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Tracking industry trends with survey data

Find the right audience and you’ll find up-to-date trends that drive your organization in the 
right direction.

What’s happening in your industry? And, perhaps more importantly, how do you find out about it? Take the workplace learning sector, for instance. If you offer learning and development solutions, you’ll probably be aware of a range of industry trends such as the increased demand for bite-sized learning, the growing use of technology to enhance learning, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) and gamification approaches. If instead you’re in the business of interior design, you might have noticed that the Mid-Century look is no longer de rigeur, while the Japandi style is booming. 

Tracking trends like this is crucial, whatever line of business you’re in. Your business should continually be evolving to leverage new technologies or processes, meet new market needs, or respond to competitor moves. SurveyMonkey’s industry tracker can help you keep on top of macro, consumer and competitor dynamics specific to your industry. 

Or, if you want to learn more, read on to learn about how to use survey data to spot trends that are likely to have a marked impact on your business. 

How to identify industry trends

Identifying the trends shaping your industry is not easy. Some trends seem to come out of nowhere. Take the trend for banana bread that exploded during the pandemic, for instance. That’s why continually tracking developments across both consumer and competitor markets is a must. Only by gathering a wide range of data will you be able to spot an emerging development. The types of trends that you should be tracking include:

  • Technology trends. For instance, most traditional apps had to undergo a complete overhaul once it became clear that voice activation was here to stay.
  • Social trends. For instance, the shift to remote work has led several companies that offer productivity software to offer integrations with the likes of Zoom and Slack. 
  • Sentiment trends. Certain concepts, ideas (and even people!) suddenly evoke mass dismay or collective interest and it's crucial to track changes in how your audience feels on a subject. Remember trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge? Sentiment towards that and similar challenges seemed to change overnight, so make sure you’re not the last to know if it's a trend affecting your industry.
  • Product related trends. You will need to continuously analyze trends in product innovations and competitor product enhancements if you’re to stay head of the curve.
  • Process related trends. In the modern, fast-paced business environment, new processes are continually being introduced that can change the way that you do business, and could lead to lower cost alternatives. Look at the customer service industry for instance. Over time, call centers on site evolved into offshored call centers, and are steadily being replaced by chatbots and armies of remote workers all over the world. By tracking trends in processes like these, you might be able to lower your costs and offset new competitors with lower cost bases.

Market research

Market research is not just something you should be doing when planning to launch a new business or product. It should be at the heart of everything you do. Markets are dynamic: new trends come and go, some stay and grow to dominate, while others quietly fizzle. Of course, if you are to respond appropriately, your first challenge is to recognize new trends, understand how consumers and competitors are reacting to them, and anticipate new ones. That’s where market research comes in. Done right—and regularly—market research will help you to:

  • Identify current market trends and anticipate future trends
  • Understand the needs, behaviors, and consumptions habits of your target audience
  • Detect disruptive innovations, processes and technologies as soon as they emerge
  • React quickly to competitors’ moves
  • Achieve strategic advantage through a customer-centric, progressive marketing strategy

Overall, by gathering market research data on new and hotly anticipated technologies, products, processes and innovations in your sector, you’ll be able to predict demand trends, which in turn will help to execute business strategy in an efficient, cost-effective and impactful way. Let’s take a look at two particular areas where market research can help you track industry trends: customer demographics and market segmentation. 

Customer demographics

Data about your customers’ backgrounds and profiles might not seem to be an obvious focus when you want to track industry trends but it's information like the age, gender, and occupations of your customer base is vital. That’s because demographic data like this adds context for industry trends you’re trying to track. Let’s say you’re in the business of music. Streaming music apps are trendy, but among who exactly? With demographic data about the customers that are keeping up with new trends—and those are more traditional—you’ll be able to craft targeted marketing campaigns that have impact. And, don’t forget that demographic data changes over time. For instance, streaming apps were first most popular among Millennials and Gen Z, but these days, their popularity has spread to older age groups. An efficient way to track changes in demographic data is to use the Data Trends feature in the SurveyMonkey Analysis tool.

Market segmentation

As we’ve explained elsewhere, to really understand your market, you’ll need to perform some segmentation. And market segmentation is crucial when tracking certain trends, such as changes in customer habits. The recent trend towards home gym equipment is a great example. Some segments of gym users, like new remote workers, have really embraced this trend, while those that are still going to the office might prefer to go to the physical gym. If you want to generate awareness of your new line of home rowing equipment, you’re probably better off  flyering homes than posting ads outside offices. So, we recommend ensuring that you know which segments you’re serving, and how to dissect those segments when tracking industry trends. 

Trend analysis

Trend analysis involves analyzing historic and current market behavior and patterns in order to learn about how trends are shifting and developing over time. This is especially useful if you already have an idea about the main factors that shape your industry. Let’s say that you’re in the fashion industry, for instance. Factors such as consumer preferences for pastels, neutrals and bright colors will all impact decisions about the fabrics you should be buying and the clothing you should be creating. And, since these preferences change over time, even season to season, you’ll put yourself behind your competitors if you don’t track these trends. If you’re lacking this key piece of the industry trend tracking puzzle, we can help. Find out how a real-life investment company tracks trends among its core millennial market using SurveyMonkey Audience.

