Searching for Business Trends and Trending Topics by ProQuest


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									       >the dollar sign                                                                              Marydee Ojala
                                                                                                      Editor, ONLINE

           Searching for Business Trends and Trending Topics

                             T     rend spotting is a tricky business. It’s so easy to identify the trends that will
                                   affect a business, an industry, or even the economy of a country. It’s even
                             easier to be wrong. Trends are best identified in retrospect. Give almost anyone
                             20, 30, or 50 years to look back on, and that individual will be correct in saying

“    In the real world,
     identifying trends
     involves not only
                             that a past event ushered in a trend that has consequences for today’s business
                             environment, for a company’s success, or for an industry’s decline. Those who try
                             to get it right beforehand, however, are frequently doomed to failure.
                                Want proof? Go to any publication from a decade ago and search for trends
                             in the title field. Then evaluate whether the author got it right or not. That’s a fine
                             approach for an academic exercise, but it’s not even slightly useful for the man-
                             ufacturer trying to determine which product lines should be funded and which
     research into the       should be discontinued, or for the retailer deciding what purchases to make to
                             stock the store.
    traditional literature      In the real world, identifying trends involves not only research into the tradi-
                             tional literature but also trend tracking through social media, language, and intu-
                             ition/observation. The latter can serve as the starting point to the former. The
      but also trend         literature, for example, is telling you that people want to eat healthier, but you
                             observe that people are ordering hamburgers instead of salads. What people say
     tracking through        they will do is not always replicated in their actual behavior. More research is
                             needed to resolve this anomaly.
       social media,
                             TRENDY IS AS TRENDY DOES
      language, and             When I think of trends, fashion comes to mind. Hemlines go up and down, ties
                             widen and then narrow, and colors that my mother would have said “clashed” are
          intuition/         now routinely worn together. Fashion trends can be short-lived, raising the issue
                             of whether it’s more appropriate to deem them fads rather than trends. Although
       observation.          an interesting semantic issue, it’s not necessarily germane to business research.
                                More important is to know how a business will use the knowledge it gains
                             regarding trends or fads. For a short-term project—a retail clothing store, for
                             example, adding some clothing items for the next season—selling some fad
                             clothes or accessories could be perfectly appropriate, even if the items are not
                             trendy enough to last into the next year. A long-term project, on the other hand—
                             one that requires a complete retooling and a major investment—requires more
                             thought and more reassurance that the final product will reflect a lasting trend,
                             not a fly-by-night fad.
                                                                                    NOV | DEC 2009                45
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