Trend Analysis

A trend is a recurring pattern and trend analysis is the practice of collecting data in an attempt to spot that pattern. When the user needs and behavior are changing rapidly, trend analysis is a method that can act as a window into the future demands of users. Knowing now how the needs, behavior and expectations of users will evolve, can help companies act fast and invest in research and development of products and services that can cater to those needs and expectations.

Quick details: Trend Analysis

Structure: Structured, Semi-structured

Preparation: Data for analyzing trends

Deliverables: Data charts, Documentation

More about Trend Analysis

The purpose of trend analysis is to spot a prevalent trend within a user group and/or to determine how a trend developed/would develop over time. This exercise helps identify new opportunities and ideas for concepts or products. Therefore, it is a good idea to conduct trend analysis during the early stage of the design phase.

Trend analysis as a design research methodology involves collecting data about users as well as from users. This data is then analyzed to determine a trend and is then analyzed further to determine its development over time.

However, there are times when a researcher is required to analyze an existing trend within a user group. In such cases, specific data is collected from the user groups by monitoring the trend carefully and closely to determine the cause of the trend. Determining the cause of the trend is more difficult than determining the trend. Again, certain factors such as time of day, season, geographic location, etc. must be affecting the trend and such factors must, therefore, be recorded while monitoring the trend.


Types of Trend Analysis

There are three types of trend analysis methods – geographic, temporal and intuitive.

GeographicTo analyze the trend within or across user groups defined by their geographic location.
  • Easy and reliable.
  • Helpful in figuring our commonalities and differences between user groups belonging to the same as well as different geographies.
  • The analysis is limited to geography.
  • May be influenced by factors such as culture, etc. specific to the user groups of the geography.
TemporalTo analyze the trend within or across user groups defined by specific time period(s) or change over time.
  •  Helpful in figuring relationships between user groups from different generations.
  • Helpful in predicting future events based on those of the past.
  • Historical data may not be an accurate representation of trends.
  • The trend may not be replicable.
IntuitiveTo analyze the trend within or across user groups based on some logical explanation, behavioral patterns or other elements perceived by a futurist.Helpful when making predictions not backed by large amounts of statistical data.
  • Over reliance on knowledge and logic of futurists/researchers.
  • Prone to researcher bias.
  • Most difficult form of trend analysis.
  • Not exacting

Advantages of Trend Analysis

1. Large sample sizes

The availability of data and online tools available to handle large amounts of data allow for sampling of data quickly and applying the results to a variety of situations.

2. Verifiable

The results of trend analysis are easily verifiable.

3. Accurate

In case of statistical data, the analysis is very close to accurate. The use of numbers makes the analysis more exacting.

4. Replicable

A trend analysis can be replicated, verified, altered and adjusted when necessary.


Disadvantages of Trend Analysis

1. Distortions

Historical data may not be an accurate representation of a trend.  A random event or pattern could distort overall findings and render incorrect result for an analysis.

2. Determining cause

It is very difficult to determine the cause of a trend.

3. Large sample sizes

For accurately and reliably analyzing a trend, large amount of data needs to be collected. This is both a time-consuming and costly affair.

4. Errors

A single error in recording a trend will add an error in the analysis rendering the results meaningless.

Think Design's recommendation

With the advent of big data and recent advancements in the study of unstructured data, it is easier than ever to spot trends… However, it may not be all that easy! A Design researcher would want to understand unmet needs or untapped opportunities that are informed by Trend Analysis and this is where it tends to become complex. 

If our objective from Trend Analysis is to spot something that can become a potential opportunity, it takes more than an isolated study to arrive at it. This is because movements themselves are so complex that there are several factors that may have influenced them. As a general practice, it may be a good idea to also conduct a PESTEL study along with Trend Analysis to gain access to the influencing factors. PESTEL study is a study of Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal macro-economic factors that could have impacted a business, an organization or a society. It is important for researchers to understand this in order to get a contextual know-how of what the situation would have been when the trend occurred and that will inform if the trend is something that is a long-term opportunity or an isolated event.

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