Consumer & Design Trend Forecasting for Interiors…..

Mention Trend Forecasting to most people and the majority are unsure what it’s about; and those that have heard of it, well they mostly associate it simply with pattern and colour.

But, to use it so, is to almost completely waste the true value a good consumer & interiors product Trend Forecaster can add to a company’s success. There are very few business tools available that, if used well, are guaranteed to improve business performance, no matter how you measure that. The more broadly the Trend research information is integrated into a company’s activities, the greater the performance improvement will be. A results and performance uplift might be seen in production as design costs reduce, PR success increases as content marketing is improved, product ranges can be smaller and the number of ‘slow-moving lines’ reduced; sales will increase as product & service offers better match the wants, needs & desires of your customers. The story telling and content meets the same degree of success in both B2C and B2B sectors. All of this ultimately leads to better profits.

Yes, our Trend Forecasting for the interiors market will do all of that!

WHY?

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The biggest, most valuable resource that Scarlet Opus Trend forecasting gives to a product development team, manufacturer, retailer, interior designer or marketing strategy is…. ‘TIME’. The pressure on all of the business teams in any company, is significantly reduced because our trend research extends the time in which the total business cycle has, to be completed. No need to ‘spot trends’ at an exhibition(s), hope you’re right & then rush to bring your version of a product/service to market before the trend diminishes; engage with Trend Forecasting which will provide you with the same inspiration 12 – 18 months ahead of that exhibition being visited. You’ll gain more as you’ll also gain trend/consumer back stories to build your content marketing; you’ll get specific material, pattern, texture, shape & colour guidance as well as being able to explain ‘why’ this will all match with future consumer desires.

Trend Forecasting for interiors will give you a detailed view of those consumer desires up to 2 years in advance of the point at which your product should be brought to market. 2 YEARS! As a general view this could be increased to 5 years.

Imagine knowing the detail of what your customers will desire in 2 years’ time and knowing with certainty.

Research shows that company employees work more efficiently when they are relaxed & confident. Designers are more creative, salespeople convert more sales & PR events run more smoothly. If the risk associated with New Product Development or Services development is significantly reduced; your staff can focus on creating the best PR, producing excellent content marketing, targeted marketing support materials and preparing, rehearsing and enacting sales presentations that will demonstrate to buyers how well your company understands what consumers want and will pay to get.

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Dr. Robert Passikoff (Founder of Brand Keys) says of 2014:

Consumers Expect More: Over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.

This describes beautifully, the gap that consumer, business & design Trend Forecasting will fill for any company. Why then aren’t more companies engaging with Trend Forecasting? The answer might lie in these 2 thoughts:

  1. It requires taking, quite a’ leap of faith’ to engage with someone who tells you that they can ‘see your future in detail & with certainty’!
  2. It’s possible that Creatives see Trend Forecasting agencies as an external design source; instead of an external design resource.

Trend analysts, spotters, reporters, colour & trend consultants all play valuable roles; but only a Trend Forecaster can create so much time and:

  • Inspire design teams to create products in materials with textures, patterns & colours that the consumer will want to buy. It’s global social, political, cultural & natural events that influence how humans behave & want to surround themselves with.
  • Inform sales teams how to support product presentations with trend information that will help buyers to choose their products to meet consumer demand.
  • Give Marketing teams an understanding of what caused a trend to emerge & how the consumer will feel as a result. Excellent content marketing will follow and help to leverage consumer marketing by suppliers of complimentary products.
  • Identify which trends specifically suit a company and its product offer/sector; enabling a more focused product offer to be developed. A trend forecaster will identify which trend next year is best suited to ‘Bathroom’, or ‘Dining’?
  • It’s crucial to identify trends for interiors that have longevity giving manufacturing/sourcing teams the opportunity to optimise production planning.
  • Produce inspirational PR events especially for the trade press always hungry for future trend information. ‘Expert’ endorsement is gaining traction with consumers over ‘celebrity’ endorsement.
  • Design exhibition stands reflecting ‘future trend themes’ making them stand out and provide a unique ‘visitor experience’.
  • Design retail showrooms to deliver a shopping experience the consumer wants. Men & Women shop differently.
  • Assist buyers translate Trend research into design briefs for manufacturing partners; or buying guidance for retailers.

There is so much value that Trend Forecasting adds to a company’s activities in all areas that it needn’t actually, even include the obvious product development. A business with a ‘fixed’ product design can still be more successful marketing it’s products within the framework of consumer wants, needs and desires.

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It’s realistic to engage a good Trend Forecaster with the expectation that sales revenues will increase by double digit percentages, with a similar reduction in relative costs.

