I've been writing a predictive business trends article across publications for five consecutive years.  As with previous years, my picks for 2018 represent bold, innovative moves that leading companies around the world are making to drive  success. Here are the top 5 Business Trends that are sure to drive success for you and your company in 2018.

1. Artificial Intelligence Drives Consumer Experience

Artificial intelligence (AI) has left the realm of niche, experimental tech jargon to be fully embraced by leading companies. Yet instead of employing AI as a novelty trick to cultivate a high-tech ethos, as some businesses have done in the past, successful AI-users have learned to apply it in ways that make the client's life easier and enhance their experience.

Traditional machines are programmed to perform a task without adaptation. AI, on the other hand, facilitates human-like learning so that the machine's performance of a task becomes increasingly adjusted to its user's needs.

Rather than replacing vital human interactions with AI, businesses can use AI to increase the quality of those interactions. For instance, having clients interact with an AI program to gather data before an appointment can help a business to sense their clients' needs and have more efficient, targeted discussions.

2. Communities Embrace Live Interactions Over Social Media

Your Gen-Z cousin tells you that social media is an essential form of communication. Your mom tells you that texting and Twitter are killing your social skills. Both of them have a point. Social media may be an excellent (and arguably necessary) jumping-off point for your network, but you won't really get anywhere until you meet in person.

Recently, I attended an event in Philadelphia with 75 fellow professional speakers. Though the group started as an online community, each attendee spent our own money and time away from family to learn from and share with each other, in person.

Leading companies aren't using their strong social media community as an excuse to neglect in-person interactions. Instead, they're emphasizing live events, introducing online "friends" and watching as authentic interactions grow the quality of their network, not just the volume.

3. Social Learning Outperforms Remote Learning

As more professionals work remotely, companies have found creative ways to keep employees connected and develop their talents outside of the office. One way that has gained popularity among corporate training programs is social learning.

Social learning is traditionally cultivated through in-person conversations, where people share ideas, engage with one another, and hopefully learn something new. The lack of natural, inherent social learning is what can make online training and remote work feel isolating or lonely.

In response to this problem, successful businesses are finding innovative ways to apply social learning to online communities. Remote training programs with online social forums are a great example. They enable participants to share their experiences, ask each other questions, and develop relationships that create solidarity.

4. Live Streaming Video Content Gains Momentum

After being faced with a barrage of generic animated marketing videos on their social media feeds, customers crave real, personal connections. Live video has become the most effective way to engage with your audience.

By streaming live videos of product launches or Q&A sessions, businesses can "connect with customers in a personal and honest manner," according to StarBeast founder and chief creative officer Nick Losq. When your audience knows that you could slip up on camera at any moment, you tend to become more sympathetic.

Livestream research shows that 80% of audiences would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. And 73% of B2B organizations report positive ROI from video marketing.

5. Blockchain Embraced by Big Players

If you had invested $1,000 dollars in Bitcoin back in 2008, you'd have more than $40,000,000 today. Bitcoin is based on the blockchain protocol. To better understand the technology, check out WTF is The Blockchain?

Major companies have rapidly adopted blockchain technology to stay ahead of the curve. For instance, IBM's recent blockchain collaboration is poised to improve global food supply chain safety, and some realtors are experimenting with payment options by accepting Bitcoin for real estate transactions (CNBC).

Blockchain enables digital transactions with the potential to disrupt traditional industries. By considering how they can better serve their clients with blockchain, companies empower themselves to do the disrupting instead of being disrupted.

It's Your Turn

That's my take on the 2018 trends that will drive business success. You might notice a major theme: the use of technology to augment, not replace, social experiences.

How do these trends get you thinking about changes in your business? What trends do you think should have made the list?

Published on: Dec 21, 2017