How to write a trends report
Trends reports give insight into what will happen in the near future. This allows businesses to prepare themselves for changes in consumer behavior or technology usage and adapt their operations accordingly. In this article, we describe how to present trends research within an organization or for a client with a written report. We cover the structure of the trend report and provide writing-style examples.
What is a trend analysis report?
A trends analysis report is used to identify future market conditions. It also helps in understanding the growth opportunities for different segments of an industry. A report on trends provides information about the key drivers, restraints, challenges, threats, and opportunities that are influencing the global market. Trends reports are used by companies to understand their competitors’ business strategies and plan new product launches or expansions accordingly.
Who uses trends reports?
Within a corporation, trend reports are typically used by marketing strategy teams to determine which products should be developed next, or by retail teams to help define future customer experience. They can also help executives make strategic decisions regarding innovative strategies.
How do you research trends?
There are several ways to go about identifying trends. Take a read of our associated article ‘What is Trends Research’
How do you structure a trend report?
No matter what your writing skills, you could borrow from our sample industry trend report as a guide but it will be better if you follow some guidelines while writing your own trend report:
1) Start with an introduction which includes background information about the topic. This should include what problem does this study intend to solve?
2) Include a methodology section where you describe the process followed to collect data from various sources especially secondary or desk research.
3) Consider adding an executive summary early in the document. An executive summary is to provide readers with a quick overview of the main points covered in the report. In addition, it gives them enough time to digest all the important details before they move onto reading the rest of the report.
4) As you commence the main section of the report where you cover the analysis of the research, start with an overview of the current landscape: consumer insights and industry status. Consider also adding an STEEP analysis here. A STEEP analysis is a framework that allows you to analyze the competitive environment within which your company operates. The goal of a STEEP analysis is to highlight emerging technological advancements, industries, and markets that could pose significant risks or offer exciting opportunities for your organization.
5) Present a set of higher level takeaways and/or recommendations from the analysis of the research. What are the larger themes that are pervasive across the trends you have identified? What is the impact on your business?
6) Support each trend identified with examples, or manifestations, of that trend. Add additional statistics and expert opinion that supports the trend. If you ran primary research during the trends research project, add extracts of supporting data here.
7) For each trend include a list of implications for the organization. Business implications could include changes in strategy, operations, processes, people, actual technology, etc. These may require further investigation into the potential impacts of these changes.
8) Consider organizing the trends around larger themes — to make the flow of the document easier to navigate. Those themes could be macro-trends, stages of a purchase path or the stage in a hype cycle — and trends could be associated with each theme or stage.
9) Finally, consider including a conclusion at the end of the trend report summarizing the major findings of the report along with recommendations based on these findings.
What would be a brief for a trend report?
The purpose for a trend report could be something like this brief given to PSFK’s consulting team by a major technology company:
Understand what’s next in digital marketing and ecommerce to not only keep up with competitive brands and manufacturers, but to leverage this knowledge to be market leaders.
What is a trends description?
A trends description is a short piece of text describing the trend. It provides context and explanation for why those trends matter to businesses today. Trends descriptions help explain why certain trends are happening now and why they might continue to happen over the next few years.
Here’s an example from a recent PSFK’s Future of Retail report:
Shoppers live in an on-demand economy with outsized expectations for convenience, attention and immediacy. Delivering on these desires alone is challenging for companies, but to do so in a cost-effective manner is even more so. The addition of automation brings two-fold efficiencies to businesses by outsourcing repetitive and time-consuming tasks, while freeing up staff to provide the much needed human touch to interactions with shoppers.
How to describe a trend’s manifestation
Describe the associated company, activity or project and make sure that there is a connection to the trend in the way you write the example.
Here’s an example from a PSFK report
INVENTORY-MANAGING ROBOTS LET STORE ASSOCIATES FOCUS ON CUSTOMER SERVICE
Discount retailer Walmart expanded its use of autonomous robots to man- age its inventory, introducing them in 50 Walmart locations. It has introduced Bossa Nova-made robots that can detect out-of-stocks items and help store associates and shoppers locate products. Automating these tasks has freed up store associates to focus on the higher level customer service aspects of their jobs. Walmart also introduced robots that can scrub the floors and plans to add automatic conveyor belts to its back rooms to automatically sort products and reduce the amount of labor needed to unload shipments of new inventory. Link
What are implications?
These can be presented as bulleted recommendations. Here’s an example of a list of implications for a trend from that same PSFK report:
- Determine how you can utilize AI in your warehouses in order to automate and streamline fulfillment to meet consumer expectations
- Analyze warehouse data using machine learning in order to identify inventory trends and gain insight into which items to restock in order to more accurately meet future demand
- Analyze order and return data in order to better understand consumer demand and reduce waste and operation costs
- Consider what repetitive or tedious tasks you can automate in order to allow store associates to focus on higher-order customer service aspects of their jobs
- Determine what pain points exist around the customer experience in order to meet consumer expectations for convenience
How else can I improve the impact of your trend report?
Use charts to illustrate trends. For instance, if you found out that more than half of your buyers were using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, then use those findings to create a chart showing the percentage of people who have access to these sites. If you discovered that most of your consumers prefer mobile devices over desktop computers when shopping online, then make sure to include this information by creating a pie chart illustrating the percentages of shoppers who shop from their smartphones versus tablets and laptops.
Present your trends in person. A trends report presentation should not only inform but also inspire action. Present it to senior management so that they understand what’s going on and where the business needs to go. You want them to see the value of investing time and resources into understanding current consumer behavior patterns.The best way to get buy-in from top executives is to present your findings as part of a broader strategic plan. In other words, show them how knowing about consumer preferences helps drive sales growth.
What companies do trends research?
Examples of trend research companies include Mintel and PSFK. Your advertising agency might have a strategy or planning department that already offers this service as part of their retainer with your organization. Also consumer goods companies will often prepare complimentary reports for their retailer partners.
Trends research is one of the most creative and satisfying professional exercises. The impact of your work can reach across your organization. Make sure to clearly define the scope of the research. This will ensure that you don’t miss any important trends! Here are some articles for further reading