Contact phil@scarletopus.com Tel +44 1482 870 360 www.scarletopus.com www.twitter.com/scarletopus

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They’re Humans, Yes – “But not as we know them”!

Are we about to witness a ‘generation gap’ that’s just too big to bridge?

There’s a generation in the workplace that’s been there for quite a while. Let’s call it the Over 40’s club, or maybe the ‘Over 45’s Club’, whichever is right, the group are around that age. Now this large group of people has an awful lot of experience of business, they have gained a huge depth of knowledge about business and developed high skill levels.

They’ve all been trained, conditioned or educated (I’m not sure which and maybe it’s a mix of all 3) to do things in a certain way. This has come from the fact that the vast majority of this group of people have been through the corporate mill. The older they are (45+, 50+, 60+) then the higher their degree of formality in business (maybe life) and the stronger their belief in ‘the right way’. They’ve all picked up the ‘right way to do things’, the right language to use. Now, time to reveal, that I am in this club (Even if you chose to call it the ‘0ver 45 Club!) and I too went through corporate life experience.

zarabotat-na-bloge-livejournal-3047However, in my view, business methodologies & processes haven’t really changed since the 1970′s. Technology has made everything faster, go to a few more decimal places, and facilitate deeper analysis. I guess, doing more efficiently and to a higher degree of complexity all the things that were done in the 70’s and 80’s, but not significantly different; not much genuinely new. Whenever I read yet another business book on ‘How to…..’ it’s nearly always possible to say “good luck to the author I hope they make some money from this, but you know, putting aside the fancy words, we used to do that at (in my case Mars) back in the ‘whatevers‘ but we called it xyz!”

Recently I came across a discussion, on a social network for business, that in one guise or another, I’ve seen on there a number of times in different discussion groups. But, always started by someone who is a member of the above club! It’s usually about spelling, grammar, planning etc.

Do you believe that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ or do you think spontaneity creates more opportunity?

Now my first response was gentle enough I merely wanted to point out that the UK has become a nation of micro-business owners. Primarily driven by the fact that many people have lost their work and many young people haven’t ever been able to find any. So starting up your own and finding your own way has to a large degree been forced upon thousands. I contributed this to the discussion……

I believe that there are times when ‘getting on with things’ is best and times when a detailed activity plan assessing risks and result projections is necessary. 

For many micro-business owners, it’s best to just get going, get a little experience, and get a customer or two before you plan too much. After all, if you don’t have a customer, surely you don’t yet have a business? Unfortunately, our tired, traditional and out-dated Banks still think they know best (if it ever did) and forces ‘start-ups’ to produce a detail business plan (that most will never refer to again) in order to gain financial support. One issue with this, is that if nothing else, they drive out of the people they think they’re helping, a lot of respect for the benefits of producing a plan. 

Essential-attributes-of-a-successful-small-business-owner-256x300Of course, I understand and agree that if we’d been talking about Small to Medium Enterprises and/or larger companies, planning is essential; it ensures good communication, along with a common understanding & purpose in the company.

The first response to my comment was this…..

I see the government start-up loan scheme for young people attracting budding entrepreneurs in to business who have not thought beyond ‘I set out my stall and I will make lots of money’. Even for start-ups there are some benefits to business plan if only to get them to think about cash flow, resource planning, costing, etc. They don’t listen or bother.

Can you see how, whilst being correct as a statement looking through the eyes of the group we’ve been discussing; it may not be correct if looking through the eyes of ‘young people’?

There is a change coming. Not an evolvement, not ‘a development of’ and not a shift.

There is a significant change coming.

It’s taking longer than we trend forecasters thought it might, because the ‘over 45 club’, the banks, the corporate world is resisting it well and more strongly than we expected them to. This club is insisting on trying to re-educate, re-shape ‘the change’ into the way it should be, has always been and even the ‘right way’.

That change is being driven by the under 25′s, in fact it is the under 25’s. Things will change even more rapidly and more radical when the current under 18′s come through. You see they think differently, I mean, radically differently. Their values are very different to anything we’ve experienced before; for the first time we have a generation coming through that is REALLY something new. They won’t be forced to do things ‘the right way’, they will do things their way because it fits their ethics, values and desires.

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This group of young people value ‘owning things’ very little; they share and support each other significantly more than we ever did, or do. They consider the virtual world as real as the offline world. They ‘do’ things, review things, change and then ‘do’. Their style of communication frustrates the hell out of the ‘over 45′s club’ I’ve watched this happen in discussion groups time and time again. They speak, write & spell differently and don’t worry about things they don’t consider important.

