There are two main approaches to identifying consumer lifestyle trends: top down or bottom up.
The top down approach looks at the classic S.T.E.E.P (Social, Technological, Economical, Environmental, Political) indicators, which utilize major world events to predict shifts in behavior of groups of individuals or larger populations. Good examples of this would be the rise of the phone app, social media, and the green movement. When applying it to yourself and your business it is important to keep an eye on the big world picture and think about how it will affect your business interests. It is also important to note how different groups of a population are affected differently by these factors. This is the macro look at trends, similar to macro economics. While anticipating these shifts may be at times daunting, it is important: a boat that does not rise with the tide of change is flooded by it.
The bottom up approach is significantly more difficult to gauge and gather data on, but can have more influence on a particular business’s interests. This is especially true of small or regional businesses. The bottom up approach looks at specific consumer trends in one specific business sector, often focusing on a specific group’s behavior or specific brand behaviors. This information – gathered more at a ‘street’ level, affording a micro look at trends – can track the spending habits of teens in fashion malls, survey customers as to why they prefer one product over another, or compare and contrast the consumer behaviors or millennials and boomers. The bottom up approach often tells you the short term reaction to large shifts in S.T.E.E.P. factors.
By combining the top down and bottom up approaches, we reach what is sometimes called the ‘meso’ trend. The meso trend looks for sustained shifts in consumer values, attitudes, and behaviors, and looks at long term sustained lifestyle trends. While aligning your business to flexibly react to current trends it is important to keep your eye on the horizon, and which micro and macro trends will be sustaining influencers. In the short term we battle trends; in the long term we war with lifestyle changes.