Retail Trends-Consumers aren’t just purchasing items anymore. They’re spending money on experiences and companies that reflect their personal lifestyles and values. They want relationships, they want authenticity — and they’re disrupting retail as we know it. Understanding who the customer is and what they want is crucial.
As head of WGSN Insight, Andrea Bell works with some of the world’s biggest brands to identify and analyze trends and how they will affect consumer behavior. Ahead of her appearance at NRFtech 2019, Bell offers insights on finding the next big thing.
What goes into trend forecasting? What do you wish more people understood about your job?
People aren’t just buying products anymore — they are buying people and relationships. More often than not, purchase decisions are led by shared values and lifestyles, not simply aesthetics.
Despite the notion that once a year, we sit in a room and pluck colors or retail trends based on opinion, trend and consumer forecasting is a balance of data (the quantitative research) and behavioral analysis (our qualitative method).
When you hear the word ‘data’ people often think ‘numbers,’ but research of every kind forms data points — it’s how you put it all together that’s important. What has changed and evolved are the numerical data points which we’re able to use within our forecasting to support, challenge and enhance the qualitative research of our trend forecasters.
The job of a forecaster is to filter the impact of consumer behavior shifts and inform our clients what products or experiences consumers will want as a consequence.
How can retailers better predict trends?
My advice for readers on how to think about predicting trends is Read+Observe+Listen+Share.
- Read as much as possible and break out of your filter bubble. We’re reading everything from economic forecasts to mental health reports from the National Health Service to teenage manifestos and Instagram stories.
- Observation is essential. If you’re constantly glued to your phone, you’re not looking at the wider shifts around you. What are people’s needs? How are they communicating? What advertisement did they stare at for a bit longer than normal?
- Listen. Speak to your shoppers! We hold focus groups, do vox pops [person-on-the-street interviews] and are always asking questions and listening to everyone from Alphas to Boomers. Listening is an essential forecasting tool: Finding the consumer problem allows us to create a solution.
- Share. One of our greatest tools is our global workforce. We have WGSN employees in nearly all countries and this is really key for us to challenge our own impact bias and view the world from a regional lens.