I won’t go on; but ‘Business Planning’ as we know it is on its way out because …….. so is that ‘older persons club’! Business financing, ideas sharing/protection, work methods are all being completely re-invented. We just haven’t seen enough of it yet to realise it. But it’s happening and the over 30′s need to be aware of it and adapt to it – otherwise the market of the near future (the under 25′s now) won’t be trading with us, they’ll simply trade with each other………………….

Please leave me a comment, let me know your thoughts on this subject, your experiences and how your business is handling the prospect… or nnot! If you have any specific questions you can email me directly and now.

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Earning My Mouse Ears!

Earning My Mouse Ears

(A guest blog by Ron Baker for Phil at Scarlet Opus)

I’ve (Phil) been a huge fan of anything and everything Disney since I was a very young boy; my first ever visit to Disney World Florida wasn’t until I was 24! I took 3 kids with me so that I didn’t look out of place and stayed for nearly two weeks, mesmorised, transfixed and inspired.

Ever since then I’ve avidly read Walt’s ‘quotes’ and about his business philosphies and so when I came across this excellent use of the Disney ‘way of life’ to demonstrate customer service as it should be by Ron Baker I just had to ask him if we could share it with our readership. It’s a great read, if you learn something in doing so then that’s a bonus. Kick back and here you go……..

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.” –– Walt Disney

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Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

When Walt Disney returned home from Europe, after serving as a driver for the American Ambulance Corps (part of the Red Cross) during World War I, his father wanted him to work in his jelly factory at a salary of $25 per week. Walt was not interested, and his father, becoming perturbed, asked him: “Then what do you want to do, Walter?”

“I want to be an artist,” Walt replied. “And how do you expect to make a living as an artist?” his father queried. Walt admitted: “I don’t know.”

Indeed, Walt didn’t know how he was going to make it as an artist. Looking back on this episode now, with perfect 20-20 hindsight, the question of Disney’s ability to make a living seems preposterous. But Walt Disney understood one thing about business very well: where profits come from and what an organization has to do in order to maintain them.

WHAT EVERY BUSINESS PERSON SHOULD KNOW

Think back to your Economics 101 course and recall the three factors of production: land, labor, and capital. If land provides rental income, and labor generates wage and salary income, and capital earns interest income, where do profits come from?

When I ask this question, the response is usually, “from combining all three factors.” That’s partly true, and certainly that is the function of an entrepreneur. But it’s not the real answer.

Profits come from risk. There is no other way they could ever materialize. Entrepreneurs are society’s perennial risk takers. Some lose; some win. But profits are the result of giving to others, humbling yourself to their needs first, long before you can expect to take anything in return.

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Risk Management

It is the process whereby you put your entire fate into the hands of others—your customers—and provide them with a service that is so good they willingly pay you a profit in recognition of what you’re doing for them. Essentially, profit is an index of altruism.

Walt Disney understood this process, and he took many risks during his lifetime. Some failed terribly, while others gave him the profits necessary to build the empire that exists today.

Perhaps this attitude was instilled in Walt while he delivered newspapers on his dad’s route. Walt’s father wouldn’t allow his sons to deliver the papers from bicycles, carelessly throwing the papers onto porches. He insisted they lay the papers on the doorsteps, and during wintertime they had to be placed behind the storm doors.

Walt learned, at a very young age, the necessity of exceeding the customer’s expectations.

When I hear people say they’re in business to make a profit, I know they are chasing the wrong rabbit. If you’re in business solely to make a profit, you won’t. Profits are a lagging indicator of customer behavior.

In fact, if you look at any organization—from a nonprofit to a government bureaucracy—all of its results exist externally. The result of a hospital is a healthy patient; the re­sult of a school, an educated child; the result of a church, a saved soul; and the result of a business is satisfied customers.

The notion of “profit centers” in a business is a misnomer. There’s no such thing. Internally, in any organization, there are costs and efforts. As Peter Drucker points out, “The only profit center you have is a customer’s check that doesn’t bounce.”

A CAMPUS BUILT ON A VISION

In 1955, after the opening of Disneyland, Walt established the Disney University, the purpose of which was to train Disneyland’s 600 Cast Members (Disney parlance for employees) “to be aware that they’re there mainly to help the Guest.”

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Disney Institute

This training continues to this day, and all new Disney Cast Members attend a one-and-a-half day Traditions course. The wording is very precise. They are not “orienting” their Cast Members, but rather passing down traditions.

VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS

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Hyken

We’re all, by now, familiar with how customer satisfaction is measured:

Customer = Perceived Performance
Satisfaction Customer Expectations

I arrived at Disney Institute with very high expectations, to say the least. I had talked with a few individuals who had attended, as well as read quite a bit of good press on its programs.

As any world-class service provider knows, customer satisfaction is no longer enough to ensure customer retention and loyalty. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, 65-85% of customers who chose a new company said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their former supplier. In today’s marketplace, a company has to exceed customer expectations and achieve customer delight.

