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Hot Trends for 2005 WHY people buy is just as important as WHAT they buy. Learn the trends that are leading people to their next purchase.

By Laura Tiffany

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Trend reports can often seem a world away from the everydayrealities of your business. But when a trend passes from fad tomajor consumer movement, you don't want to be out of the loop.So when we researched this year's hot trends, we hunted forthose that can affect your business now. No waiting to see if theearly adopters get bored. No guessing whether you'll alienatecurrent customers with a weird fad. These are the things yourcustomers will want tomorrow, whether they know it today ornot.

Authenticity

Who wants to serve Velveeta to guests when you can offerhandcrafted cheese made from local, organic dairy milk? Why wearclothes from the mall when you can purchase the handiwork of alocal designer-U.S.-made and sweatshop-free? Buying products withan aura of authenticity allows people to take control of theirpurchases so they truly know what they're getting. They can beunique and shop at businesses they feel akin to politically,ethically and aesthetically.

Food lovers have long embraced authentic products-microbrews,homemade salsas and fiery hot sauces, aged olive oil, and sea andkosher salts. Heck, even men's lifestyle magazineDetails recently recognized the gourmet possibilities of thehumble olive. "Microcheeseries" like Beecher'sHandmade Cheese in Seattle's Pike Place Market; Bingham HillCheese Co. in Fort Collins, Colorado; and Cowgirl Creamery in PointReyes, California, are riding this niche by creating fresh cheesesfor choosy customers.

How can a company tout its authenticity? You can make like AppleComputer, Levi Strauss & Co. and Mercedes-Benz and use realcustomers in your ads. Brag about your use of local ingredients andmaterials, traditional and artisanal methods, or environmentallyand socially responsible practices. If you do it right, yourcustomers will then preen to friends about how authentic they arefor patronizing your authentic business.

Age 35

How can you reach a 19-year-old undergrad, a 31-year-old on thecareer path, and a 47-year-old who's raising a toddler-withjust one message? Market to all of them as if they're 35. Fromusing Botox to erase any physical signs of aging to shopping at thesame stores as their kids to postponing their retirements, boomersrefuse to grow older. If you targeted them at their true ages,they'd balk.

But surprisingly, younger people are also generation hopping.They're rejecting the belly- and booty-baring fashions of lateand-gasp!-embracing sensible, preppy outfits. It's a backlashthat may reflect the current conservative climate (thanks a lot,Janet and Justin) or that the latest generation has grown up withdifferent aspirations. Kids now save for iPods and video games.Your teenage niece can code a website better than you. Dreams ofbecoming an actress or a rock star have turned into dreams ofbecoming young tech moguls, millionaire sports stars ormultihyphenate entertainers like singer-actress-spokespersonBeyoncé, who recently signed a five-year, $4.7 millioncontract with L'Oreal. Reaching such heights, teens know, takesserious work.

So with the more mature seeking a return to their youthfulselves, and young people looking to the future, age 35 has become agolden median, as a recent Los Angeles Times articleexplored. Target this age group, and you may end up hooking morecustomers than you ever anticipated.

Multitasking and Memory Loss

In our jam-packed society, it seems the only thing there's alack of is time. Whether this overextension of our lives isself-inflicted is an argument for another article, but multitaskingseems here to stay. People are watching TV while surfing the net,driving while chatting on their cells, and checking their e-mail onPDAs during meetings. TV series are having shorter seasons, andpopular magazines like Maxim and Star pack plenty ofblurbs, lists and photos for quick digestion.

But as a result of our inability to focus on anything for longerthan a millisecond, our memories may be shorting out. Studies showthat what's often assumed to be age-related memory loss mayactually be due to multitasking, depression and stress.

While an obvious opportunity for aging boomers and rampantmultitaskers will be memory aids (both pharmaceutical and herbal),courses and guides, we wouldn't be surprised if consultingfirms dealing with the negative effects of multitasking skyrocketin the near future.

Obesity

The widening of Americans isn't news anymore, but this is anincredibly vast market still worthy of entrepreneurial exploration.Health care, food service, apparel manufacturing and retailing,medical device manufacturing and retailing-all these industries aretouched by what many consider a national health crisis.

There seem to be two sides to this trend: Helping people loseweight and helping heavier people live more comfortably. For theformer, fast-food chains are lightening their menus, while more andmore school districts are removing junk food from campuses andreplacing it with healthier options. Health club membership rose by8.5 percent between 2002 and 2003, according to market researchfirm American Sports Data Inc. and the International Health,Racquet & Sportsclub Association. And Medicare recently begancovering gastric bypass surgery.

On the flip side, more than 60 percent of women and teens wearplus-size clothing, and the kids plus-size apparel market isgrowing. A burgeoning industry is the manufacture and sale oflarger everyday products-fanny packs, airline seat belt extenders,bath towels, tape measures, socks, desk chairs, even caskets-forobese customers. William J. Fabrey and Nancy Summer of Amplestuff inBearsville, New York, have been catering to this market since 1988;while Tim Barry, owner of Scale-IT.com in Vancouver, Washington, has created abooming business selling higher-capacity scales. Products likethese are the very definition of a niche, and with that kind offocus, new players will find there's still room in this marketfor growth.

