product trends - Trend or Fad? What to Ask Before Choosing Your Product Line

by Chris Malta

While it's important for every online seller to keep their eyes on consumer buying developments in their product market, it's equally important for them to understand whether those development are trends, or merely fads. It's easy to confuse the two; but to source the right products for your E-Biz customers, you need to be able distinguish between them.

Short-term Thinking
"Fads are random sparks that catch on with a group of people," explains Lisa Suttora, founder of trending site WhatDoISell.com. "They come out of nowhere, burst into a full-blown buying frenzy, and then quickly fizzle out." The problem occurs when you mistake a fad for a trend. By the time you recognize a fad product's popularity and begin sourcing and selling it, that product is already on its way out. Prices spiral downward, and you end up holding a lot of inventory no one wants.

Selling fads is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Because fads aren't fueled by consumer wants or needs, there's no repeat group of customers to whom you can continually market. You may successfully supplement your regular sales with fad merchandise on occasion, but jumping from fad to fad is not a good long-term business strategy.

A Stable Approach
Trends, on the other hand, are usually the result of other past trends that have merged and developed. Based on buyer lifestyles, trends move with rhyme and reason, and tend to progress and morph over time, rather than abruptly disappear.

Upcoming trends are shaped primarily by consumer values. If you monitor the things that matter to your target market – the issues they're talking about, and the things on their minds – you'll see those ideals reflected in current trends.

Following are just a few examples:

    • Recent concern for the environment has resulted in a surge of "green" products in nearly every product category.

    • An enduring demand for the best of everything has given rise to luxury or "premium" offerings in markets from food and beverages to baby strollers to laundry detergents to RV accessories.
The advantage of working with trends is that they can be tracked and predicted. If you're carefully following the trends in your market, you're going to have a good idea of where they're going next and what products you should begin sourcing now. Because you're dealing with a target group of consumers to whom you can repeatedly sell a diverse array of products that relate to a common need or interest, you can achieve sustainable selling success.

Which is Which?
To determine whether you're looking at a trend or a fad, simply ask yourself what the reason is behind this buying development: Is there a consumer desire or need? A lifestyle change? Can you identify a trend or multiple trends out of which it has grown? If so, you're dealing with a trend. If there's no rhyme or reason (think of the pet rock), then you've pinpointed a fad and should think very carefully before investing your inventory dollars.

Understanding the difference between fads and trends is critical to your product sourcing. Following fads won't get you to your long-term goals, but you can and should build a successful e-tail business around market trends. Advises Suttora, "Study the trends in your product niche. That's how you're going to continually bring your buyers the products that resonate with their current concerns and priorities, and stay relevant to your customer base."