Most Asked Questions in World of Trends
By Han Sang-hee
The Korea Times has reported on recent trends by consulting www.trendwatching.com, which offers a Q & A report for those interested in and eager to apply hidden trends to their businesses.
1. How can people spot trends?
The most fundamental step would be tracking them. Web sites like www.trendwatching.com already offer a list of various trends monthly, but there are ways to find them more easily than people might imagine.
Newspapers, Web sites, books, newsletters and other mass media can help a great deal. They may not pinpoint a specific trend, but people can get ideas, come up with their own strategies and see what others are doing.
Search engines like Google and Yahoo and Web sites like http://technorati.com/mini/ offer customized ``alert'' services, which can also be a convenient and fast way to find out what the world is up to. Just type in a phrase or word you are interested in, and the Web sites alert the subscriber via email whenever the word is detected.
Another way to track trends is by communicating. Talking about a certain subject can branch out into other numerous subjects and issues. Visiting busy locations like airports, hotels, fairs, trade shows and universities can also help in keeping track of the latest trends.
2. Once I find the trends, what do I do with them?
Application is a different, and normally a more complicated, process. Trendwatching.com reminds you that you don't have to like every trend. However, it is important not to dismiss anything too quickly, the Web site warns, as sometimes the most ridiculous ideas turn out to be the best.
Trendwatching.com offers four simple, yet crucial bits of advice in seeing if a trend might work as a business idea. First, it must be able to influence or shape the company's vision. Next, it must inspire people to create a whole new business concept, idea or even brand and then further contribute in adding a new product, service or experience for certain customers. Finally, in order to successfully apply trends, you must be able to speak the language of the consumers who already know and live the trend through marketing, campaigns and services.
3. What are the most important trends affecting the world now?
Picking only one trend can be a difficult task. However, the experts at trendwatching.com say that the world will continue to see consumer trends driving their businesses.
It's not surprising that consumer trends greatly impact industries, and one interesting concept is the expectation economy. It's about consumers who demand, expect and in the end, conquer. They have a long list of expectations based on experience, both others' and their own.
Web sites and magazines offer handy information. They carry in-depth information and experiences of certain products, leading consumers to become smarter and expect more. Korean Web site www.nbinside.com offers details and reviews regarding laptops, while www.cetizen.com offers a list of reviews of cell phones.
4. Is this a trend or just a fad?
There is a drastic difference between a fad and a trend in terms of range. A trend, according to trendwatching.com, is a manifestation of something that has unlocked or newly serviced an existing consumer need, desire or value.
The point is that consumers usually change little, and this is where trends appear. Consumer needs tend to follow a certain pattern in consumption for a relatively long time, be it cravings for convenience, high quality yet affordable products, or high-end luxury goods.
Footwear Crocs, which has touched the hearts and feet of many Koreans, represent convenience. Light and colorful, Crocs were a successful fad, but not necessarily a trend. The idea of consumers wanting convenience at all costs is the trend (not the product).
5. When is the right time and will it work in the local market?
Timing is everything. However, many ``trend seekers'' worry that the trend will not work in the local market and wait for the right time.
Trendwatching.com suggests otherwise: Why not expand your business to the global marketplace? If you think the local public is not yet ready for what you have in store, reaching out to those who are can be an option. If a business succeeds overseas, it will probably hit the local scene sooner or later.
Experimenting with younger consumers through studies can also be a way to see if a trend will work or not. Younger consumers tend to be well-connected, informed and open to new things, and if they see potential, the world will be informed through Web sites, blogs and word of mouth.
6. Who sets trends and where and how?
Everyone sets trends, from regions, countries, governments and brands to consumers. Trends do not start from something glamorous or complicated, but from the simplest ideas. Interested people extensively explore magazines and newspapers, travel, and visit museums and Web sites. Ideas and patterns are found along the way, businesses materialize them into services and products, and when consumers understand the concept and start to appreciate them, a new trend is born.
Almost anybody can be a trendsetter, and sometimes you need some support from well-systemized experts to spread the idea effectively.
``You always have the very active people who keep on sending in (ideas) and then there are people who react when we send something to them. But they are everywhere,'' Reinier Evers, the founder of trendwatching.com, told The Korea Times.
7. How will the financial crisis impact trends and business in the short and long run?
Considering the recent financial crisis that has spread worldwide, it is inevitable that many parts of the world will face some kind of recession affecting consumption patterns.
However, this doesn't mean that the trend phenomenon will disappear, only change.
To be specific, there will be a shift toward the useful and convenient, while affordable yet high quality brands, dubbed the ``no-frill chic trend'' by trendwatching.com, will soar in both demand and popularity.
A close example is found in Japanese brands Muji and Uniqlo, which have become popular among local consumers for being affordable and bearing unique designs and high quality features.