I’m personally not a big fan of trends however we do get asked the question a lot – Is online business the new trend? So this post is inevitable.
The reason I’m not a big fan of trends is they’re distracting. In the sense that they’ll you to make knee jerk reactions. Trends can occur on all sorts of level in your business.
- At the macro level – should I take my business online?
- To the micro level – should we start marketing on Club House?
Remember you’ve only got 16 waking hours in a day (if you take of yourself that is) and any kind of distraction will take away your time and resource away from the task at hand.
That task at hand can better be described as your strategy or plan.
With this introduction, you’re probably wondering am I in the right place to learn about online business trends.
The answer is: probably not!
However whilst you’re here I’ll do my best to give you some perspective on – is online business the new trend.
Look at culture for the latest trends
The first place to start when working out if an online business is a new trend is to use your eyes.
Look to see what people are doing. You’ll find at first it’s a pretty difficult task. We’re so busy in our day to day that we’re often oblivious to what’s happening around us.
- Did you notice when people first started to walk around with their eyes glued to the rectangular device in their palm?
- Did you first notice someone sitting at a coffee shop alone most days with their iPad or Macbook in front of them?
Typically the answer is no. Cultural change of any kind is extremely slow. In fact, to the naked eye, it seems invisible. But it’s happening and the only time we notice is once it’s happened.
There’s one anomaly here which is the 2020-21 pandemic has seemed to accelerate the trust people now have with engaging and transacting online. As an online business owner that’s certainly a trend, you can use to your advantage.
Getting back to the point. What you’ve got to get good at is observing this change. The good news is it’s like a muscle and once you’ve trained it you’ll just see the world differently.
To give you a headstart, there’re two ways to observe cultural change:
1 – Physical observation
Physically observe what’s happening around you. On trains, busses, parks, coffee shops and more. Just people watch.
Top tip: Don’t judge people. That’s not the goal here. The goal is to objectively watch – what people do, how they act, what they’re eating, what they’re using (and so on).
This will give you an insight as to how are peoples behaviours changing over the course of 6 months, a year, ten years.
In the world of online business, this skill is the difference between starting a business people want vs starting a business you want.
2 – Online observation
Thanks to the billions of people who use the internet and leave breadcrumbs of clues in the form of data. Big companies then present that data in the form of trends.
Think of this as a digital version of physical observation. The information you can obtain can be overwhelming so be careful not to get sucked into a wormhole of data trying to suss on the next big trend.
Instead, try to narrow down your focus on areas that interest you in relation to online business and look for macro trends there. I say macro because we need the trend to be large enough to drive traffic to our online business. Otherwise, we’ll end up with a few customers instead of hundreds.
So how can we observe people online?
Luckily for us, there are some free handy tools available:
Google Trends – find out what people search for at global, national and regional level.
Twitter Trends – Find out what people are talking about from all over the world.
Twitter is probably the closest comparison to ‘social conversations’ which would occur face to face. And it happens on a hyper-scale with strangers from all over the world conversing about different topics. Twitter categories these conversations using hashtags.
Using a tool like Twitter trends will give you up-to-the-minute information on what’s trending.
It’s then your job to spot where the opportunity is.
Reddit – Discover what communities exist online.
A place like Reddit allows you to dip into a thriving community to understand what – people believe, motivates them, talk about and more.
Again this allows you an insight into what opportunities exist for online business.
If the community is large enough and they have a problem. The person who solves that problem will hit the ground running when generating revenue for their business.
Finally to close this section, the two big – truths – if you like.
Are that human beings are social creatures who seek connection. It’s arguable that the online realm has created a form of connection for many people. However, whether or not it has/can replace physical connection is up for debate.
And that we as a culture are now expectant of ‘on-demand everything. From everyday life activities such as taxis and movies. To more subtle interactions like signing up to a website and paying for something with your phone wallet.
What this means for your online business trend hunting will need to be determined by your research.
In summary: Is online business the new trend?
You’ve got all the tools at your disposal to understand what’s trending. The first stage of our BATON framework helps you understand – is this trend worth pursuing? But that’s a different skill for another day.
My preference is still for you not to get sucked into trends.
By fundamentally sticking with creating a business of value you won’t go far wrong.
This being said, developing the superpower of having one eye on trends is a worthy skill to develop. But instead of looking for ‘what’s hot’, look at the way humans are behaving and the way things are shifting culturally – using both the physical and online means at your disposal.
So in summary, be hard at work focusing on your business but with one eye on what’s happening in the outside world. If Blockbuster had done this then Netflix may not have existed.