Trends matrix: a holistic view of relevant trends
The trends matrix is a vital tool in setting the scene for analyzing and understanding consumer insights. As a matter of fact, on one side, the trend matrix helps prioritize insights. But also provides a clear view of what drives a consumer behavior change. In most of our strategic work, we always start from a trends overview because it allows for a valuable set of lenses in any branding or innovation development.
In a nutshell, the Trends Matrix offers a good helicopter view of the significant trends affecting an industry.
What is a Trends Matrix?
It is a sorting model for trends and a framework to assess how trends affect the industry and how they relate to each other. It is a matrix where on the vertical side, we identify the top macro trends – typically technology, industry, people, government, and culture – and on the flat side, the model requires several sub-dimensions that are relevant to the industry. These dimensions can be declined in terms of a snapshot as past/present/future – what it used to be, what it is now, and what it is expected to be – or we could look at the number of elements that have influenced our industry, e.g., tools, services, experiences, research and information sources.
Once the Trend Matrix is structured for each one of the intersections between the trends and the aspects, the objective is to identify the best sources to collect the data for each cell: those include, but are not limited to, desk research, trendsetters’ interviews, or an experts’ reports/papers.
Each cell is usually summarised within a few lines, even better, a tagline that summarizes or labels the trend. In addition to that, we should use icons and color-coding to identify:
1) stage: cluster weak signals from existing trends, and
2) velocity: assess whether the trend is growing, stable, or winding down.
For example, fermentation is an emerging trend in food and beverages. The latter sector is far more advanced (e.g., Kombucha) than the previous one. Craftitization of Beer is way more advanced than the equivalent trend in Spirits (stable) and Soft Beverages (rapid development). Those examples support the need to cluster the trends according to their velocity and stage.
The objective of the exercise is to fill the matrix with each relevant trend. How do we identify the trends? First and foremost, through primary research, by conducting experts interviews, but also through desk/ database research. Once the trends are mapped in the matrix, the objective is to step back and visualize possible links between the cells/ trends. So, in other words, we determine whether a social-cultural aspect or vice versa drives a specific consumer trend of technology if technological opportunities drive an emerging social part.
This second stage requires the modeler to step back and gather a helicopter view to identify the relationships between components and capture those insights. This is done by looking into the possible overlays on the matrix, the growing, stable, winding down, and upcoming trends, the past versus the present, or how various macro-trends affect different parts of the industry.
In our research on ‘The Blur,’ technological convergence is impacting convergence at a social and cultural level in our lifestyles: because there is no longer a clear boundary between work time and relax time, between office for work, and home for escape, when we play, consume and shop is no longer following previous patterns. So it is common to encounter play areas in the office and offices at home for remote working. This is how a technological trend impacts social and economic trends (e.g., work) and the way we shop and consumer media.
In conclusion, the Trends matrix helps organize an overview of the trends and makes it natural to identify connections and possible directions that are important for us to look at.