Megan Murphy Emerging trends from today's rapidly changing world, and how they impact the products we build for tomorrow

Automatic Summary

Using Trend Forecasting to Shape Tomorrow's Tech

In this fast-paced world, it's easy to get caught up in the immediate demands of our jobs and daily life. But one key aspect we often overlook is the importance of understanding emerging trends and their potential impact on the technology and products we build for the future. In this blog post, we delve into the heart of a thrilling talk given by Megan Murphy, the Director of Product Management at Hoar, on the relevance of trend forecasting in today's rapidly changing world.

What is a Trend?

"A trend is the direction in which something tends to move and has a consequential impact on the culture, society or business," says Murphy.

For example, if we consider Google search data about the 'taco cleanse diet' and the 'circular economy' over a 10-year period, we see completely different trajectories. The 'taco cleanse diet', despite a short rise to popularity, soon fizzled out, thus, it does not represent a trend. On the other hand, the 'circular economy' concept shows steady growth over the decade, indicating a true trend. These observations illustrate how understanding and identifying trends goes far beyond mere fad or passing hype.

Recognizing and Forecasting Trends

Spotting signals: A signal is an indication of a situation, like a product launch, a press release, or an announcement. It represents a point in time where something significant occurred.

Drawing patterns: By finding the common denominators across different signals, we can start to draw patterns - connections between various behaviors, sentiments, or legislations.

For instance, understanding the signals around the rapid growth of co-working spaces, the popularity of co-living spaces, and the concept of 'co-eating' helps us identify the trend of people seeking to live, eat, and work individually but not alone. This trend might be referred to as Individually Together.

The Importance of Identifying Trends

By understanding and identifying trends, we equip ourselves better to make pertinent decisions about what technology we build and why. This is crucial in maintaining a lead over competitors, appealing to rapidly changing customer expectations, and ensuring survival in the inevitable face of change.

COVID: A Catalyst for Change

Murphy argued that COVID-19 can be seen as a catalyst for change - accelerating some trends while deflating others. Here are two examples discussed:

1. Extending customer relationships beyond immediate monetization: Brands like Equal Parts, a premium cookware retailer, have continued investing in customer relationships through innovative services such as their 'text a chef' service.

2. Improving the experience of remote work: Companies like Springworks have begun covering internet expenses and providing office chairs to their employees working remotely. Investments like these by companies indicate an improved remote work experience for both employees and employers.

Wrapping it Up

"But there's a huge problem with... neglecting the signals around [our product]. Because if we're gonna survive, we have to understand how trends take shape around us and plan for the consequences of those changes," says Murphy.

By understanding signals, patterns, and trends, we can make better decisions about the future of technology, business, and society. The current COVID situation only emphasizes the need to recognize catalysts for change and adapt accordingly. In the end, it's all about being able to adapt and anticipate changes – being Individually Together in a rapidly evolving world.

In conclusion, trend forecasting is more than just a tool; it's an essential skill for making better decisions and preparing for the future. So, whether it's COVID or the next big catalyst for change, let's not forget to keep an eye out for the signals, understand the patterns, and forecast the trends that will shape our tomorrow.

Video Transcription

The next talk will focus on crucial signals of emergent trends today that will affect the why behind which technologies we build for tomorrow? Min, the speaker, Megan Murphy, director of product management at hold job.Her, her session title is Emerging Trends from today's rapidly changing world and how they impact the products we built for tomorrow. Hi, Megan and welcome.

Hello. You can see and hear me. Right.

See and hear you very well. Perfect. I will leave the stage to you. Enjoy. Have fun. Thank you.

Great. Thank you. All right. Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Good morning, good evening. Wherever you're joining from, my name is Megan Murphy and I lead the product team at Hoar, but I'm here today to talk to you about something a bit different trends and how they contribute to the technologies and products that we that we built. So first, what is the trend? Is it the latest fashion drop? Is it a new diet that explodes into popularity? Is it come? Is it what comes from crystal balls and tarot card readings? No, it's more straightforward than you might think a trend is the direction in which something tends to move and has a consequential impact on the culture, society or business. This makes sense because we would call this a trend line, meaning that it moves in a clear direction.

