The more your business knows about the social trends that affect your community and your industry, the better you'll be able to target your marketing efforts and tailor your products to fit a shifting landscape. Some social trends, such as immigration, influence the demographics of your customer base so you may be working to appeal to a different pool of neighbors than you appealed to a decade ago. Other social trends, such as almost universal reliance on smartphones, influence the behavior of potential customers, forcing you to develop tech-savvy marketing strategies. Whatever the trend, it's best to learn and adapt while also staying aware that these trends will continue to shift, making new innovations eventually outdated.
Understanding the Demographics
The demographics of your customer base is its makeup in terms of age, race, nationality and gender, along with other characteristics that can be statistically measured. While it may be counterproductive to simplify and profile different demographic categories — for example, assuming that all women will be interested in wearing high heels — you will most probably design a product differently if it's targeted toward men or toward women, or toward customers over 65 versus potential customers under 20. Shifting demographics is a social trend that will undoubtedly affect your business, so stay current on demographic research and keep your offerings relevant.
Observing Tastes and Trends
Tastes and trends are more fluid social influences than demographics, because they reflect personal preferences, which are more likely to change according to whim. But the seriousness of some trends should not be underestimated. A consumer preference for sustainability in everything from product sourcing to energy efficient manufacturing is a trend that has proven to have staying power and is unlikely to change as environmental awareness continues to grow. It's tricky to change your products to accommodate fleeting trends such as a preference for red shirts over blue ones, but it makes sound business sense to recognize and adapt to longer term trends.
Continue to Innovate
Regardless of the specifics of the social trends that affect your business, your company will always operate in a changing environment. Even if your business has built its reputation on qualities such as consistency and longevity, your customers may value these qualities differently in social and political climates that are increasingly less predictable. Whether your business changes rapidly in response to social trends or responds to them by cultivating consistency, it is useful to know how social trends are evolving and how you can respond to them with your products and marketing strategies.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.