Do you know what your customers will think and want in five years? Predicting the future is as important as it is difficult – but it’s also just the start. Here’s how to turn predictions into industry-defining innovations.

The world is full of generic trend reports that capitalize on the need to foresee changes in consumer behavior. However, purchasing and skimming through a report isn’t enough: it takes skill to parse out the most relevant signals for your target customers. Turning the insights into product and service innovations is even trickier.

In times of rising uncertainty and increasing competition, it’s crucial that your foresight and innovation work offers concrete steps to take. Simply building castles in the air with no way of making them a reality is a waste of resources.

Deepen your understanding of shifting consumer behavior

Anticipating future opportunities is possible if you understand past trends. The tool we use, the Informed Consumer study, is an extensive research project that charts people’s values, attitudes, and motives. We’ve used the study for more than 15 years to identify changes in consumer behavior and help brands make the most of these changes when designing new products and services.

Companies are often eager to pay attention to high-level trends. Understanding their concrete implications for emerging consumer needs is where most struggle.

The missing ingredient is delightfully simple. Most companies would benefit from adding a step to their trend process and asking: so what? What does this mean for our target customers and their future? When this is done successfully, the result is more innovation directly influenced by consumer trends.

Companies need to create new products and experiences and improve existing ones to align closely with this shift in consumer preferences. As competition gets tougher, meaningful concepts and branding are more important than ever. In the future, success will be reserved for brands that can:

1) understand and predict changing human behavior, and

2) find the most relevant future scenarios to meet business targets and customer needs.

Predicting the future is far from impossible, but it’s also not enough on its own. Later this month, we’ll dive deep into how you can actively shape the future of your brand and bring meaningful innovations to life.