Sure, it might have some peaks and troughs on a micro level. But when you zoom out, we can clearly see the direction it's going. So for the rest of this talk, we'll define a trend as the sustained manifestation of change. Let's use the previous example of the taco cleanse diet and yes, this exists, people were swept up in a short lived craze to eat everything in a tortilla in 2016. And as we can see from this search query data, it came and went pretty quickly. This is not a trend line. Meanwhile, let's take a look at another subject, the circular economy over the same 10 year period, we can see some slick Google dips. Sure. But the global interest in the circular economy has been on the rise for the last decade. So through a quick example here on search interest, the taco cleanse diet is not a trend, the circular economy. Yes, great. So now that we share a common definition of the word trend, what do trend forecasters do? Well, they keep a pulse on seemingly everything out there from daily headlines to what's being sold on local streets to the launch of new investment funds and what's uploaded on product hunt today. And they're not doing this in isolation either they're looking far and wide across different populations and geographies, new business sectors and where they're emerging and how different generations behave and communicate.

So moving forward, we'll define trend forecasting as an inherently evidence based approach to paint a picture of what the future is likely to hold through systemically organizing and assessing inputs around us. So how do they do it? Well, first trend forecasters spot signals, a signal is simply an indication of a situation. A discrete event like an announcement, a press release product launch. It's a moment where we can pinpoint that something happened. Then they connect seemingly disparate signals by finding the common denominators among them, which they used to draw patterns by connecting patterns across behavior, sentiments, legislation or any other plane forecasters can start to articulate trends. Let's look at an example and we're gonna move quickly here.

So get ready for a rapid trend analysis starting with signals. As of yesterday, there were 49 co-working spaces in Barcelona. This is a prime example of the 9000% increase in global co-working spaces in the last 15 years. In fact, there are even market indices out there that specifically track investment, mergers and acquisition activity in the co-working sector. In our next set of signals. We see a VOX article in 2019, declare that Coli is the new having roommates in October 2019, the largest Coli space in the world opened in London's Canary Wharf with 705 units. And in the same year, commercial real estate magnate Cushman Wakefield assessed the coli space as a $550 billion industry. All right. Final set of signals we see taken a Helsinki eating experience that opened in 2018 for people to eat their take out food. So they would order from anywhere in the city, go to this place and eat their meal in the company of others doing the same. Next, we have mukbang, a concept that started as a niche interest of watching people livestream themselves eat. In fact, the term mukbang combines the words for eating and broadcast in Korean, which is where this started. And over the last decade, it's exploded across cultural boundaries.

There are now live streamers eating on every continent and tens of millions of people tune in every month to participate in this form of gastronomic voyeurism. Streamers are even earning over 100 grand a year by broadcasting themselves eat. And finally, we have lent a Moroccan restaurant in Vienna and during certain hours they host meetups of solo diners who go there to eat by themselves around other people. So if we're to think of these signals in isolation, they might seem kind of random. But if we start to look at what they have in common, we'll see some patterns emerge co-working, of course, but also coli and co eating. And if we zoom out a bit further, the common thread among all of these patterns, people want to live, eat and work individually but not feel alone. They want to break free from the conventions and communities they inherited. Um But do so in the like mi in the company of like minded people and a self selecting network. So we might refer to this trend as individually together. Evidently, there's much more to trend forecasting than the basics I've shown here. And identifying a trend is really just the beginning. Trend forecasters will apply other techniques to try to paint a clear picture of what the future is likely to hold. They dig into data to see where a given trend is on its adoption curve.

Is it with the innovators or has it already swept the late majority? They build out scenarios creating base best and worst case models to see how far the trends effects might spread. And they discover the underlying drivers of trends through ethnographic research to see what really motivates the sustained manifestation of change. Ultimately, trend forecasters are identifying opportunities for us to cope with the only thing in this world that's inevitable change.

Because if we're gonna survive, we have to understand how trends take shape around us and plan for the consequences of those changes. Now, why does all of this matter? What does it have to do with technology and the work of us, the people who build it? Well, I believe the answer is all the things I would argue that organizing and making sense of the signals around us has everything to do with tech because it better equips us to make decisions on what we build. And why if we use an Eisenhower matrix to frame how we evaluate decisions, we can plot importance on the Y axis and urgency on the X axis. Now, no matter what our roles are, whether it's product engineering growth, data design or any other area of a modern tech company, we constantly need to prioritize how we invest our time in order to make sure it's spent on building the right things. The easiest decisions are usually for things that are both important and urgent because something's on fire or there's a compliance deadline fast approaching prioritizing. These is usually not super hard and it's not debatable, urgent but not important issues are similar to household chores, we know it might need to be done.

