In 2020, B2B industries are every bit as fast-moving, and liable to disruption, as B2C. This simple yet powerful framework can help you anticipate customer needs & unlock innovation opportunities - regardless of your business, product or sector.
The pandemic put the world – and most likely your business – on pause. Now it’s time to fire up again. This is a time to innovate, improve, rethink and re-imagine.
At the heart of that opportunity, though, is one fundamental question: what do your clients want now and in the months ahead?
Identifying and applying trends is a simple yet powerful way to answer that question - regardless of your sector. “There is a common misconception for example that trends have no place in the B2B space” says Marina Carbone, MD of content & marketing consultancy OYA!. “But it’s important to remember that your customers’ expectations are continuously being shaped by innovations & interactions with brands, products, campaigns & services in sectors outside of your own”. The organisations that can spot those new expectations, and serve them, will prosper.
So, what are trends? And how do you spot them?
New trends – that is, new human behaviours and expectations – emerge when a changing world unlocks new ways to serve basic human needs.
We’re all confronted by an avalanche of innovation each day, online and in the world around us. By looking at those innovations through the lens of change and basic human needs, anyone can start spotting trends.
- Whenever you see something new, ask yourself: what is changing in the world to make this innovation possible? Often, the answer will be a new technology. But it might also be a social or economic shift, or a new mindset.
- Then ask: what basic human need does this innovation serve? When you spot a cluster of those innovations – for example, a cluster of new services that use AI to allow users to save money – you’re spotting an emerging trend.
Think about the fundamental needs and wants that we all share, and that never change: security, convenience, value, status, fun, and many more. Remember, it’s those innovations that leverage a newly-emerging change in the world to serve an age-old basic human need that you’re most interested in.
Applying trend-thinking in the B2B space
A crucial point to remember if you’re in the B2B world: you can spot powerful B2B trends by looking at B2C innovation. The consumers having their expectations transformed by game-changing services such as Uber or Spotify will bring those new expectations elsewhere.
Let’s look at this in action with the AUTOMATED COMMERCE trend:
- UK-based online bank Revolut offers a clever perk to users: automated travel insurance. Users simply flick a switch inside the Revolut app, which then uses geolocation to track their travel and automatically purchase insurance when needed.
- Meanwhile, Amazon recently launched a wifi-enabled smart shelf that automatically reorders office supplies when it senses they are low.
- And Welcome is a new app that leverages AI to auto-generate relevant travel itineraries for users.
What’s the connection? Look at these examples through the lens of change and basic human needs, and a common thread becomes clear. All these services leverage smart tech (that’s the change) to automate aspects of the user journey and so make it more convenient (that’s the basic human need).
These innovations and others like them will fuel widespread expectations that all businesses put smart tech to work to automate key aspects of the customer experience. Soon enough your clients will be asking themselves: if I can automate my travel insurance, why can’t these guys – that means you! – do something similar?
DIY: stay one step ahead of your customers’ expectations
Want to leverage trends to innovate, and create new products, services and campaigns that delight your clients? Try these two simple steps:
- Whenever you see something new, take a second to ask yourself: what change is fuelling this innovation? What basic need does it serve? That habit will empower you to spot new trends.
- Then you need to act on them. Bring them back to your team and ask: what would it look like if we applied this trend?
Do this consistently, and you’ll fuel a culture of innovation that will allow you to stay one step ahead of the expectations of your customers. Which is, of course, the secret to success in any industry. So: get to it!
For more trends & cross-sector innovation examples, see The Next Big B2B Trend article, by OYA!'s innovation consultant, David Mattin first published on 01/08/2020.