Understand Trends that Impact Your Bottom Line

    July 24, 2003

Understanding consumer trends is essential to knowing how and what to market. Far too often businesses go about developing products and services without considering what is happening in the market place, nor what might happen in the future.

In order to stay on top of changes, is important to determine market trends. With applied strategy it is easier than most people think.

When groups of consumers move from one product to another, new business opportunities can result. Market switches create demands for new products and services. Understanding consumer trends is essential to knowing how and what to market. Far too often, businesses go about developing products and services without considering what is happening in the market place, or what might happen in the future.

A good example is when it became more common for women to work out of the home. Years ago, having a sit-down dinner with the family was the norm. As women became busier, this trend became less frequent and eating out became more common. Additionally, convenience foods became more commonplace. Consumers are time-starved, convenience-oriented and health conscious. More Americans than ever are looking for ways to reduce stress and simplify their lives. The desire for efficiency has fueled the growth of take-out foods and ready-made meals. How can your product or service help in this area?

As a result of convenience foods and a new way of eating, what surfaced was a trend of overweight people who began having health challenges. The weight loss industry went from being almost nonexistent to being a multi-billion dollar industry in a few short years. Now there are very large groups of consumers who have an interest in health and longevity and that has boosted the sales of health products

Another example is with the travel industry. As the economy flourished, families traveled all around the world. Now, however, because of the world situation, families are choosing to vacation closer to home. There are companies who had enough foresight to position themselves within these limitations. The point for you to realize, is that keeping an eye on the market changes will allow you the opportunity to place yourself where your product will benefit the most people.

Not many years ago, the desire for bigger, better, more took the forefront for many. Additionally, ample choice in products was a great selling point. Yes, choice can be great but too much can create a backlash for consumers.

As recently as 1970 the number of choices a consumer had was considerably less than how it is today. For example, there was no such thing as email, voice mail, cell phones and the Internet. Choices for communication have greatly increased. There is always a choice to be made.

Although the economic situation of many Americans has improved in recent decades, there are more expenses to consider today than in years past. In most cases, two workers’ salaries are required to support a family. An increasing number of Americans, regardless of sex, age, education, or lifestyle, feel life is becoming more hectic, stressful, and complicated.

According to the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Law Center the average household credit card balance has gone from $3,275 in 1992 to a whopping $8,940 in 2002. Not only are people further in debt, for many it is difficult to see their way clear of getting out of debt. Can your product or service assist in this area?

In years past, loyalty to an organization was considered the norm. Today, loyalty is to self and family and possibly a small circle of friends. So how does this impact your customer base and your product or service offerings?

With rising real estate costs and commute times and the inconsistency of gasoline prices, more and more people are choosing to work from home. This trend alone will increase the need for more delivery of products, increased convenience in food intake, and services that will make running a home-based business more efficient. Can your product or service help this new business group?

The shift in religious and spiritual fulfillment has increased for many. Millions of Americans practice yoga and martial arts. Due to the increase in violence, more people are learning self-defense. They are also praying more and increasing activities in their life that encourage more fulfillment.

In 1999, American pet owners spent over $26 billion on their pets. Changing demographics, new lifestyle trends, and a shift in attitude towards pets have led to a significant increase in consumer expenditures during the past five years. There are consumers who actually take their dogs to pet sitters rather than leave them home alone. Others prefer to have someone stop in to check on their pets. Who would have guessed this would be part of the American lifestyle?

As you can see, things have changed considerably in the last 25 years and there is no reason to think that change won’t continue. Although consumers want numerous choices and a lot of convenience, there is also a shift back to desiring the “simpler days.”

You cannot be all things to all people, but you can improve your offerings based on market trends. As you continue to develop and refine your products and services, keep your customers in mind and what trends are affecting them. What are the changes they are requiring and requesting? By understanding trends, your opportunity increases to enhance and develop appropriate products and market more efficiently.

To discover major changes in consumer buying habits you can read marketing research reports and trade association research forecasts. You will see current fads that could potentially turn into long-term changes, and also new products that are growing in popularity. Also, notice your own buying and spending habits. What are the things that are influencing you personally?

When a new product hits the market, think of what some spin-off type products or services would benefit consumers.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Can I think of any market changes that have recently taken place? Can I think of any market changes that may be occurring now?
How can I take advantage of these changes in consumer buying habits?
Can I address a current market change by providing the major product or service?
Can I provide secondary products or services related to a new major product? Have potential customers indicated a need for the product/service?

With your focused attention on what is happening locally, regionally, nationally and globally, you will survive and thrive in the coming years.

Kathleen Gage is an award winning entrepreneur, corporate trainer and keynote speaker and author. She is the co-author of, 101 Ways to Get Your Foot In the Door; Success Strategies to Put You Miles Ahead of the Competition. To get more tips on how to get your foot in the door of your prospects and clients visit www.101waystogetyourfootinthedoor.com