But if it's not particularly gratifying to me and my team, we might try to find another one to do it and not urgent. Not important issues should be some of the easiest for us to decide what to do with meaning, don't do them and move on, but they often linger around for various reasons. Like something seems to be a quick win even though it might not drive a business outcome or someone with a nice title is emotionally attached to an idea, we should be able to quickly quash those ideas and finally important but not urgent decisions. These are usually the hardest for us to act on because there are always plenty of things to do to keep the lights on issues, to resolve stakeholders to update metrics to log. But there's a huge problem with this because whether we realize it or not on a day to day basis, there is a ticking clock on all of our businesses. A reality that extends far beyond modern software companies. By the way, even if what you offer has a strong grip on product market fit the incumbent position is not an internal state for anyone.

Remember, these household names, customers needs are evolving every day and so many external influences shape their expectations that no matter how well your solution solves customer problems right now. If your business neglects the signals around it, then by the time this alarm clock rings, it might be too late. Now, if we take another quick look at our urgency and importance matrix, let's focus on the upper right quadrant because I believe that through a trend forecasters lens of systematically organizing and assessing signals, we're better equipped to focus on important but not urgent decisions that help prepare our products and technologies for the future.

So what about the elephant in the room? COVID? What happens now? What happens to the signals and patterns we just discussed and how does this relate to my business and my tech products? Well, we can think of COVID as a catalyst for change, an accelerator, it'll give oxygen to some trends, helping them thrive and it'll deflate others that won't survive. Let's apply this to a few examples. First, we see COVID acting as a catalyst in extending customer relationships beyond immediate monetization. Some signals here in the B to C space equal parts. A premium cookware retailer has continued investing in its customer relationships through a text, a chef service via S MS that allows anyone to contact them for free during prime grocery shopping and cooking hours for advice on new recipes, meal prep or even tips on how to salvage a burned dish.

They're playing the long game and investing in keeping an open dialogue with potential and existing customers. Consumer brands like by a London based beauty brand aren't just keeping in touch with their customers. They're putting them front and center featuring morning and night beauty routines from within their community.

In fact, this was a request from their customers in an Instagram poll where Bay asked followers what they wanted to see more of not only is by shining the spotlight on their customers, they're also building ties within their community, provoking conversations between those customers about tips and techniques and using their products.

Meanwhile, on the B to B side A recent article highlights that payment terms are swinging wildly, especially in travel, in industries hit hardest like travel and retail for the brands who can pull through and survive COVID, maintaining relationships and potentially receiving payments for goods and services you already delivered will require more trust and confidence in the relationships with your partners than under normal circumstances.

And tell that a platform that offers supply chain management financing. They recently announced that the use of their financing capabilities is up over 200%. Meaning that buyers are borrowing money and paying interest to fund their normal business activity instead of depleting cash reserves.

So how can you plan and prepare for your product to foster long term customer relationships that might not be monetized today? Well, go where your customers are. Are they on Twitter? Trustpilot? Find where they're most vocal and see what they're saying about your product and your tech.

If you find feedback related to something you've already actioned, tell them, reply to their tweets or reviews, they'll appreciate that you're listening and paying attention. It might not mean that you, they make another purchase immediately, but they'll remember that you took the ti time to engage in dialogue which usually bears fruit and how likely they are to recommend your product or tech to someone else, create touch points with your customers to extend the reach of your relationships beyond product.

This can stretch way further than long form content. What about featuring customers as guest contributors or doing social media takeovers or creating experiences that complement your product like a Spotify playlist, you can foster a stronger sense of community by drawing people in through a bunch of different textures, just make sure it's the right medium for your audience.

The goal here is to keep enga engaging with them even when they can't afford to necessarily buy today. And do you offer all of the payment methods that your customers are using in consumer tech? Find out if methods like apple Pay or paypal are popular with your target customers in B to B tech. Keep in mind that financing invoices is a reality today. This could be an opportunity to offer seller based financing, offering lower interest rates than lenders might and you can better retain customers by preventing technical turn, which is when a customer stops paying you unintentionally. Like for example, if their credit or debit card expires be proactive, reach out to them even consider offering a grace period for a one month. Don't worry about it, payment failure, of course, assess your risk tolerance. But keep in mind that offering these, this kind of flexibility to customers will show them that you're there for them. Now, the second example COVID is a catalyst for wait. No remote work is not new in Woody. Leonard's 1995 book, The Underground Guide to Telecommuting a line he wrote went about as viral as it could 25 years ago. Work is something you do, not something you travel to and look at that.