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Benchmark data

If something is trending, interest in it is on the rise, and that means you need to establish a baseline. By administering a survey to your target audience, you can identify benchmarks of interests and preferences, against which future insights can be compared. For instance,  companies that offer automated investing know that not everyone has fully embraced Artificial Intelligence just yet—some still prefer the human touch. But, interest in AI-driven investing might rise in the future—and that’s the best time to launch an aggressive marketing campaign.  It's crucial to know the initial baseline of interest so you can detect when interest is about to spike, and when to take action. To do this, you might create a multiple choice survey question like this:

How interested are you in AI-powered investing?

  1. Not at all interested
  2. Quite interested
  3. Highly interested

Regularly gathering answers to a simple question like this and analyzing variations over time, will help you to anticipate when a trend is about to take off. And, we’ve made it easy for you, with our new Data Trends and automated Industry Tracker features.

Consumer trends

Staying competitive is all about being responsive to consumer preferences and needs. That’s why it’s important to track consumer trends. Don’t be afraid to ask customers for feedback: after all, they’re the best people to tell you what they want. By gathering information about changes in your customers’ behaviors, preferences, and interests, you’ll be well placed to satisfy them at various points along the customer journey. In particular, there are three areas you should focus your attention: consumer awareness, consumer preferences and sentiment analysis. Let's take a look at each in more detail. 

Consumer awareness

One of the things about trends is that it's sometimes difficult to tell which have the power to disrupt the entire industry, and which are mere fads.. For instance, let’s say a new piece of technology has been launched which could significantly improve customer experience—or it could be an expensive waste of cash. Should you immediately capitalize on it, or wait and see what your competitors do? Tracking customer awareness of the new technology will be vital in informing your decision about whether it's a worthwhile investment. You might administer a survey to determine whether customers have heard about the technology, how they’ve heard about it, and to determine their perceptions of it. Tracking consumer awareness of new trends can help you identify which trends are worth responding to, and which are just a flash-in-the plan. 

Consumer preferences

If you want to satisfy customers, you’ll need to know what they want. However, customer preferences are dynamic, which is why you need to track those preferences over time. One way to do this might be to provide a link to a customer feedback survey on every customer receipt which asks customers whether they found everything that they needed while shopping with you, and if there’s anything else they need. By regularly evaluating the responses, you’ll be able to detect changes in customer demands and needs. 

For instance, in some of our own consumer trend research, we found that while fitness trends like Barre, suspension training, and HITT seem to be dominating the magazine pages, most customers still prefer traditional activities like walking, swimming, and cycling. This is useful knowledge for gyms when deciding what kinds of classes to offer. Alternatively, you could automate data insights by using our Industry Tracker to regularly capture shifts in what customers want—so you can respond to those changes rapidly.

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Sentiment analysis 

Sentiment analysis is used to explore your customers’ perceptions of you—and your competitors. A straightforward but powerful tool, sentiment analysis essentially classifies qualitative statements into three categories:

  • Positive sentiments are those that reflect pleasure, joy, satisfaction or happiness with you, your products or your services
  • Negative sentiments are those that evoke dissatisfaction, annoyance or displeasure
  • Neutral sentiments are typically facts that convey neither positive nor negative views

By tracking sentiments  towards a new trend, you’ll have a good sense of whether or not to respond to that trend, and how. For instance, if you find that consumers are typically expressing positive sentiments about a competitor’s new product enhancement, then it might be time to think about making improvements to yours. As we’ve discussed here, sentiment analysis can be applied to online data, like product reviews and feedback, but it's also very valuable for surveys that capture qualitative data, such as through questions that require open-ended or essay style answers. Applying sentiment analysis to survey data can help you to answer questions such as:

  • Are customers unhappy with a price change your competitor just made?
  • How do people feel about the growing use of influencers in marketing campaigns?
  • Is the increasing use of customer support bots reducing consumer satisfaction?

Competitor analysis

Understanding what your competitors are doing and how they’re responding to certain changes in the market is a crucial part of industry trend analysis.  For example, observe the growing popularity of food delivery apps like Uber Eats and Postmates, even for high end restaurants. If you’re a fine dining restaurant, you might be interested in questions like: how many other competitors are participating in these apps? Which apps are most and least popular in my area? Will I lose business if I don’t participate? And the best part is you don’t need to get this data directly from your competitors: you can survey your customers. Asking them about the kinds of apps that they use (and don’t use) and which other restaurants they’re ordering from will give you critical insight into the performance of your competitors, and the way in which they’re responding to new trends, which will help you shape your own decisions and strategies.

Competitor analysis can also help you to identify new trends that your competitors have discovered before you. In this comprehensive guide, we show you how to use competitor analysis tools like SEMRush to monitor changes in your rivals’ online rankings—which could indicate that they’re making new competitive moves. 

Get ready to track your industry trends

So, tracking industry trends is crucial to keep you ahead of the pack and responsive to new developments in your market. To learn more about how to track data trends right inside the SurveyMonkey platform, read our guide about introducing industry trends. Pressed for time? Let us do the legwork for you. Contact us today to get set up with SurveyMonkey’s Industry Tracker.

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Global survey panel

Collect market research data by sending your survey to a representative sample

Research services

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Expert solutions

Test creative or product concepts using an automated approach to analysis and reporting

Get started with your market research

Global survey panel

Collect market research data by sending your survey to a representative sample

Research services

Get help with your market research project by working with our expert research team

Expert solutions

Test creative or product concepts using an automated approach to analysis and reporting

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