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Trends and Forecasting

Today’s speed to market of new offerings and shortening product lifecycles place a unique pressure on businesses to stay ahead.  Consumer purchasing behavior is shifting more rapidly than ever.

To succeed, businesses need accurate sales forecasts -- based on robust analysis -- and the most up-to-date purchasing and market trends.

We deliver detailed forecasts of consumer demand for technology devices, as well as global technology market trends. 

Our forecasts are built using the world’s largest sample of point of sales data, combined with our global expertise and local knowledge. This combination provides our clients uniquely granular and timely forecasts of future demand – forecasting what products consumers will purchase, in what volume, at what price, and where.  

Forecasting for investors and capital markets

Institutional investors face pressure to perform. To succeed, businesses need visibility to significant trends at the earliest stage(s). Businesses need to acquire reliable and compliant information on where to invest. 

We provide investors with robust forecasts using the world’s largest sample of point of sales data. We predict and document turning points in consumer demand, providing regular, detailed company analyses on technology hardware, semiconductor and consumer durable companies. 

Our forecasts allow investors to make successful recommendations backed up by credible and compliant sources.

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    • 04/16/18
    • Technology
    • Travel and Hospitality
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Global
    • English

    Tapping into people’s need to take a break

    I had two friends who posted on Facebook recently within hours of each other. One had spent the day at a theme park with her family, all of whom left their phones “in the car ON purpose. Best way to enjoy the day together!” The other had been sharing many stunning photos of a vacation in Egypt; yet on the last day, she decided not to take photos but “just to see with my own eyes.” This is hardly surprising. “Experiences are more important than possessions” perpetually ranks among the highest-rated attitudinal statements in the annual GfK Consumer Life global study. It ranks seventh out of 42 statements listed. It also ranks third for teenagers 15-19 and in Canada. Taking a tech break It is certainly ironic that my friends talked about their tech breaks on social media, yet this reflects the mixed feelings many people have toward technology. Yes, it helps us do many things we could never do before, but people are increasingly recognizing its addictive nature as a real problem. This is something that we warned about two years ago when we found that Technology Leading Edge Consumers were in the forefront of being concerned about this drawback to technology. Fully 45% of global consumers belonging to this early adopter group agreed “I find it difficult to take a break from technology, even when I know I should,” 13 points higher than average. Taking a tech break can be easier said than done, of course, and going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the answer. Some brands take a hybrid approach by promoting tech use specifically to make time for real life. For example, Citi is promoting its mobile app with a cute dad-and-kids ad and the slogan “spend the moments in the moment.” The Pocket Points app motivates students to focus on classes; when they lock their phones while on campus, they earn rewards points for local and online merchants. Another approach is to take a complete if temporary break from tech. Musician Jack White has banned phones from his upcoming concert tour because he “wants people to live in the moment.” Organizations such as the YMCA and Boy Scouts encourage families to help children take a tech break. The Story Inn goes a step further with its slogan “One Inconvenient Location Since 1851.” The Inn is actually a cluster of buildings in a virtual ghost town in Indiana that offers lodgings, dining, and a venue for special events. Rooms are billed as “One Distraction-Free, Tranquil Escape” and have been converted from the likes of a one-room schoolhouse, carriage house, and grain mill. They don’t have TVs, phones or internet service. Taking a real-life break Vacations represent a different kind of break, a pause from the real life that so many people find stressful. Destinations like Walt Disney World epitomize this type of experience on a grand scale, but an infinite number of products and services can offer mini-breaks at any time and anywhere. The Rituals home- and body-care brand emphasizes the benefits of incorporating soothing experiences into everyday life. “They are the seemingly meaningless moments we all tend to overlook. Rituals unveils these moments and reminds you to experience them with joy.” L.L. Bean encourages people to “live every day like it’s the weekend.” Then there is literal escapism – the phenomenon of escape rooms, a hybrid of team role-playing and the classic locked-room mystery. Although not for everyone (such as those with claustrophobia), they can provide respite for problem-solving thrill seekers. Most people prefer more serene escapes, however. The share of respondents to a GfK Consumer Life global survey who prefer a relaxing vacation over an active one is 62%, up 7 points from 2012. Photos submitted by respondents indicate that sandy beaches top the list of places where people like to relax, followed by other outdoor venues such as forests, lakes, gardens and parks. We don’t need research to tell us that nature makes us feel good, but in fact, research does bear this out. And yes, video games provide escapism, too, but it’s important to keep in mind that most people still don’t view virtual experiences on par with the real thing. Just 30% of global consumers agree that “virtual interactions with people and places can be as good as being there in person,” ranking it #40 among 42 attitudinal statements. Conclusion Virtually every product and service can tap into people’s desire for experiences, whether they be social or solitary, physical or intellectual, tech or non-tech. The key is to understand precisely what kind of experience your customers crave. hbspt.cta.load(2405078, 'f959b7ac-800c-45ab-bd5f-350e588da27a', {});
    • 04/09/18
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Global
    • English