Woody was ahead of his time, not just in remote work, but also in his choice of pink. Anyway, let me rephrase about this point on remote work. COVID is a catalyst for the improved experience of remote work for both employees and employers. Let's see some signals in the last six weeks, we see tech giants like Google and Shopify announce that employees can purchase up to $1000 in equipment to work from home and it's not just Silicon Valley taking care of its employees. Spring works is covering internet expenses and sending office chairs to all its bangalore based employees. And on the B to B side, announced a seed round of $11 million in VC funding. They manage global payroll compliance taxes and benefits for fully remote companies who whose employees live all around the world. And finally, we have home base another fresh start up in the B to B area. They help employers give a great first impression to employees who are newly remote, supplying peripheral devices like headsets, sustainably produced office supplies and paper goods and comfort items that delight employees like employer branded t-shirts and gourmet coffee from local roster.

So through our trend forecasting lens, how can we act on these signals indicating an improved remote work experience? Well, whether your team starts working fully remotely and you go all in or even if it just makes post COVID work from home policies, more flexible, you can look to the innovators in this space. Plenty of fully distributed companies are out there. They've been providing home office equipment, benefit packages for years. Ironing out the logistics of fully remote onboarding and off boarding. Basically look to the ogs and see what they've been doing to pick up from where they've left off. Understand the trend drivers behind your team's expectations about remote work. Borrow an activity from the design thinking playbook. It's called Hopes and Fears. It uses a neutral facilitator like a colleague from another department to facilitate a dialogue for your team and just ask them plainly, what are your hopes about working from home? What would make you most productive and focused and collaborative? How can we support you if anything were on the table and what are your fears, your concerns about being physically separated?

Even if you can't give them the type of budget that Google provides or the remote onboarding experience that home base gives, you can still connect the dots and identify patterns and what your teams expect from you in order to do their best work and broaden your lens of competition.

It's not just about who's trying to win over your customers and make for a more competitive market. It also makes it more challenging to retain talent. If your company is a leader in its category in Atlanta, but hasn't adapted to provide a comfortable productive work from home experience to employees who want to take advantage of it, then your talent could start churning to find similar employee from your main competitor in Dublin, something that might have seemed far fetched just a few months ago.

COVID acts as a catalyst in so many ways and it would take days to do justice to the signals that are emerging every day from our willingness to discuss the state of our mental health more openly and without or at least with far less taboo to our opportunities and abilities to connect with less tech savvy loved ones from afar to changing our tolerance for increased surveillance and the lower importance we might place on biometric privacy, even if just temporary, all of these changes, all of these signals are out there.

So in wrapping up, let's connect all the dots and make sense of what we've covered through a trend forecasters lens. We can pay more attention to the signals patterns and trends around us. This helps us understand how trends shape our customers needs and expectations in ways that are outside of our control by thinking through the consequences of those trends and the ways they might impact our business. We can better focus on the important but not urgent decisions that confront us.

And we need to recognize catalysts for change, whether it's a global pandemic that freezes human activity and modern society as we know it or the long overdue changes, we need to make the that we need to make in order to weed out systemic inequality and injustice because this will help us adapt survive and continue to outsmart that ticking clock.

So we'll end here with one more thing individually together. It's how we articulated the trend after reviewing our first set of signals and patterns, it also encapsulates the COVID experience for a large part of society. And it's how we're all here today, thousands of women in technology and our allies around the world in this conference all here in one moment individually together. Thank you.

Wow, that was so cool. I really love that. Thanks for mentioning me tech network and so many like I was like, I needed a little bit of time to digest what you've been saying. I need to watch again your presentation. There are so many interesting and good points and I wanted just to take notes of them, but you were so you know, into the flow of the talk. Thank you very much. I do. Uh My main takeaway is that we need to recognize catalyst for change in order to be able to adapt and see how we can make the trends work for us because we can't stay indifferent, right? Whether it is a positive or a negative trend, it in any case will affect the the things we built and especially for the future. Thank you very much, Megan. I'm wishing you a great day. Thanks for tuning in and for this great presentation.

Thanks again,

Anna. Enjoy your day. Bye bye.