If you’ve been keeping up with the business news recently, it’s all looking a bit depressing for the British high street. Woolworths are long gone, Poundworld are in receivership and sales are dropping almost everywhere. You may wonder what this has to do with trending topics. Well, whilst economic factors will always play a big part in people’s shopping habits, so do trends.
It could be easy to feel gloomy when you’re a small business watching giants struggle. The good news is that you have an advantage. You can spot what’s trending in your industry and set to work. You might invest a bit of time in a failed experiment but at least you can try and test it quickly and at relatively low cost. In the current climate the companies that are most likely to survive are the ones that innovate.
Who doesn’t love a bit of online shopping? I certainly do. My groceries arrive at my door in a refrigerated van every week. It means that I don’t have to spend my precious free time dealing with weekend trolley rage or shouting at my kids for playing with the displays.
I can have clothes, birthday presents and books delivered to my door so when I actually venture to a shop it’s because I’ve chosen to. The brands that allowed customers to shop online are now the ones that are surviving. They’ve built trust and developed systems that work.
Bricks and mortar
As much as we love shopping on the internet, sometimes you want a proper shop where you can browse. If I do clothes shopping online it’s generally because I know what will fit. When I want to support a new local shop I prefer to go in and try things on.
I was also pleased to hear that there’s been an increase in the number of independent bookshops for the first time since 1995. You could lose me for hours in a bookshop. The independents that are thriving are the ones that offer something different from the big chains. They can’t compete on price so they offer a more personal service. Some now have licenced bars and others simply offer interesting titles that the larger chains don’t.
How do you know what’s trending?
Keeping up to date can be a job in itself. Just do what you have time for and consider whether something that’s trending could work for your audience. Ultimately, a trend is only useful if it helps you to help your customers.
You can read trade journals, the business pages and relevant blogs. You can watch videos and listen to podcasts. Some of my most useful insights come from conversations I have with my customers or at networking events. It’s not always about asking them what they want. After all, Henry Ford is reputed to have said that if he’d asked people what they wanted before creating the car, they’d have asked for faster horses.
How do you use trends in your business?
When you keep an eye on what’s trending you can anticipate what your customers are going to need and how you can deliver. For example, there’s been an increase in the number of people buying music on vinyl. The shop owners who saw that coming will have been ready to meet the demand.
The same applies when you’re creating content. I still write blogs because a lot of my customers prefer reading to watching videos. Some have small children or tiny babies who will either climb all over them or be woken up by a noisy video.
How do you keep up with trends? Or do you ignore them altogether? Leave a comment and let me know!
This piece from the Guardian tells you more about how independent book shops are competing with the big brands.