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Surfers row against the course only to catch a new wave. In business, everything is exactly the same: all success stories tell about those who caught the uptrend. You can create an arbitrarily cool product and sell it perfectly, but without a steady increase in demand in your market niche, you will not succeed.
Let’s try to figure out how to look for new directions that will actively grow in the near future.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
It is not so hard to follow the trends of today, especially those that are in the public eye. Is TikTok’s audience growing? Yes, all teenagers (and not only) “sit” on it, and their favorite bloggers one by one start their channels there. Is the oversized hoodie back in fashion? Yes, and many of them not only wear it but also make videos for TikTok).
It is much more complicated to predict what technology trends will be relevant tomorrow. Such forecasts can be made on indirect grounds, collecting individual facts and your own intuition into a single picture. This task requires so much effort that it is enough for a separate profession: many corporations, venture funds, and investment banks have trend spotters and trend watchers specialists with an exclusive set of skills and an appropriate salary.
TrendSpotter (from the English Trend Spotter-trend detector) — a person who specializes in identifying new trends, who determines and makes forecasts about their development in general or in a particular area.
Trend Watcher — a person who regularly monitors consumer and industry trends, including the assessment and forecasting of business factors (demand, supply, style, and fashion) for use by companies in creating innovative products, services and communications.
In other words, trendspotters know that this thing will become a trend, and trend watchers purposefully follow the trends. We can say that trend watchers are professional trendspotters.
It’s a pity, but they rarely talk about their profession. There are not many lectures, podcasts, blogs, training courses, and interviews on this topic on the Internet yet. You have to collect the basic techniques of trend watchers and refine them yourself. Here are the tools we suggest paying attention to.
During the quest for novelty is essential to remember: people’s needs do not change, the ways of meeting them do. There are about a hundred basic queries and the appearance of completely new ones in the foreseeable future is not expected. Trends can only be new ways to meet the usual needs. And the new appears where the old does not work well.
Imagine an umbrella. It performs its task well but has some drawbacks: bulky, immediately getting wet after a rain, breaking down from strong wind, always not at hand when it is necessary. But what is it that you need to come up with so that you can order a new umbrella right now?
Your umbrella performs its functions, is inexpensive, everyone around has the same. The request for innovation is not visible. Ask ten strangers on a rainy day, and you will confirm this thesis. Therefore, with punchy ideas in the umbrella industry, everything is sad — manufacturers are limited to a more compact shape or faster drying (this is what the most successful crowdfunded campaign for the development of a new type of umbrella looks like).
With headphones, everything is somewhat different. Before the advent of AirPods, the buyer had a choice: to get tangled in the wires or use large wireless headphones with a shackle. Both options had their drawbacks. When a convenient and stylish solution from Apple appeared, a new trend appeared. Today, the device in the “two plugs in a charging case” form factor is made by hundreds of brands.
The unsolved consumer problem is one of the most obvious sources of new trends. Our lives are constantly changing, and we have new needs, and they, in turn, give rise to a change in priorities when buying goods.
For example, today, rare teamwork is complete without video calls. But the webcams in the new laptops leave much to be desired, and many are not satisfied with how they are seen by remote colleagues. Video calls will be in use even after the end of the lockdown, so cool front-facing cameras in laptops will become a trend. Built-in lamps, cool matrices, advanced processing algorithms-all this may appear soon and become a sales driver. Similarly, the beautiful cameras in current smartphones appeared thanks to Instagram.
In the search for pain, the main thing is to assess its scale correctly. The problem of wet umbrellas is not so global as to create a large query. But daily calls to Zoom are a source of truly universal suffering (judging by the reviews).
An assessment of a problem’s scale is built in the same way as an assessment of the market’s capacity: how many consumers face it and how often it happens. And “often” is more important here than “a lot”. A small group of consumers with clearly defined pain is a good niche market. A lot of users with a non-pronounced need is rather a way to guarantee “burn” the advertising budget. “A lot” and “often” are the best options. Fortunately, such requests are quickly met.
It is very difficult to find a strong pain of numerous consumers that can be satisfied with affordable means, but no one has yet undertaken to do this. Such requests appear where life changes noticeably in a short period of time. As with education in 2020: schools and universities had to adapt to a new system of work, which made online courses and lessons a rapidly growing niche.
2. Follow the leader
In all large markets, there are leading companies, and they are often the sources of new trends. They have enough resources at their disposal to find and quickly develop innovations.
Keep track of patents that are registered by leaders in your industry — this is a good source of information about upcoming innovations. Registering patents is a necessary measure to protect new developments, so they appear long before the announcement. However, it must be said that patents are often registered prospectively and some developments from there do not reach the market.
Monitor leadership’s vacancies. The appearance of new positions can tell you what the company is working on. This method also has limits of applicability, but it often opens up interesting insights.
Complete this information with official announcements and interviews of team members and get a fairly complete picture: what was developed, by what forces, and what eventually reached the market.
3. Notice new technologies
A very large layer of consumer requests is not satisfied, because there is not enough technology for this. In the future, there will be cheap, light and durable umbrellas made of new composite materials. But while there are no such technologies, everyone goes with the usual ones. When the right technology appears-it’s time to make innovative umbrellas.
Following the flow of information about technological innovations will become less tedious if you focus on your industry. There are not as many new developments in the front-end development or production of car tires as there are in the rest of the world.
Subscribing to the mailing lists of specialized media and bloggers, as well as a periodic (once a month or two) search for scientific papers will allow you not to miss essential information.
4. Track your search queries and social networks
If the previous methods did not allow you to notice the trend at an early stage, then you can catch up when you start talking about a new trend. That is, write in social networks, request in search engines, ask questions on Q&A sites.
All these resources can be tracked using special tools. There are a whole scattering of them with different functionality: from a simple search for keyword mentions to “smart” filters. For different resources, the tools are different, the toolbox will have to be collected separately for each task.
5. Read the reports of analytical companies
Analytical and consulting agencies publish forecasts of the next year’s technological trends every year. These works are in the public domain. Here, for example, are the options for 2021 from Gartner, Deloitte, Accenture.
All these reports look at the world from a great height. They reflect major trends affecting all sectors of the economy. Such as the development of quantum computers. This information can be useful for general development. Reading them, it is worth asking:” How will this trend affect my industry?”. In the search for an answer, you can come to important discoveries.
6. Look at the new generation
Different age groups have different consumption habits. As the generations change, so will the markets. So watching your future consumers is a good way to anticipate a new trend in your niche.
Methods of searching for new trends will give the inquisitive researcher a large array of poorly structured information: everyone is doing something, important and progressive innovations are everywhere. In order to find the “pearl” in this chaos, you need to take several consecutive steps:
First, set your priorities. That is, sort the information by importance, assigning each “weight”. Start with global trends: Can they help you in your work? What new opportunities can they open up for you?
Next, go to the industry level. What are your industry leaders doing? What niches do they want to fill? What global trends help them do this? What new pains do they solve and what new technologies do they use?
Compare these findings with your predictions: What are your consumers’ pains that haven’t been solved yet? What new technologies make it possible to make fresh products for your audience? Are industry leaders doing something similar?
By assembling the mosaic in this order, you will see the direction in which you should move. Show these conclusions to the investor, and your pitch will become more convincing.
And for inspiration, you can hang a beautiful trend map from the futurist Richard Watson in the office. This is a kind of timeline for the emergence of new trends in the main areas of life: you can walk like on a city map and anticipate changes. And so far, Richard’s predictions are coming true with frightening accuracy.