Product sourcing is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Too many e-tailers find a product and supplier, and think they’re done. But every product trend has a life-cycle – what your customers want today is not what they’re going to want in six months. You need to watch carefully where trends in your niche market are going, or you’ll soon find yourself sourcing products that are yesterday’s news.
See the Big Picture
There are two kinds of trending, and both are important to your retail business:
• First is trend tracking – this simply means looking at what’s popular in your market right now. This kind of trending is where hot lists and top ten lists come from – it follows what consumers are currently buying.
• The second kind of tracking is trend forecasting, or watching to see where today’s trends are headed, and what will be selling in six months or a year.
You need both kinds of trending to get the whole picture because your trend tracking is literally the pathway or stepping stone to your trend forecasting. Trends don’t occur in a vacuum, or spring out of nowhere – they’re most often just variations of existing trends and markets. You need to keep an eye on current trends, in order to understand where they’re going. That’s how you’re able to source “hot products” before they become hot.
Think Like a Consumer
How do you spot these trends? According to Lisa Suttora, of WhatDoISell.com, you need to get your thumb on the pulse of your target market: read industry publications, attend trade shows, read the newspaper, and talk to customers. Look at what your audience is talking about, what they’re thinking about, and what issues matter to them. Think about products that are related to their concerns and interests. If, for example, your customers are deeply concerned with the environment, you might think of ways to incorporate green-friendly products into your lineup.
Upcoming trends for this summer and beyond are simply adaptations of past and current trends:
• Lifestyle technology products are the result of two merging trends: everyday practicality and advanced technology. These new “smart” products take basic functionality and apply a layer of technology to it. From deadbolt locks with fingerprint recognition to intelligent ovens that can respond to verbal and online commands, this trend is impacting many different markets.
• Women-specific products are another up-and-coming trend. Manufacturers are recognizing that the vast majority of the eCommerce purchasing audience is female, and designing more and more traditional products around their unique needs. Camping gear, office supplies, and tools are just a few of the product markets whose latest offerings take women’s preferences into account.
• Outdoor living is an evolving trend, the newest adaptation being products that let consumers enjoy being outside, without sacrificing the comforts of home. People are creating outdoor living spaces, from offices to rec rooms. This trend has given rise to a whole new line of products that can withstand the elements – electronics in weatherproof casing, year-round outdoor furniture and carpet, and much more.
Put It Into Practice
These are just a few of the trends driving product innovation and demand in every market segment. Says Suttora, “As you watch the direction that buyer trends are going, think about product ideas and niches that you can apply those trends to in your own product market. That’s how you’re going to continually keep ahead of the curve in your product sourcing.”