    A generation without a name, but not without a voice

    In recent weeks, teens and even tweens have grabbed the nation’s attention with their relentless focus on effecting meaningful change on school safety and gun control laws. When discussing these young people, media and politicians have struggled with what to label this vast generation that came of age in a post-9/11 world. Most have defined them primarily by the generations that came before them (“Post Millennial,” or “Generation Z”), while others have lumped them in with their older brothers and sisters by referring to them as “Millennials” (something that extends that generation into its third decade of birth). Regardless of what history decides to label this generation, it’s very clear based on their attitudes and behaviors that they are not Millennials, and that everyone from political leaders to marketers will need to prepare for the unique ways they will be reshaping the world in the years to come. Reshaping the world is something many of them fully intend to do – whether all of their elders approve or not. According to a poll released in late March, a vast majority of young people aged 18-24 (89%) think they can change the world – or are already doing so, even as adults over 50 say in the same poll that young people make them pessimistic about the future. GfK has been paying close attention to the ways that this age group, whose eldest members are just entering their 20s, differs from past generations. GfK Consumer Life research shows they are ambitious, highly stressed (70% say they feel stressed fairly or quite often – 2.5 x the proportion of Millennials who felt the same way ten years ago), and concerned about the future – characteristics that were not associated with fun-loving, “live for today” Millennials when they were the same age. They have big dreams for the future: 47% would like to own their own businesses – a number that jumps to 52% among girls that age. Many are old souls in young bodies, with nearly half admitting they feel older than their years. We see many of these characteristics, and others unique to this generation, playing themselves out in the students’ response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

    Their idealism is cut with a heavy dose of pragmatism

    Leading a protest movement is nothing new for young people, as teenagers led the charge in prior generations on everything from school integration, to protesting Vietnam, to apartheid, to Occupy Wall Street. But where this group of young people differs is in their ability to marry the practical with the idealistic. While they have ambitious goals, they are also practical as to the means and the timeframe in which such change may take place. They see many different ways to attack a problem – be it through changing legislation, influencing businesses, or empowering individuals – and are prepared to change tactics and regroup as necessary. And they won’t let setbacks or naysayers dampen their enthusiasm: perseverance is a core value for this group and rated much higher by them than by any older generation.

    They are digital natives, equally comfortable in tech and non-tech worlds

    With other potential generational monikers for this group being “The i-Generation” or “# generation”, it is clear that technology – and social media networks – don’t come with the same learning curve that prior generations had to address. This generation finds technology fascinating (more so than Millennials, both when they were young and today) and they are able to use it in new and creative ways. But being fluent in technology does not mean that they are laggards in other forms of communication. Those who were concerned that this screen-obsessed generation might be unable to communicate in the real world were mistaken: they also know that there are appropriate times to unplug and to focus on in-person interactions, and they understand the amplification power of mass media as well.  They are able to harness the power of virtual and real-world networks as needed, seamlessly moving from online social media campaigning and fundraising into old-fashioned face-to-face canvassing and back again.

