5 Ways For Resellers To Spot Category and Product Trends

How to master the art of product demand prediction


Exercises that will help to give you a clearer perspective of the market you serve and the products it buys.

1. Gain an understanding of STEEP
and Porter’s Five Forces

STEEP is an analytical method of examining the external factors that may have an impact on a business, and the products or services it provides to customers. The five external elements it comprises are:

  • Social - Meaning considerations like the lifestyle, population density, average age and income range of people in the market you serve. COVID-19, and the profound effect it had on what people did or didn’t buy, would fall under this element.

  • Technological - Technology is always advancing, and changes in the way people engage with it can have a big impact on the products you sell. For example, foldable smartphones are growing fast in popularity, which may see the popularity of tablets wane.

  • Economic - Changes to economic conditions can greatly affect the products buyers want. For instance, if another recession develops, as many believe it might, the demand for high-end products, like jewellery or luxury watches, could fall.

  • Environmental - This element assesses things like seasonal change, climate change and also environment-related legislation. If one of your core product categories was bottled water, and research suggested it was about to be banned for environmental reasons, then you would want to pivot into alternative solutions early, like water filters.

  • Political - This element looks at how political developments could affect both the supply of, and demand for, products. When the conflict started between Ukraine and Russia, analysts rightly began to predict everything from maize shortages to soaring oil prices, as a direct result. 

You can download a free STEEP template here>>

Porter’s Five Forces
, which retailers and FMCG brands often use, looks at the main forces shaping changes in a particular market sector. Those five forces are;

   1. Competitive Rivalry
   2. Threat of New Entrants
   3. Threat of Substitutes
   4. Buyer Bargaining Power, and
   5. Supplier Bargaining Power. 

In terms of the latter, bargaining power can quickly shift from buyer (reseller) to supplier, if there is a sharp uptick in market demand for the type of products they supply. In terms of “New Entrants” consider how many new smartphone brands have popped up in the last few years, as competitors to the established brands.

2. Follow product trends and insights online.

There are valuable real-time insights you can gain through some online research:

  • Professional consulting firms like PwC regularly publish region-specific consumer research that highlights changes in shopping behaviour. Their latest statistics on Middle Eastern consumers suggest that health and wellness products, as well as environmentally-friendly products, could be good areas to trade in. 

  • Because they must plan and source their product ranges months in advance, the world’s biggest retailers pay a lot of money to trend forecasters for guidance on what people will be buying in the near-future and you can find many of their insights online. If leading trend forecaster WGSN is right, waterless hygiene solutions, wearable tech and Bast fibre fabrics should grow in popularity. 

  • Even a simple Google search can help you identify trending products: open Google and search air conditioners, for example. Click on the “Shopping” search filter. Then click “Sort by” at the top right of the search results, and select “Review score” to see today’s top-rated air conditioners.
3. Leverage predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics is a form of data analysis that looks at behavioural data, to suggest what customers will be doing or buying in the future, whether in a bricks and mortar store or on an ecommerce platform. If you are an established reseller and are
equipped with the right software to collect, sort and articulate data coming from your consumers, you can leverage the power of artificial intelligence to distill large amounts of data into conclusions to guide your product assortment, pricing and more.

Predictive analytics is particularly useful for ecommerce platforms, because website users generate new data with every click they make. By making sense of their actions through data, predictive analytics can help you to identify:

  • Fast- and slow-moving products.

  • Products with high or low interest.

  • Consistent best-sellers.

  • The best time of the year to run sales.

  • The best time of the year to promote specific categories or products - for example, with January being the start of the financial year, it could be a good month to promote office supplies and furniture to business buyers.

Predictive analytics can be automated to make personalised suggestions to buyers, based on their on-site actions, like showing them other products they might like. This cross-selling and up-selling functionality can increase basket size and sales revenue. 

4. Draw on the knowledge of fellow resellers, suppliers and trade experts at conferences and expos.

Such events offer valuable opportunities to gain market and consumer insights, network with potential suppliers and discover new products before they are launched to market. Some relevant events in the MENA region:

  • TECHSPO Dubai (October) is an annual event where you can browse exhibitors’ stands “showcasing the next generation of advances in technology and innovation.” Besides discovering innovative new products, you could discover new Mar Tech solutions to leverage.
  • Watch and Jewellery Middle East Show (Sharjah, October) showcases the latest trends and designs in this retail category.
  • White Label World Expo (Frankfurt, October) could be worth travelling to, in order to network with ex-MENA suppliers. Every year it brings together “thousands of online sellers, suppliers and buyers from across the globe, all under one roof.”
    • Middle East Retail Forum (Dubai, November) which facilitates “charting out the future of retail’s blueprint in the Middle East and beyond.”

    • OEC (Oman, November) is “the Middle East’s largest ecommerce and technology conference,” bringing together stakeholders from a host of industries including some that are pertinent to resellers: retail, ecommerce, FMCG, manufacturing and digital payments.

    • Organic and Natural Products Expo (Dubai, December) is the Middle East’s “sole business event that focuses on organic and natural products”- it has been bringing together suppliers and buyers trading in this fast-growing sector for 20 years.
  • CES (Las Vegas, January) takes place in the USA (but you can attend online) and is “the most influential tech event in the world,” in which innovations in every sphere of life are unveiled, from self-driving cars to smart home solutions. 

Depending on the sector you are or will be reselling in, here is a schedule for more industry-specific trade shows taking place across the Middle East and Africa. 

5. Keep an eye on your competitors.

It’s a good idea to monitor which products your competitors are promoting most in their marketing. If a high number of competitors are all promoting the same kind of products, it’s likely they are selling well and should be on your reseller’s inventory list, too. Meanwhile, competitors’ products with huge discounts on them are likely to be waning in popularity.

The tactic here is not to jump onto products before competitors, but rather to assess which products they are prioritising, and why, then search your supplier network to find similar products at wholesale prices low enough for you to offer buyers a better price on them.

In Summary

It would be ideal if one could time-travel a year into the future and spend a day observing customer purchases at The Dubai Mall, or browsing the online marketplaces. That not being possible, resellers can still construct a well-informed picture of what customers might be buying in the near future, by using some of the techniques, tools and resources we have outlined here. 

With ecommerce in the Middle East growing by 22% annually, competition is growing too. Prioritising your product assortment may well give you the edge on competitors. 

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