The creative process of designing products for consumers has undergone significant changes in recent times.
To succeed, designers must stay up-to-date with current trends and consumer demands. Trend forecasting remains an important tool for designers to gain insights into consumer behavior and preferences, enabling them to create products that meet their needs in the current market.
Trend Forecasting is the process of researching and formulating predictions on consumers future buying habits. By identifying the source, tracing the evolution, and recognising patterns of trends, forecasters are able to provide designers and brands with a ‘vision’ of the future. Forecasters research and identify social, cultural, ethical or environmental shifts, and how they are likely to affect future consumer behaviour. Through this process, they can identify products and services that consumers will be looking to buy.
There are different types of forecasts; Long term forecasting, also known as ‘macro trends’, look at broader directional pointers that indicate the way society is changing. A macro trend forecast provides a picture of consumer lifestyles, and offers predictions that affect across categories. Short term forecasting and close-to-season reports, provide a much more prescriptive sense of what consumers will be wanting in the next 6 – 12 months. These Seasonal forecasts typically provide information on colour, fabric, print and pattern, styling, key items, and overall aesthetics.
How are trend forecasts created?
Trends are a response to a consumer need, or to a cultural change which pushes them towards a new, more acceptable product. There are methodologies to identify emerging trends and techniques in predicting their scale and longevity.
Identifying what has ‘sparked’ a consumer trend is often a good starting point. There are common ways a trend occurs such a new technology or fabric innovation being introduced, a ‘Pendulum swing’ or a ‘Fashion cycle’.
The pendulum swing refers to the movement of fashion between extremes, for example, fluctuations between long and short hemlines, fitted or oversized silhouettes. A historic example would be Dior’s ‘New Look’, characterized by full skirts and volumes of fabric, it was a dramatic shift away from restrictive wartime garments. A more recent pendulum swing example is the move away from the dominating Activewear or the 2010s, toward a much more feminine and romantic aesthetic.
Fashion and Interior trends can also be cyclical. As ‘fashion looks’ or interior styles move further into the past, the perception of it changes, it somehow looks ‘fresh’ again. First introduced by James Laver in the 1930s, cyclical fashion theory explains that when an aesthetic or style is neglected for some time it is ripe for revival.
Once a trend is identified, a range of tools can be used to hypothesise the impact (level of adoption) and length of a trend. A ‘product diffusion curve’ or ‘innovation curve’ is a visualization of the spread of innovation through a social system.
Created in the ’60s by Everett M Rogers’, the diffusion of innovation curve has a vertical axis for numbers of adopters and a horizontal time axis. The tool can be used to indicate how customers go through the process of adopting a proposed innovation.
Using this technique, forecasters track how an innovation is being adopted, and at what pace in order to forecast consumer interest. For example, in recent years there has been sustainable fabric developments such as ECONYL and REPREVE. Five years ago, it was groundbreaking for a swimwear brand to introduce a recycled plastic bikini range, however fast forward to now, these fabric choices are widely adopted by many Outdoor, Activewear, and Swimwear brands across a range of products.
What an experienced forecaster does.
A professional forecaster uses methodologies and techniques including qualitative research and interviews in order to formulate forecasts for product and services.
They filter a stream of information looking for:
- Differences in consumer interests, values, and motivation.
- Breakthroughs in technology and science
- Changes in the economic picture
- Shifts in demographics that can restructure society.
- Changes in industry and market structures
- Alternation in political, cultural, and economical alliances between countries.
From the research, a trend hypothesis is created which is then articulated into drivers, consequences and impact. Their research is distilled into scenarios and trend themes that include information on overall aesthetics, colour direction, fabrics and textures, print and pattern. Trained forecasters can help you navigate complexity, and provide an evidence-based view of the future.
How can trend insights benefit my business?
Trends signal the emerging needs of the consumer, and as a designer, you can capitalize on their potential for turning a profit. By understanding consumer shifts and product trend predictions, businesses can both avoid bad product choices and capture market opportunities.
A common dilemma for a Designer or Buyer is having the confidence to really ‘back’ a style. Trend forecasting can help validate a design idea or direction you have for your brand, helping you know which trends to act on and when. Using trend insights effectively can strengthen your brand’s DNA, providing you have a clear knowledge of your customer, your brand’s USP, your limitations (delivery, MOQ’s etc), by adding a layer of trend insights you can harness the power of trend forecasting to help your business grow.
Now more than ever it is important for forecasters to support businesses and designers with their professional expertise. Access to professional trend forecasting has traditionally been expensive, however, the landscape is changing and you can now find affordable trend reports through platforms such as Fossick Trends which enable you to buy trend reports from experienced forecasters from around the world.