Trend analysis

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What Is Trends Analysis?

Trends are changes in societies that occur over longer periods of time (approx. 3-10 years). Trends are not only shifts in people’s preferences (for example fashion or music), but are also shifts in larger areas such as the economy, politics, and technology.

Trends are an important source of inspiration for thinking up new product ideas. Trends analysis is often used as part of a strategic planning process. Trends are used to identify customer/market needs, which a company can meet with new products or services. Trends analysis is preceded by trends watching, by which we mean the identifying, gathering and reporting of trend information without giving insight into the possible consequences.

Trends have the following characteristics:

  1. a trend has already started and can therefore already be identified in some places;
  2. a trend has a specific direction. A development that is constant over time does not bring any change with it and is therefore not a trend;
  3. a trend will most likely continue for the next 3 to 10 years, so hypes and fashions, i.e. developments with a shorter time horizon, fall outside this category.

Trends analysis could be a rich source of inspiration, but could also determine the risks involved when introducing new products. Trends research is very complex, though. It is extremely difficult to identify and analyse future trends. Trends analysis tries to find answers to the following questions: what developments in the fields of society, markets and technology can we expect over the next 3 to 10 years? How do these developments relate to each other? Where do they stimulate each other and where do they block each other? How do trends influence the strategy of an organisation? What are the resulting threats and what are the opportunities? Which ideas for new products and services can we think of now on the basis of the trends?

Figure 1: Trends pyramid (Stappers et al, 2003)

For an analysis of the trends, a trends pyramid can be used. In a trends pyramid (see fig. 1), four levels are distinguished at which one can look at trends: The microtrend is on a product level and has a time horizon of 1 year. The miditrend is on a market level and has a time horizon of 1 to 5 years. The maxitrend is on a consumer level and has a time horizon of 5 to 10 years. The megatrend is on a societal level and has a time horizon of 10 to 30 years. Trends pyramids are set up with trends belonging to a single theme, for example political trends or technological trends (one could use the PESTED categorisation for example - see Possible Procedure below).

Examining trends in this way is useful for two reasons: it provides a tool with which the enormous amount of (trend) information generated can be processed and structured, and it makes it easier to assess the consequences of trends. The different levels are related to each other and refer to the same developments but on a different level of abstraction or detail.

When Can You Use Trends Analysis?

A trends analysis is usually performed in the beginning of a design project or in the strategic planning process. With a trends analysis you can identify new business opportunities or new product ideas. You can also use it to identify preferences of the target group.

How to Use Trends Analysis?


Starting Point

Corporate/strategic vision.

Expected outcome

Potential customer/market needs for which new products and services can be thought up.

Possible Procedure

Figure 2: Trends Pyramid and PESTED categorisation
  1. List as many trends as you can think up. Identify trends from newspapers, magazines, television, books, the Internet, etc. At this point it is important to list as many as possible; don’t pay attention to redundant or similar trends.
  2. Remove trends which are similar; identify hierarchy in trends. Identify whether trends are related and define this relationship.
  3. Place the trends in a trends pyramid. Set up various trends pyramids according to the PESTED structure: P = Political; E = Economic; S = Social; T = Technological; E = Ecological; D = Demographic.
  4. Identify interesting directions for new products or services based on trends. Also, combine trends to see whether new products or services may come about.

Tips and Concerns

  • Try to combine trends as much as possible.
  • Make as much use as possible of different sources.
  • Try to visualise trends just like with scenarios (see Written scenario).

References and Further Reading

  • Buijs, J. and Valkenburg, R. (2005, 3rd ed.) Integrale Product Ontwikkeling, Utrecht: Lemma
  • Kotler et al. (1996) Principes van Marketing, Hemel Hempstead UK: Prentice Hall Europe.
  • Van der Duin P. et. al. (2003), the worlds of futures research, In: dictaat context and conceptualisation, P.J. Stappers et al., August 2005.
  • Trends and future prediction

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