The main techniques used to follow consumer behavior trends include reviewing media sources, conducting or perusing consumer surveys, or reviewing recent marketing research. Other ways to obtain fresh data on buying behavior are hiring a trend-watching expert, or attending trade shows. Some firms who want to follow consumer behavior trends use focus groups to probe consumers' attitudes and responses to marketing materials. Clandestine ways to spot consumer trends may involve secret shoppers, or lurking in chat rooms and monitoring social media channels. Spotting new trends may be considered an art that combines insatiable curiosity with an intense, ongoing scrutiny of newly emerging buying behavior.
Media sources and surveys typically give a broad view of the latest trends in consumer behavior. In particular, newspapers and trade journals often publish data that is of use to those who follow buying trends. For example, a trade journal serving the recreational boating industry may publish results of consumer satisfaction surveys or statistics on what model of boat is currently exhibiting a rapid growth curve in sales. This information, when combined with that from other sources, may fill in a portion of the picture of an emerging trend. In general, you will probably need many sources of data before it is safe to draw a particular conclusion.
Purchasing market research or hiring a trend consultant is generally a fairly reliable and speedy way to gain information on buying trends. Direct gathering of consumer intelligence often occurs at trade shows, where buyers may be observed responding to new products. Many companies conduct extensive polling and surveys of consumer behavior and offer this information for sale.
Clandestine methods are also commonly used to uncover new trends. Focus groups offer researchers an opportunity to probe a consumer's mind at length, while watching how a group of consumers who do not know each other react to products or marketing campaigns. Typically, participants are pre-screened and offered a modest payment in return for agreeing to share opinions with researchers. Those who conduct focus groups almost always film participants with cameras so that facial expressions and body language may be reviewed afterwards. Market researchers may pose as customers, while quietly observing customer behavior and response to store displays.
Possessing a curious attitude is a great asset in spotting new consumer behavior trends. If you are the type of person comfortable with asking others what they think of a new product, then you possess one of the most important attributes for this work. It is the job of trend spotters to question consumers, following up on what may appear to be tangents to discover the true reason for a purchase.