-to-read PDF

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 ;)


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.

How & when to use the CONSUMER TREND CANVAS:

  1. Download your blank Consumer Trend Canvas
  2. Take the trend that you are interested in exploring further (either from us, or elsewhere!).
  3. As you analyze the trend, fill out the left hand side of the canvas (‘Analyze’) with insights, data and examples. Then use the ‘Apply’ section on the right hand side to capture your ideas.
  4. Keep on 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.
  5. Also, try using it to structure an innovation session with your team or a client. Then enjoy that ‘a-ha!’ moment as people both understand what a trend is all about, and how to make the most of it ;)

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

Check out the worked example below, using our PRETAIL trend:

“PRETAIL: A mode of consumption that sees consumers treat crowdfunding platforms as the new shopping malls. Why? Because that's where current consumer demand for the most innovative, exciting and unique products are being served better than anywhere else, by an army of entrepreneurs and start-ups.”

Let's get started:


Basic Needs

What deep consumer needs & desires does this trend address?

Consumer trends – and consumer behaviors more broadly – are ultimately driven by basic, fundamental, rarely-if-ever-changing 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

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

PRESUMERS are driven by the status and excitement of being ultra-early adopters, the connection to the product & the story, and the increased relevance that specific, niche products can offer.

Drivers of Change

Why is this trend emerging now? What’s changing?

There are no consumer trends without change. Savvy and switched-on business professionals constantly ask ‘What’s changing?’, looking for shifts that make it possible to service consumers’ basic needs and wants in novel, exciting – better – ways.

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 Euromonitor’s 10 Global Macro Trends for the Next Five Years (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, developments in visual search technologies are driving the POINT-KNOW-BUY trend.

Look at the data behind the trend. Rapid growth or sudden shifts, even if the absolute numbers might be small, are worth attention. Think sales volumes, consumer behaviors or attitudes, social media chatter, etc.

TIP: Strategic frameworks can be useful tools to analyze external change. Check out the PESTLE model (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental) and its various adaptations.

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example


The flattening of the global marketplace, falling barriers for entrepreneurs and the booming maker culture, all fuel the number and variety of startups and innovators serving every consumer need.

Experienced consumers are increasingly bored with the abundance of bland, mass-produced products and brands.


Platforms such as Kickstarter enable direct producer-consumer relationships.

Increased use of transparent and ‘real’ identities online (on social networks) reduces the perceived risk of pre-ordering products via a sense of public accountability.

Data Points

  • Number of crowdfunding platforms grew from 100 in 2007 to 452 in 2012 (Massolution/The Economist, May 2012).
  • In 2012 donations & reward-based crowdfunding grew 85% to USD 1.4 billion (Massolution, April 2013).
  • Kickstarter reported growth rates of 238% in USD pledged, and 134% in the number of people pledging money in 2012.

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. When identifying these newly emerging needs, wants and desires, look for expectation gaps between what consumers want, and what they currently have.

For example, the epic social shift away from strict formality has led to people embracing more ‘human’ and irreverent brands such as Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s and a whole host of others. Disillusionment with the big, bad and dirty corporate world continues to stoke consumer enthusiasm for transparent, honest CLEAN SLATE BRANDS (from Toms to Tesla).

Another example: in the music industry, digital technologies triggered consumers to expect infinite choice and instant access to music, on their terms. The ACCESSHIP trend – exemplified by services such as Spotify – was a natural response.

Ask yourself, what do the consumers embracing the brands, products and services that exemplify this trend now want and even expect*?

Write down answers, using these prompts (and others you can think of) to start your sentences:

“The ability to… / Improved access to… / Freedom to… / Freedom from… / The experience of…
A service that… / A more affordable… / A better quality… / A more enjoyable… / A more social…”

* Pay careful attention to other industries. Consumers don’t think in industry silos. Once a level of quality or service has been established in one industry, consumers won’t care about why it’s ‘different’ in your industry. Rather, they’ll enthusiastically rush to whoever gets it right first (whether that’s your competitor, or a new start-up).