    They will hold all of us accountable

    Young people today have grown up in a world that rarely makes them feel safe. Many of them have been participating in active shooter drills since they were in elementary school and four in ten of this generation strongly agree “I am afraid for my safety and security all the time.” No wonder that GfK Consumer Life’s data shows that a vast majority believe “we need more changes today, not less” and that they are ready to lead the march for change themselves. That doesn’t mean they are going to let others off the hook though. Both at the ballot box and in the marketplace, they will reward those whom they believe share their values, and punish those who will not – something that was seen in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting when they began pressuring businesses to change their gun sales policies or stop their support of the NRA. More than half of teens today say they are more likely to buy a brand that supports the causes they care about, higher than any other age group and two times as many as Millennials when they were the same age. And don’t think that being a high-end brand will inoculate you from this – today’s teens are less likely than Millennials, both now and when they were teens, to say that they like to buy products with prestigious names.

    They are color-blind in important ways

    This still unnamed generation is the most culturally diverse segment in US history. And GfK Consumer Life research proves that these young people place higher importance on the values of internationalism, social tolerance, open-mindedness, and equality than Millennials did at their age. They share a greater tendency to recognize and accept cultural differences, as well as a strong desire to make sure that the whole spectrum of experiences be considered. The Parkland teenagers have built bridges to other teens with very different backgrounds than their own to make sure they understand the full impact of gun violence on their generation. They ensured that voices from many different socio-economic and racial backgrounds were incorporated into their public efforts, recognizing the similar issues that united them all.

    They understand the value of money

    As the children of Generation X, a generation that itself placed “having a lot of money” as a critical aspect of both the “Good Life” and “The American Dream” (as tracked over time by GfK Consumer Life), this generation has been taught the importance of material security and having the funds you need to get things done. That is why raising money became a quick and important focus of the students, many of whom were quick to reach out to different individuals and organizations to secure the financial support needed to back their plans. This financial savvy was also demonstrated in their clear understanding of the power of the pocketbook as both a carrot and a stick when it comes to driving social change across business and the public sector.

    It’s time to adjust your strategies

    It should be clear that not only does this generation differ from Millennials in very substantial ways, but that they will place new demands on companies and institutions. Their expectations for brands are very high – as is their level of scrutiny. According to GfK Consumer Life, one quarter of this generation, compared to one-fifth or fewer of older generations, avoided a particular brand or store in the past month because they disagreed with the company’s business practices or values. Companies must appeal to them on a deeper level, whether it’s alleviating their stress about the future, making them feel safer, helping to fulfill their big ambitions, or offering to make their lives easier. However, all of this needs to be done with authenticity or else they will, in the words of Emma Gonzalez, “call BS.” hbspt.cta.load(2405078, ‘d8d08b32-120b-47cd-8cdb-bc2696057cf3’, {});
    • 03/16/18
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Global
    • English

    In a fast-moving marketplace, trusted opinions matter more than ever

    We all know them: people who we instinctively feel we can turn to for advice on a particular topic, or in some cases pretty much any topic. We trust them, we value their advice and we’re likely to act on their recommendations. In a world where consumers are more able to filter out advertising than ever before (with, for example, over half of respondents in a US survey reporting using ad-blockers online), and are bombarded with information and opinions from all sides, identifying these influential citizens and getting them on your side is more important than ever. It’s also crucial to keep up with the ways in which peer-to-peer influence is evolving. This is a topic that GfK Consumer Life (and its earlier incarnations) has been researching for many years now. It was back in the 1940s that Elmo Roper in the US undertook pioneering work for Standard Oil to identify what he termed The Influentials – the one American in ten who told the other nine how to vote, where to eat and what to buy. In those days, there was very much a social and political slant to the group, and activities that defined them included writing to an elected representative and attending public meetings. Over the years, the group gradually became more consumption focused, with the introduction of category Influentials. These groups had a particular interest in categories like automobiles, food, and healthcare.

    Understanding today’s influencers

    Back at the start of this decade, we observed that, thanks to the power of peer reviewing and social media, it was possible for anyone to be an influencer, or at least to share their opinion with the masses. Still, however, it was necessary for consumers to figure out who they could really trust from the mass of opinions being spewed around the world wide web. Perhaps as a reaction against this, we’ve seen consumers in some parts of the world become more circumspect in this regard. For instance, the percentage who express interest in other people’s opinions about what products and services to buy has fallen since 2011 in a number of mature markets around the world, including Canada, the US and most of Western Europe, according to the GfK Consumer Life annual survey of global consumer attitudes and behaviors. This could be a reflection of the realization that some of the opinions out there are less trustworthy than others. Then there’s the problem of “fake news”, which was highlighted starkly here in the UK late last year when a journalist was able to trick TripAdvisor into making his garden shed the top-rated restaurant in London. At the same time, the proportion of global consumers who often feel overwhelmed with information when making a large purchase has grown from 21% in 2012 to 30% today.

