Scan for the 3 key ingredients of trends to survive in the Expectation Economy

Right now, at this very minute, there are hundreds if not thousands of brands out there heightening your customers’ expectations. Companies like Google are heightening expectations around data-driven personalization. Patagonia is spreading expectations around supply chain transparency. Periscope is creating entirely new expectations around media consumption. Tesla is rewriting expectations around how drivers purchase a vehicle. If you work for a small firm or a giant organization, in fashion or finance, in Texas or Tanzania, you are competing in a ruthless, globe-spanning Expectation Economy.

[wcm_restrict]As consumers encounter better (think: faster/cheaper/easier/greener) ways of getting jobs done – whether it’s ordering takeout or trying on clothing – on a daily basis, their expectations are irreversibly heightened. They don’t even need to experience these new methods themselves, hearing about them is enough to make them demand the better way.

Trend-Driven Innovation, as detailed in our book of the same name, is the end-to-end process of tracking changes in these expectations to make sure that your products, services or experiences don’t fall behind. It’s built around several key stages that professionals can follow to continually delight continually-demanding customers.

The first stage involves mastering the art of Scanning for new trends. The good news is that you don’t need a PHD in anthropology to spot trends in the wild. Our methodology is so straightforward a high school student could use it, in fact, many already do at schools around the world. To scan for consumer trends you must understand the three core ingredients that they’re made of:

1. Drivers of Change
You can’t have trends without change! Change – environmental, political, social, cultural, technological, economic – is occurring constantly. Gradual shifts can take decades to reach their full impact, or change can come about in the blink of an eye. It should go without saying that scanning for trends involves a knack for identifying change in all its forms.

2. Basic Needs & Wants
We’re all human. Trends – and behavior more broadly – are ultimately rooted in our basic, fundamental, rarely-if-ever-changing human needs, wants and desires. Some examples of these include the desire for status, love, safety, excitement, connection, value, and convenience. You’ll agree that these desires don’t come and go from season to season.

3. Innovations
When drivers of change bump up against consumers’ immovable human needs and wants tension arises. These points of tension are the gap between what consumers want and what they currently have. Opportunistic businesses of all varieties can relieve this tension with innovative new products, services, experiences or entire new business models. When you scan for innovations, it is imperative that you look beyond what you see as your industry. When consumers enjoy an innovative offering in one sector, they expect it everywhere it can be applied. The Expectation Economy is sector-agnostic.

So you now know three things to look out for. Consider a well-known trend such as the On-Demand Economy in terms of these three ingredients. Globally deepening smartphone penetration (Driver of Change) bumped up against the desires for convenience and expediency (Basic Human Need) created an opportunity for Uber, Instacart and hundreds of other new services around the world (Innovations). As the trend matures expectations for on-demand delivery of products and services across all categories heighten. In fact, Emerging Expectations are at the heart of every trend we track.

Tracking trends effectively comes down to witnessing the emergence of these new expectations early enough – and respond – so that they don’t leave your business, or your client’s, behind.

Once you get comfortable with these the three key ingredients you will find it much easier to make sense of the avalanche of new information you’re surrounded by every day. Remember that when you begin to identify patterns of brilliant innovations you must ask yourself “what is driving this change?” and “what basic needs and wants do these offerings tap into?”. This will allow you to identify the emerging expectations that clusters of new services or products represent, and most importantly, you can react and adapt before your competitors![/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Maxwell LuthyMaxwell Luthy is the author of the new book Trend-Driven Innovation. Based in New York, Max runs TrendWatching’s North American business, regularly delivering keynotes and workshops for leading brands, from Disney to Samsung. Max has been quoted as a trend expert in the Financial Times, The Next Web, and strategy+business. Max also oversaw the TW:IN trend spotter network until 2013, hosting meetups everywhere from Johannesburg to Manila. A contributor to five of TrendWatching’s most-recent annual Trend Reports, Max now lives in the oft-overlooked trend hotspot of New Jersey.

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