Consumer trends are always evolving in this fast-paced world. New trends are shared, picked up, and shared again at lightning speed, crossing industries, and geographies faster than ever before thanks to social media, influencers, disruptive competitors, and more. Picking up on these cascading trends early is crucial, as innovation is key to a brand’s success, and being first to market with a new, on-trend product can be a significant advantage.
Trends in your own category are likely already on your radar, but what if the next big trend is emerging in a different category and just preparing to cascade into yours?
How will you find it?
How to identify cascading trends
Shifting your perspective is key to identifying cascading trends. Focus on your end consumer rather than a brand, product, or category. What’s trending with your customers in other parts of their lives? The attributes that resonate with them in one category may become so important to them that they look for other ways to access those attributes in their daily lives.
For example, if you notice that more consumers are talking about and searching for beauty products for sensitive skin, it’s logical that laundry care products for sensitive skin would also resonate.
Embedding this kind of perspective shift into your organizational structure can ensure your brand always puts the consumer first. Consumer and Market Insight (CMI) and portfolio teams are perfect for this, as they routinely participate in cross-category trend-spotting. PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food, beverage, and snack companies, built a portfolio team in order to get a more holistic view of the entire food and beverage ecosystem.
Abby Finnis, Senior Director of PepsiCo’s Portfolio Insights and Analytics team, explains why this type of team is so important: “It’s hard to ignore how dangerous tunnel vision has become in today’s landscape of rapid fragmentation and proliferation, coupled with consumer sophistication. We set off to build a solution to make projecting the sideways view core to portfolio innovation planning.”
Creating an intentional, organizational focus on the consumer is a good start. But to keep up with rapidly changing consumer preferences, you need to incorporate data analytics, too.
Identifying cascading trends with Skai
Skai has two unique benefits that help consumer goods brands identify cascading trends early:
Context extraction. Extracting content and classifying it all using the same methodology and taxonomy values (e.g., using a single common language across all data sources) makes it possible to find connections across categories, products, and more.
Here’s an example: Skai can analyze consumer reviews of food data to identify positive consumer statements like “brightens my spirits”, “happiness that you can eat”, “comfort food”, and “pick me up”. Each of these varied descriptions are all assigned the same taxonomy value of “improves mood” – which can be searched for and analyzed across all categories, even as the original consumer statements themselves may differ based on product.
Comprehensive category coverage. Skai tracks trends across 50+ consumer categories, collecting granular data that makes it easy to compare attributes across multiple categories at once.
Following the example above, it would be simple to compare human food category attributes that “improve mood” against pet food category attributes that do the same thing. Once we identify the mood-improving attributes – ingredients, textures, health claims, and more – in one category, we can explore whether these attributes are poised to begin trending in other categories as well.
At Skai, the process of discovering potential cascading trends is both an art and a science, so no two investigations are exactly alike. However, we generally follow three steps:
- Conducting a correlation analysis to see which other, unrelated categories have the most potential for influencing cascading trends into our primary category. Our analysis of product offerings, consumer discussions, and key opinion leader content identifies similarities between overlapping attributes, values, and trends across categories. The higher the correlation, the more potential for trends to cascade.
- Identifying relevant topics that are emerging in the influential categories. Analyzing key opinion leader discussions, consumer discussion growth, and more can reveal emerging topics and early signs of innovation.
- Creating a ranking model that scores the relevance of each topic to our primary category. This kind of data-driven analysis reveals which trends are most likely to cascade along with white space opportunities for brands and categories as a whole.
Another interesting tactic we use is to reverse-engineer a trend that’s already cascaded. By looking back at historical data, we can map out exactly how and when a trend crossed categories in the past. Then, we can compare those results and factors to the current landscape to see how that data confirms the results in our ranking model.
Examples of recent cascading trends
From man’s best friend to furbabies: human trends cascade into the pet sector
Skai’s correlation analysis for a leading pet food brand revealed that pet owners are increasingly treating their pets like children. This new attitude includes a shift in perspective on pet food: that it’s not fair or right to feed pets anything that’s lower quality than what the rest of the family eats. As a result, human food trends have officially cascaded into the pet sector, with demand for specialty products – think gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo foods – on the rise in tandem with human food trends.
Organic products are bound to trend soon, too: consumer discussions around organic products in the baby food category are at full pitch, while they’re just beginning to increase in the pet food sector. Parallel benefits in both baby and pet categories, coupled with our cultural treatment of pets as children, indicate that this trend will cascade fully soon.
Beverages with surprising benefits: cascading trends between product types in the same ecosystem
A major food and beverage brand was interested in exploring how trends could cascade throughout the diverse world of traditional and emerging products in the beverage category. Skai analyzed the benefits and features in seven beverage types to discover which attributes were likely to cross beverage types and create potential for new product development.
Analyzing consumer discussions, key opinion leader content, current product offerings, and sales figures painted a complete picture of what was on the market, what consumers and experts were thinking, what trends had already been established, and what the white space opportunities were. The results of our analysis indicated some interesting trends that were ready to cascade, including:
- Non-juice beverages containing fruit pulp
- Coffee and tea products enriched with vitamins and minerals
- Juice products with exercise recovery benefits
Combined with other data signals, these nascent trends could point the brand towards product development and messaging changes that would resonate with consumers.
Interested in exploring cascading trends for your own consumer brand or category? Contact us for a personalized demonstration.