    Trusted opinions consumers can rely on

    If anything, stories such as this show that it’s more valuable than ever for consumers to be able to find trusted opinions and advice they can rely on. The latest evolution of this concept is the Leading-Edge Consumers model used by GfK. This segment is defined by factors including category passion and early adoption, as well as being influential. Understanding this group, and what makes them tick, can be a powerful tool in today’s marketing world, where brand ambassadors and promoters are highly prized. There are numerous examples of brands and companies in many sectors who have successfully leveraged the power of influencers on social media. Fashion and beauty brands, both traditional and up-and-coming indie players, find Instagram a rich seam to mine. And the huge following of younger influencers’ “unboxing” videos on YouTube led to the launch of one of last year’s hottest toys, the L.O.L. Surprise. Understanding Leading Edge consumers can help you harness the full potential of the power of consumer influence. Whether it’s talking over the garden fence to a neighbor, or reading the thoughts of someone on the other side of the world, there’s still a high value placed on a trusted voice. David Crosbie is a Director on the Consumer Life team at GfK. He can be reached at david.crosbie@gfk.com. hbspt.cta.load(2405078, '83ea0ff7-36e2-4e82-9d8c-ac8c393c742f', {});
    • 02/26/18
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Global
    • English

    The case for micro-generations: An Xennial takes on Gen X

    I was born in 1981, after the malaise of the 70’s that produced Gen X, but before the tech boom of the early 90’s that shaped Millennials. Marketers would consider me the M-word, but I never really felt all too Millennial. So I finally felt like I had a generational home once marketers started talking about a new micro-generation called Xennials. My colleague Rachel Bonsignore wrote a great piece on the viability of Xennials a few weeks ago. In fact, Merriam-Webster has included Xennials as one of the words they are watching for eventual inclusion in their dictionary. Her insights got the Consumer Life team thinking more about identifying other insights within generations. With that in mind, and in the name of science, I set my data lasers squarely onto my generational older sibling – Generation X. Indeed, an examination of Gen X (~40-53 years old) reveals many similarities across this 15-year band (well-done generational researchers, Gen X can stay). However, digging into the youngest of Gen X (age 40-44) does show some interesting differences when compared to slightly older Xers (age 45-50).

    An illustrative example: Personal values of younger Xers vs. older Xers

    Using GfK’s Consumer Life database, we looked at the personal values orientation of Generation X. Our analysis revealed that younger Xers tend to fall more into a personal values segment called “Achievers,” who are focused on material wealth and getting ahead in life. In contrast, older Xers are more likely to fall into the “Traditionalists” segment, made up of those who are more likely to value faith, tradition, and respecting ancestors. These differences in personal values orientations are important cues that marketers use for innovation and communication strategy.  For example, an Achiever will respond to messages that speak to success, wealth, and hard work. Traditionalists, on the other hand, will respond to communication themes like time-honored and heritage. These types of variances highlight the need for nuance when conducting generational research – especially in the age of big data and micro targeting.

    What do micro-generational insights mean for our work as marketers?

    Of course, a few data runs on Gen X does not a new microgeneration make, but it does mean that we need to use nuance when we think about targeting via generational insights. We can certainly continue to think broadly about a generation in 15-20 year bands, but it is also important to consider smaller age bands, life stage, and other demographic markers like income and education. In our work at GfK Consumer Life, we repeatedly uncover differences between younger and older millennials, for example, mainly due to drastic differences in their experiences with technology and the economy. So, in your next generational project remember to look for the nuance and think critically about how your larger generational target may differ within itself. It will result in more fine-tuned innovation and communication strategies. Tim Kenyon is a Vice President on the Consumer Life team at GfK. He can be reached at tim.kenyon@gfk.com.
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