Using Trends to Identify Product Opportunities


This module will show you how to use demographic, cultural and technology trends to identify product opportunities product opportunities. Trends are simply the general direction in which something is moving. Therefore each trend you identify should have a what is moving and the direction.

Figure 1. flow chart of the process.
Trends can be divided into three broad categories:

  1. Demographic
  2. Cultural
  3. Technological

The increasing number of people of Hispanic descent in the United States is an example of a Demographic trend. A cultural trend is the decline of use of cash in daily transactions. A technological trend is the increased functionality and reduced size of cell phones.

Where to find trends:

  • Direct observation – What new ideas or practices are gaining acceptance?
  • Sitepal – Practical tips for spotting and using trends.
  • Google Trends – The power of Google’s database is put to work with this tool that offers a look at trends for search terms going back several years. By entering a search term it presents a graphical representation of searches by month. Also allows for analysis by region and even cities in a region. Could be very useful for determining the location of new markets or test markets, seeing what’s hot and what’s not, and for identifying when sales of cyclical products may be changing.
  • trend watching web site – Interesting site that offers a monthly newsletter examining a consumer trend that appears to be occurring somewhere in the world. Also provides access to all previously reported trends.
  • New words – The creation of new words are often the sign of a trend and this site provides a regular updated list of new words including examples of usage. Site includes a subject index to quickly locate terms.
  • Trend Hunter – Website full of eclectic trends.
Example of Trends
  1. Increasing Hispanic population
  2. Increasing gap between rich and poor
  3. Weight going up
  4. Increasing Aging population
  5. Continuing time crunch
  6. Smell being incorporated into more and more products
  7. Global Warming
  8. E-commerce and E everything
  9. Fewer and fewer children in each family
  10. Older and older parents
  11. Rise of Extreme sports
  12. Work at home trend
  13. More Mobile computing
  14. More home owners practicing Do it yourself home repair
  15. Increased spending on pets
Step2 Imagining Future Scenarios
In order to imagine a future scenario, you must think about the consequences if a trend or a combination of trends continue to spread. How will these trends change what people buy or desire to buy? What will happen if the trends intensify? For instance the price of energy has been increasing in the past. What would happen if the price of energy increase at a faster rate? What products that are now dismissed by consumers as too expensive or impractical suddenly become desirable? In the western United States a continuing shortage of water has inspired some people to create systems to use their household grey waterto water their gardens. How much more drought will it take to drive large numbers of homeowners to invest in these types of systems?To describe your future scenarios be sure to include:

  • The trends you are considering
  • The changes caused by the intensifying or spreading of the trends under consideration.
Step3 Identifying Unmet Needs
Once the effects of the intensifying trends or the rapidly spreading trends are identified then the unmet needs can be identified. Unmet needs are products or services that, if created, will help consumers better adapt to or take advantage of the future scenario under consideration.
Step 4 Defining a Product Opportunity
The product opportunityis the gap between what is currently available and the product and services that will be desired by people who are effected by the future scenarios. Therefore to properly describe a product opportunity the the product or services currently available and the envisioned product or service must be described. Currently available products or services are described by:

  1. The core benefit to the customer
  2. The technology employed, (how the the product or service works)
  3. The approximate cost

The imagined product or service is described by:

  1. The core benefit to the customer

The technology and the cost of the envisioned product or service should not be included because neither can be accurately predicted at this stage of the design process.

Therefor the description of the envisioned product and services must be solution neutral.

Example: Roast, Grand and Brew Coffee Machine
Considered Trends:

  1. Consumers willing to pay more for high quality coffee; coffee is becoming like wine
  2. consumer willing to pay a premium for for food products that allow them to feel connected with the the producer; witness the rising popularity of farmer’s markets.
  3. Consumers are becoming more socially conscience.

Future Scenario:
Consumers are seeking out opportunities to make high quality coffee at home while forging a connection with the people who produced the coffee. The consumers would like to know that their dollars are going to support positive change in the world.

Unmet Need:
One way to meet the desires of the customers is to produce a machine that roasts, grinds and brews coffee. The machine could be sold with a subscription for monthly deliveries of green coffee beans from farmers in the developing world. The coffee would come with a description of the farmer’s family, life, work, hopes and challenges. The beans will also come with information on how to order more beans from the same farmer and how to contribute to community projects in the farmer’s community.

Product Opportunity:
The current technology consists of separate machines that roast, grind or brew coffee. The roasting machines made for home use are slow and have a tendency to give off a unpleasant smell. There is one machine that grinds and brews coffee.

The envisioned product resides on a kitchen counter top and roasts, grinds and brews coffee without any human intervention.


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