How to spot trends – and cash in on your insights

Magnifying glass on blue background

Trend forecasting is essentially the art of being curious – it’s the desire to understand what’s driving your market. Here’s how to sharpen your trend-spotting skills and use your insights to make business-boosting decisions…

So, what exactly is a trend?

Imagine a star getting bigger and brighter as it pulls in more particles. That’s essentially what a trend is. A trend gathers ‘particles’ from all sorts of influences. Then, depending on its makeup, it can quickly gain traction and grow from a little fad into a big craze.

The magic of trend forecasting is observing which ‘particles’ are having the biggest influence  – i.e., the greatest potential to create a brighter star.

  • Shooting stars – these are small trends that don’t have much staying power.
  • Stars that shine brightly in our sky – these are big trends with staying power (such as veganism).

Tip: exciting as a new trend might seem, exercise a little cynicism to gauge whether it’s here to stay – or likely to be gone tomorrow.

How to use a trend to support your business

Before you dive in, remember these three ‘D’s:

DEBUNK: Remove the mystique of trend forecasting. Don’t see it as daunting – see it as a fundamental sense check of what’s going on in your business universe.

DIGEST: Draw in all the information, absorbing everything you’ve learned about a trend – and use it to inform your business decisions.

DISCERN: Don’t get too bogged down with the data you collect – having assimilated it, use your instinct and trust your intuition.

Why your sixth sense makes business sense

Many businesses are data-driven, but it’s equally important to trust your gut. And as a small startup, if you don’t have the budget for in-depth research, you’ll need to get good at trusting your instinct. Your intuition can be a powerful tool, especially when combined with agile decision-making (i.e., decision-making that’s collaborative, iterative, and transparent).

Here’s a simple framework to follow when making gut decisions…

To ‘C’ into the future, always consider your:

  • Culture
  • Competitors
  • Consumers

What if you’re going against a trend?

If you find you’re heading in the wrong direction, you may have to make some rapid decisions for a hasty turnabout. Having recognised that the path you’re on isn’t the best one for your business, you (and any fellow decision-makers) should be open to ideas of change. You’ll need to be willing to make those changes (and even some sacrifices), so you can change direction for the better.

How to forecast a trend

Here are some tools you’ll need in your inner toolkit, to get good at trend spotting:

CURIOSITY: Keep cultivating your desire and enjoyment of asking questions. Dig deep, follow trails, explore, read and chat with experts. Do all you can to extract knowledge and insights from whatever you’re researching.

EMPATHY: Refine your ability to drop your judgements and assumptions, so you can see things for what they really are (unclouded by prejudice) and understand them better.

NETWORK: Grow a trusted community of people who are interested in discussing trend notions. Invite their perspectives to feed into your own insights, so you can mutually increase your understanding.

OBSERVATION: Constantly take in the world around you. For example, when you’re in a shop, look for signs that say ‘new’. Build a picture of what’s coming and examine the potential for a trend to emerge.

WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE: Over time, you’ll develop a better and better instinct as to what’s new, what’s been and gone (and come around again), what’s fleeting and what’s here to stay.

How to stay ahead of rapid change

Keeping track of trend ideas can be a big challenge, especially in a fast-paced market of constant change. Here are some tips for staying on top of the trends you’re watching:

  • Keep files of trend reports close to hand, so you can easily refer to them.
  • Use platforms such as Instagram as a collection point of visuals.
  • Keep bouncing your ideas off your trusted network of lively minds.


This how-to guide was inspired by one of our Zoom Dives with cultural strategist and insights and trends researcher, Amy Daroukakis.

Zoom Dives are deep-delving discussions between our founder, Carolyn Dailey and hand-picked business experts from the creative world. You can listen to Carolyn and Amy’s full discussion here.  

Fancy catching our next Zoom Dive, live? See our Events calendar and sign up for free. Meanwhile, feel free to plunder our Knowledge bank for more tools and training.