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Trends Matrix

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 it also provides a clear view of what drives a change in consumer behavior. 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.

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. 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 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.

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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 or, 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 exercise aims to fill the Matrix with each relevant trend. How do we identify the trends? First and foremost, through primary research, expert interviews, and 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 relaxation time, between office for work and home for escape, when we play, consume and shop is no longer following previous patterns. So, play areas in the office and offices at home are expected to be encountered for remote working. This is how a technological trend impacts social and economic trends (e.g., work) and how we shop and consume 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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can small businesses effectively apply the Trends Matrix without the resources for extensive market research?

Small businesses can effectively apply the Trends Matrix by leveraging publicly available data and conducting lean market research. Start by utilizing free or low-cost online resources, such as industry reports, publications, and trend analysis from reputable websites. Engage with your customers through surveys, social media, and direct feedback to understand their needs and preferences. Collaborate with other small businesses for shared trend research initiatives. Small businesses can gain valuable insights to inform their Trends Matrix without extensive resources by focusing on clear, specific objectives and using creative, cost-effective methods.

Are there specific tools or software recommended for constructing and analyzing a Trends Matrix?

While the original post does not specify tools or software for constructing a Trends Matrix, several general tools can be helpful in this process. Spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is versatile and can be used to create and analyze a Trends Matrix effectively. For more advanced analysis, data visualization tools such as Tableau or Power BI can help identify patterns and trends visually. Online collaboration tools like Miro or Trello offer platforms for teams to work together on constructing and refining their Trends Matrix, facilitating real-time collaboration and feedback.

How frequently should a company update its Trends Matrix to stay ahead of industry changes?

The frequency at which a company should update its Trends Matrix depends on the industry’s pace and the company’s strategic goals. In fast-moving sectors like technology, fashion, or consumer goods, reviewing and updating the matrix quarterly or even more frequently may be beneficial. In more stable industries, a semi-annual or annual review might suffice. Regardless of the industry, companies should stay attuned to significant events, technological breakthroughs, or shifts in consumer behavior that could warrant an immediate update to the Matrix. Regularly updating the Trends Matrix ensures that the most current data and insights inform strategic decisions.

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