The top business trends to watch in 2018

January and February are typically the slowest times of the year for Australian businesses – which means it’s also the best time to work hard at getting ahead.

As technology and disruption continues to shake up the business environment at an alarming pace, business leaders should evaluate their approach and set tactics in motion to ensure their businesses outperform the competition throughout 2018.

To help you make the right strategic decisions for your business, here are some of the top business trends set to dominate this year.

The rise of automation and AI

Many companies are already starting to use artificial intelligence (AI) to perform routine tasks and process data in huge quantities.

But here’s the point; while much is said about AI and its negative impact on traditional job roles, AI isn’t designed to reduce headcount and costs, but rather, enrich our data pool and make it more accurate for those trained to use it.

According to Christopher Penn, VP of Marketing Technology for SHIFT Communications, the future is all about data.

“If you’re still doing (sales) forecasting by intuition and gut then I think you have some problems,” he said.

While Penn’s statement alludes to one-way AI could be used by companies around the world, many industry sectors will seek to exploit the benefits of AI.

We’re talking about things like targeted advertising and content distribution, or improved supply chain management driven by a deeper understanding of sales cycles – even Google Maps is using AI to evaluate GPS data for transport and venue recommendations.

There’s no doubt, whatever business you’re in, AI should be on your radar in 2018. Studies suggest 84% of businesses think AI will give them an advantage over competitors.

Live community engagement

They say everything happens in cycles – well, here’s a great example.

Years ago, companies were ditching live events as part of their marketing strategy in favour of new and revolutionary social media strategies.

After all, social media is a cost-effective way of reaching vast quantities of people with impressive, polished content.

Of course, social media isn’t going anywhere but ‘live’ engagement strategies are very much making a comeback.

Companies are realising the value of in-person interactions and their ability to build stronger communities. They understand clients and customers want to get to know the real people behind organisations – and learn from them too.

While Twitter and Facebook have been trying to get in on the action with Facebook Live and Periscope – other live events such as workshops and conferences shouldn’t be underestimated. Just ask Gary Vaynerchuk, Chairman and CEO, VaynerX and VaynerMedia.

“The people who know how to build… the best infrastructure around how humans interact with voice to create new actions, new experiences and new information will win.”

Website best practice

It’s crucial for businesses to get their digital presence right because ‘online’ is where customers and clients spend so much of their time.

So, is 2018 the year to up your game?

A sleek and professional website will build your brand by providing an effective way to engage with your community through impressive visuals and inspiring content.

And don’t forget about mobile optimisation. With so much browsing done ‘on the go’, a great mobile site that makes buying, communicating, and research super-easy, will ensure your business delivers an exceptional experience when it counts most.

Living company values

Today, potential customers and clients look much deeper than the shallows of print and online advertisements and TV commercials.

After all, businesses can say what they like on paper, but it’s what they do that counts. Increasing numbers of people are demanding to know what their chosen business or brand really stands for.

Many businesses are already ‘laying all their cards on the table’ by sharing real stories and weaving company values into their marketing strategy at every opportunity – because they know this approach leads to deeper and more meaningful connections.

This is why Lyft CEO Logan Green announced a US$1m donation to the American Civil Liberties Union – right after Donald Trump announced his immigration ban. And, why Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed to resolve South Australia’s energy crisis.

Indeed, standing up for your values and becoming immersed in social movements could pay dividends to your business and community.

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