How to capitalise on business trends

In business we are mainly concerned with the “here and now”. The future is a dream, but the present a reality. The reality is that the world is changing daily. New discoveries, political decisions that affect the macro-economy (e.g. interest rates, exchange rates), as well as socio-economic consequences have an impact on people, economies and businesses.

Would it not be good to have a kind of crystal ball to make the future more “tangible”? This is the area of trend analysis.

According to the Business Dictionary, a trend is "a pattern of gradual change in a condition, output or process". This gradual change can have an impact on your product or service, as well as the way in which you do business. Consider how the digital media (internet, blogs, email, Kindle, smart phone, tablet) are changing the printed media (newspapers, magazines, books).

Where can I obtain information on trends?

There are several sources. I use for an international perspective on consumer behaviour, and for a longer-term South African view. You can also find very useful information in newspapers, magazines and TV programmes. Look at what is advertised, who the new role players in your industry are, and what they are offering clients that is different to your value proposition. Also look at what the discussion focus of the day is.

How do I respond to trends?

Here is a 5-point process you can follow:

  1. Identify the trends that could have an impact on your industry and business.
  2. Classify the trends as opportunities for or threats to your business.
  3. Conduct a further investigation to understand the trends better.
  4. Determine your response (the “what”) to the trends.
  5. Plan your response (the “how”) to the trends.

Trends do not give a precise prediction of the future, but rather serve as guide-posts to help us to prepare for a future that will differ from today.


The content in this article was provided by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market. Sanlam is a diversified financial services group, headquartered in South Africa, operating across a number of selected global markets.

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