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

Thanks to the abundance of choice in the consumer arena, it’s now expected that that there will be a (brilliant) product or service out there that caters to every niche or taste, no matter how individual or bizarre.

Consumers relish the chance to be involved with products they care passionately about, and crowdfunding platforms – where they can offer feedback and potentially shape the final product – satisfy this desire better than simply buying traditional products.


How are other businesses applying this trend?

Regular readers will know that we always turn to real-world examples to illustrate trends. Why? Because actually 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).

* Understand from the point of view of those people living this trend, which of course may not necessarily align with your own personal likes and aspirations.

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

Look at the diversity of crowdfunding platforms. While Kickstarter is the largest and most well-established, there are plenty of other sites that co-exist. Check out Razoo (for non-profits), AppStori (apps), Gambitious (video games), Lucky Ant (hyper-local physical businesses) and more!


If the ‘ANALYZE’ section of the canvas helps you dissect ‘why’ this trend resonates with certain consumers, and how it might develop, the ‘APPLY’ section is all about identifying what opportunities this trend can present for your business.

Innovation Potential

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’.

So, consumer trends can trigger both BIG and ‘small’ innovations.
If you’re the CEO, you’re probably more interested in whether the consumer trend you’re analyzing is going to lead to deep, brand-shattering (or -building!) disruption. If you’re a brand manager, you’ll be thinking more about how to use the trend to inform and improve your marketing campaigns.

Not all trends will apply equally to all businesses or regions.
How and where you apply the trend will depend on your business. A luxury brand may actively choose to ignore the DEALER-CHIC trend. In Asia, where admitting error means a loss of face, the FLAWSOME trend is less relevant. For now.

TIP: List 20 assumptions about your brand/ current business model/ product range & service design/ marketing. Then imagine how this trend might overturn them. What do you uncover?

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

  • Vision
    • How will participating in the production process change & shape consumer expectations?
  • Business Model
    • Could you de-risk your new product pipeline by pre-selling new products to build excitement and gain valuable feedback?
    • Could your brand launch a PRETAIL platform of your own?
    • Why not take a leaf from crowdfunding platforms and offer exclusive perks for those who pay more?
  • Product / Service / Experience
    • Could you crowdfund your next new product(s)?
    • Retail brands, why not embrace this trend and partner with a PRETAILER and give successful projects shelf space?
  • Campaign
    • Could you invite consumers to crowdfund products? For successfully funded projects, campaigns could promote how much money a product raised via crowdfunding.


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.

Trend Canvas - PRETAIL example

PRETAIL is currently the preserve of younger, more educated, wealthier, more male consumers (i.e. typical online early adopters). What changes could you make to broaden this demographic? An insurance policy that might convince older consumers to purchase items? A site that curated more female-orientated products?

What about targeting a specific (new) niche? For example: when will we see the first luxury PRETAIL platform? Homeware? Food?

Yes, the CONSUMER TREND CANVAS is a tool that will help you understand and make the most of a consumer trend you're interested in exploring further, but in reality, it's just that: a tool.

In order to make the most of it, you need to actually do something with it. Start now. Download a printable blank canvas, grab a trend, and start filling it in. Or even better, schedule a session with your team or a client and see what you come up with.

One final tip: have some fun. Trend watching is about coming up with (and launching) exciting new products and services for your customers, nothing more and nothing less.

No matter where in the world you are currently reading this, the number of opportunities out there right now is truly staggering. Around the globe, billions of consumers - from the experienced, demanding (and yes sometimes jaded), to the new, expectant and aspirational - crave brands, products and services that make life more exciting, cheaper, more efficient, more sustainable, richer and simply better than it currently is.

Will it be you that delivers, or someone else?

Want to go all out on applying trends? Then check out our paid services: either our online Premium Service (which comes with a full Apply Toolkit), or our in-person APPLY Workshops. Your customers will thank you ;)

Do make sure you're subscribed to all our free monthly Trend Briefings, and good luck in applying the trends! logo

Our Apply Workshops

Want to turn trends into innovations?

Find out more