Snobs, Life Caching & Uniqueness

The Third Place

While it's a no-brainer that teens ditch their parents asoften as possible, many young adults are also in the same boat.With 56 percent of men and 43 percent of women aged 18 to 24 stillliving at home, according to the 2000 Census, an escape from thehouse is more a necessity than a luxury. Businesses that positionthemselves as what Starbucks' Howard Schultz calls "thirdplaces" (home and work are the first two places) may becomepopular destinations.

Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have built their businessesaround providing customers a comfortable environment to wile awaythe hours. Wi-Fi has been a huge advantage in drawing in students,businesspeople and home-office dwellers; and smart businesses likePanera Bread tout this by including it in their location search ontheir websites (as does Starbucks) and by offering information intheir stores.

Other big businesses are trying to get in on this act, too.McDonald's is building a flagship restaurant in Chicago, slatedto open in 2005, that will feature wireless access and willencourage customers to hang around in a relaxed atmosphere.Coca-Cola is targeting teens with its new Red Lounges-mall-basedstores designed to let teens learn about new music, games andmovies . . . while they drink lots of Coke.

It's no longer wise to get people in and out of yourbusiness as quickly as possible. Give them a reason to stay, andyou'll also give them a reason to come back.

Snobization

Middle-class Americans are turning into a bunch of snobs.Premium jeans labels like Diesel and Miss Sixty are showing up onsmall-town derrières. Day spas, once considered a luxury, arepopping up all over the place. And don't get us started againabout food connoisseurs.

Starbucks is often cited as the originator of what ReinierEvers, founder of trend agency Trendwatching.com, calls "snobmoddities":everyday items that have been turned into chic, luxury must-haves.These items aren't always expensive. Instead, says Evers,they're small indulgences. "[These purchases] are onlymind-blowing compared to some of the prices we're still used tofrom back in the day."

You can see accessible luxuries at Target with Todd Oldham dormdécor and Michael Graves sleek kitchenware. And often, peoplewear a $15 shirt so they can afford a pair of $100 jeans.

"We live in a consumption society and a meritocracy,"says Evers. "Thus our identity is shaped by the things weconsume. So the more luxury items we can purchase and show the restof the world, the higher we rank in society."

The $400 billion luxury market is expected to grow 15 percentper year, according to strategy and management consulting firm TheBoston Consulting Group, until it hits $1 trillion in 2010. Figureout how you can repurpose your products and services in a luxuriousyet mostly affordable fashion, and you could be the next to cash inon this skyrocketing market.

Uniqueness

Being unique is a tough gig these days. Mass production, largechains and the quest for convenience often dictate uniformity. Buteven though it takes a little more work, consumers are shoppingniche stores, looking for customizable options, and wearing theirinterests and beliefs on their sleeves. No one industry exploresthis consumer quirk more than T-shirt designers. While major chainsare still selling pseudo-vintage tees, people looking to"outcool" their friends are hunting for truly uniqueitems: overtly political tees; designs from favorite bloggers fromCafePress.com; remixed designer tees that are ripped up, laced upand bejeweled; religious designs, especially Judaica; and trulyvintage wear from eBay. While apparel sales fell 5.1 percent lastyear, according to market research firm The NPD Group, T-shirtsales rose 2.2 percent, making up $17 billion in a $166 billionmarket.

Consumers desiring uniqueness are closely related to thoseseeking accessible luxury and authenticity in their wares. Part ofthe fun of ordering an expensive bottle of vinegar from a regionalproducer is knowing you'll wow your friends at your next dinnerparty. It's the cachet of being an early adopter, combined withthe need to never be wearing the same outfit as someone else at aparty. In a world of big-box retailers, it's up to theentrepreneur to fill this need.

Life Caching

Today's boomers and seniors cherish the grainy super-8films, fading Polaroids and locked diaries of their childhoods. Butfuture generations will instead hoard memory cards full of blogentries, digital photos and the first websites they ever built. Aswe learn to click to save every moment of our lives, data willbecome the stuff that memories are made of. "Life caching willbecome a given," says Reinier Evers, whose company coined theterm. "Consumers will come to expect [that] they can reliveevery experience they've ever had and have instant access toany life collection they've ever built."

Memory making has been big business for a while. Scrapbookinghas been one of the hottest trends in recent years-the $2.5 billionindustry doubled since 2001, according to the Hobby IndustryAssociation, and is still growing. But businesses that can providecreative solutions to both physical and digital life caching arethe ones that stand to gain from this trend. One million MemoryMaker Photo Bracelets (a bracelet that wearers can insert severalphotos into) were sold in six months. MyPublisher.com allows usersto create coffee-table books from their digital photos. Nokia'sLifeblog service lets users download and arrange theircell-phone-created content-messages, photos, videos, notes andaudio clips.

"Entrepreneurs can offer this space [for life caching],taking on the gatekeeper role," explains Evers. "On agrander scale, start thinking about how you can provide consumerswith the means to capture everything. This includes entrepreneurswho already offer 'experiences.' What are you doing to help[customers] capture and store these experiences?"

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