In 1996, 75% of the Guests at the Walt Disney World Resort were re­peat visitors. More than 100 million Guests have made more than 500 million visits to the Walt Disney World Resort in its 25-year history (as of 1996). Some Disney resorts have achieved a return rate of over 90%. I attended the Disney University eager to discover how they achieve these results.

OPENING SESSION

The Disney Approach to Customer Loyalty: Creating Service that Keeps Your Customers Coming Back was a new course being offered by the Institute when I attended in September 1997.

The program began at 4:30 Sunday afternoon. The 63 participants got a chance to mingle. It was a diverse group with participants from California, Minnesota, Singapore, Uruguay, and everywhere in between.

Industries such as healthcare, retail, and banking, nonprofits such as the YMCA, educational institutions, and governmental organizations such as AMTRAK, and the U.S. Air Force, were all represented.

The first two hours consisted of the program overview and introductions. Our program was facilitated by Karen Gable and Jeff Soluri, two long-time Disney Cast Members with diverse backgrounds. The Institute prefers to hire from within in order to effectively pass down the Disney traditions from Cast Members who have had front-line experience.

When Jeff and Karen asked participants what made Disney special, the stories all focused on the people aspect of Guest service. And I find this is true anytime people relate stories of extraordinary service: It’s always about the way they were treated, never about the quality of the particular product or service they purchased.

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The Disney Institute

This is an important facet of providing quality service. It’s not so much what people get, but how they get it that determines their feelings about your organization.

Disney uses the Customer Relationship Scale to illustrate this. Any organization can be placed along a continuum depending on how passive or interactive they behave with their customers:

Passive Satisfaction-based
Active Performance-based
Interactive Commitment-based

When I think about the professional firms we work with, many of them are passive. That is, they simply satisfy the customer’s need for compliance work. They do their work and get paid, never really taking the customer relationship beyond the fulfilling of a particular need. Disney says over 75% of businesses have passive relationships with their customers, and I believe that’s true of professional firms as well.

Moving into the active phase requires a firm to solicit feedback from its customers about what they want and need. Fifteen to 20% of organizations are in the active phase.

That leaves approximately 5% of organizations in the interactive phase, in which the organization develops a partnership with the customer that is so deep, it can anticipate the customer’s needs and desires. This is the level that all world-class service providers strive for. It not only requires continuous feedback from the customer on how you’re doing, but also on what they want and expect. It’s a commitment so deep it is often compared to marriage—except the onus is on the service provider to exceed the customer’s expectations, not a 50-50 responsibility.

When you start looking for this type of behavior, you realize that Disney has achieved the interactive level with its Guests. In fact, they claim that Guests are “paying consultants.” Isn’t that an interesting way of viewing learning from customers?

That’s Easy For You, You’re Disney

Probably the most profound lesson I learned was during the opening session. After the participants told stories of why Disney was special to them and how many “moments of magic” had been created for them and their families, one participant said: “Yeah, well, that’s easy for you guys. You’re Disney, and you have all this wonderful magic to spread among your Guests. It’s easier for you to do these things.”

The instructor, Jeff, responded: “No, we’re Disney because we do these things.”

Disney faces competition, government regulation, labor shortages (Orlando’s 1997 unemployment rate was a paltry 3%), union problems (Walt Disney World has over three dozen labor unions to contend with—Mickey Mouse is a Teamster!), and all of the other hassles that businesses have to deal with. The difference is Disney’s culture.

Until Part II…(to be found on Ron’s website)

I began to wonder why it is people can wait 30 minutes to get on the Pirates of the Caribbean and have a good time, but if they’re in the Post Office or bank line for more than one minute, they get irritated. What’s the difference? That difference is subtle but telling. And it has to do with whom we compete with.

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The Disney Institute

I would like you to think about whom your competition really is, and in my next post I will share more of the lessons from Disney’s Customer Loyalty course with you.

Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute - www.verasage.com  Ron’s book: Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms: http://amzn.to/1aQJxG4

 

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Let There Be (LED) Light

At Scarlet Opus we love a good infographic.  Yes. We. Do.

So when we spotted this one all about LED lighting we thought “Hey, let’s share it” … not because we have a particular fascination with LED lighting (we all know about the environmental benefits and long-term financial savings) but because we like the offbeat style and quirky wording used to gently inform, rather than the usual hard sell.  Our favourite fun reason to switch to LED lighting is number 12 – that guy is rockin’ a great moustache & cardigan combo!

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Miss P is out & about in Dubai today photographing a new retail hot spot.  She’ll be posting her findings at the end of the week – so be sure to check back soon!

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