Consumer trends are ever-changing, and that means your small business must be, too. While it may be deflating to learn that you can’t rest on your laurels once you’ve got your enterprise up and running, this news can actually be positive. You need to be responsive to your customers’ changing tastes that can keep your business fresh and full of energy as you strive to serve them in the best way you can.
We are all living in the age of VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Volatility – The challenge is unexpected and may be of an unknown duration. Uncertainty – Despite the lack of other information, the event’s basic cause and effect are known. Complexity – The situation one is facing has many moving parts and all are interconnected as well as variable. Ambiguity – Casual relationships are completely unclear. The unknowns are unknown. VUCA describes an ever-changing environment in which we need to be able to pivot easily and quickly.
Here are some ways to help you shift your business strategy to respond to consumer trends.
Figure Out Developing Trends
You must know what your customers are thinking in order to give them what they want, so your top priority should be to identify which trends are on the way up. Here are some ways to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot.
Solicit customer feedback. There are many ways to seek customer input. Feedback forms, surveys, focus groups, formal consumer panels, one-on-one interviews and inquiries via social media can all add to the picture.
Engage on social media. Social media is a goldmine of information about what consumers are interested in. Follow influencers and trending topics to see what topics your ideal audience is discussing, what products they’re pursuing and what ideas they’re touting. Interact with those you’d like to learn more from.
Ask young people you know. Your kids and other young people in your life are easily accessible sources of vast knowledge about trends. Better yet, they can probably explain the latest trends to you in a way you might understand.
Look at your competitors. There’s a high likelihood that your competitors are also trying to catch a hold of the latest trends, so keep an eye on what those in your industry are doing to get a hint where and how you might need to compete next.
Shift Your Strategy To Catch The energy
Once you’ve got a sense of what trends are developing, it’s time to take action. These trends have energy; you need to act fast to grab on. Here are some methods of shifting your business strategy to meet the moment.
Make a plan. Once you know the details of a new trend, you can create a specific plan to take advantage of the changes it brings. The nature of the plan will depend on the situation, but it may include elements of product development, marketing, sales and other functions. Include a timeline for the tasks that make up the plan so you can keep the pace going.
Always have new stuff brewing. Successful companies invest a lot in developing new ideas and products, continuingly working on new things and never stopping to let the business get stagnant. Doing so increases the chances that you’ll have something in the works to match a developing trend even before it gains steam.
Find a mentor or resource partner. An outside perspective can help you see opportunities where you can stretch and take action to meet changes in the market. A SCORE Mentor can help you not only identify those opportunities, but also create an effective strategy to take advantage of them.
Embrace agile project management. Markets and trends change so fast that your team needs to be able to shift quickly, designing and executing a new strategy with agility. Employ the principles of agile project management, which is a methodology that was developed to help tech teams complete complex projects quickly and flexibly. The agile concept is “Plan, Run, Review, Revise” and then do it all over again. The idea is to plan the strategic change, act, revise based on feedback, then execute, review the results, revise the plan, execute and do all over again, pivoting, changing, revising, testing the feedback, staying abreast of trend changes and being flexible to a constantly adjusting environment.
Once you’ve identified the latest trends, put a plan in place and figure out your strategy for addressing the changes and you’ll be ready to grab hold of exciting opportunities to grow your business. Encourage your team to stay creative, flexible, energetic and strategic to make the most out of these moments of change.