Trend watching: What will your customers want next?

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 01:30 pm

You can’t ask your customers to anticipate their next want or need. Usually, they don’t know.

And if they don’t know, it’s difficult for you to create a long-range strategy that will help them.

Strategic innovation occurs when a change – usually technological but not always – bumps up against a core human need. Tension occurs, and an unusually intuitive someone creates the innovation that serves a human need for status, love, connection, empathy, values, family, etc.

Think Steve Jobs. He was best at it.

More recently, Burger King this year introduced a new Whopper that has no beef but tastes like beef, which was developed by Impossible Foods Inc. in 2016. That’s typical of innovations that occur fast and become ubiquitous.

Ask these questions

Today, on the edge, you can see ridiculous products and services. Don’t overlook them.

Instead ask, what’s the new want that serves a human need? If you can identify one, is your innovation gaining traction? Do others begin to emulate it?   

In South Korea, you can check in to a “mock prison” for 24 hours. It’s an actual cell that delivers food through a tiny door. 

Ridiculous? Yes. But what’s the human need? It allows you to be alone with yourself and your thoughts, and escape the pressures of everyday life for one day.

What’s around the corner?

So what’s headed your way? I pay close attention to trendwatching.com. It helps B2C professionals in more than 180 countries unlock powerful answers to the question: “What will my customers want next?” 

Trendwatching sponsored a New York symposium recently that studied trends spotted throughout the world and that soon might be everywhere:

1. Even more convenience and more on-demand

Stop & Shop in Boston sells produce from a driverless grocery store on wheels. You can summon it online. It will arrive at your address and let you select the produce you want and pay online. In China, you can walk into a booth on the street and access a doctor via telemedicine. The booth even has some over-the-counter medicines you can buy.

2. Next-era automation

Of course, there’s Amazon Go, the convenience store with everything bar-coded. As you take items off the shelf, it charges your credit card. Then you walk out. Other companies are testing this, too.

Elsewhere, robots are mixing your drink or your coffee.

3. Self-actualization

A Boston-based company lets you take a blood test for only $99. It analyzes your blood and automatically delivers the medicines you need.

Your biking friends might be using a Peloton bike and, with their virtual teammates, competing against other virtual teams.

4. Sentient spaces that recognize and react to you

A casino, with your permission, uses facial recognition to know when you enter. You’re greeted by name, ushered to your favorite gambling table and served beverages. This technology can also be used to identify repeat offenders, without their permission.

McDonald’s just spent $300 million for a company that will recognize you in the drive-thru lane and make customized suggestions to you from the menu board.

5. Creating villages

Create a village and offer more experiences throughout your business.  

Walmart is opening Esports Arenas inside new stores. They allow for small- to large-scale highly produced esports and entertainment events. Esports Arenas also host daily video game competitions.

The retail giant is also reimagining its outside areas to be more like a village, with exercise and live entertainment stages. 

Selfridges opened a high-end department store in London that includes a skate park inside. (Note: I’ve even skied inside a mall in Dubai!)

How can you rework your spaces to foster communities?

6. Your people ARE the experience and give your brand personality

You don’t do it by forcing them to express themselves, or with fun benefits. Try to create an environment that puts the emphasis on the customer and encourages employees to “go beyond,” to “be themselves” and to “be the experience.” 

That’s what Southwest Airlines does. Have you ever heard a flight attendant give safety instructions? Hilarious!  

What this means for you

Most of these ideas won’t work for your business. But by discussing them, your employees will be more likely to suggest ideas that can work for you and differentiate your company in the marketplace.

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