Are you concerned about or interested by what is going to happen in 2018?

In the era of too much (spurious and fake) news, it’s a serious challenge for business leaders to stay abreast of what’s going on. At one level, it’s hard enough to keep up with what’s going within one’s own industry. But, with the threat often coming from without the industry, the challenge is decidedly bigger. Another reality for most business leaders is that EVERYONE has read about the vast amount of new technologies. Some, like social media and smartphone, have been around for over a decade. It’s easy to be complacent about these. Yet, even they will require a new eye and adapted strategies in the new year.

Key Trends for 2018

Here are the seven key trends – new tech and others — that will pepper if not dominate 2018. For sure, it will be another rock’n’roll year, becasuse:

  1. It’s Only Going To Get Worse. The pace. The amount of communications. The stress. The pressure on results. Key thought: The illusory idea that things will get better can only be preceded by a profound strategic choice to do so.
  2. Digital Transformation Projects Will Be About Execution. Now that everyone has embarked on some form of transformation project, 2018 will be about results. Is your digital transformation programme turning the corner and creating lasting change? Key thought: If the board of directors hasn’t change their way of operating, it’s unlikely your transformation will come quickly enough.
  3. Key trends 2018 Big DataData Will Get Big. As the ability to analyze improves, thanks in large part to progress in AI and better data scientists, companies will finally cotton on to the BIGGER need to bulk up their data. It’s better to have big data and less sophisticated computer systems than it is to have little data and high-end systems. Key thought: Explore all the ways you can find and combine data on your market and your customers.
  4. Artificial Intelligence Will Smarten Up. The pace of investment in artificial intelligence has accelerated, led by the big tech companies in the US and China. According to market research firm Tractica, “AI spending is forecasted to grow from $640MM in 2016 to $37B by 2025.” For big business, the application of AI, much like “digital” in general, must be focused on supporting the strategic imperatives of the company. Key thought: Where is your AI expertise? If it’s not inside the company, you might need to revisit that vacuum quickly.
  5. Marketing Will Continue to Morph. This year, we saw that it’s become a pay-to-play game in content marketing. It’s not just a problem of too much information. I expect to see marketing automation proliferate and, unfortunately, worsen in use. Many companies continue to resort to highly paid celebrity spokespeople or, worse, trickery and devious tactics to make their content and brand name get out there. In 2018, we should expect the consumer to be ever more weary of improper, unethical techniques. Short cuts — like throwing money at celebrities or influencers — may continue to provide vanity statistics, but the brands that are doing the hard work of answering the real FAQ and providing genuine information, useful educational content or original entertainment will be the winners long term. Key thought: How are you finding and working the data for insights to help you craft the best content?
  6. The Breakout Year of Voice. In combination with the advancement in AI of course, but the democratization of voice-controlled machines in the home will have a disruptive effect on many industries. If in 2016, 20% of mobile search was generated by voice, Google says that “[b]y 2020, voice commands will make up 50% of all searches.” Key thought: For those creating content, it will no longer be enough to be mobile friendly or mobile first. SEO will become VSO – Voice Search Optimization. And for this, context will be instrumental.
  7. Cyber Security Boon. Of all the technologies cited in our book, Futureproof, the sector with the largest dollar figure associated with it is inevitably cyber security. That’s because of two things: (1) the big rush by companies to invest in securing their systems, and (2) the inevitability and cost of having more cyber security breaches. Key thought: As we have always maintained, your weakest link is and will remain the human being. What ongoing learning are you providing in your organization to help individuals to avoid falling into the next best phishing trap?

I am not bold or crazy enough to call out any major changes among the new tech players. But I do think that consolidation is bound to happen among the social media companies. This is because of a combination of consumer social media fatigue and struggling business models (Snap, Twitter…). If there is no stock market crash, I would expect a good deal more M&A activity. Digitally enhanced marketing activities such as influencer marketing and tech using augmented reality (esp for retail and eCommerce) will continue to grow leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile, just as Caleb and I developed in our book, Futureproof, I expect to see continued exploration and advancements in several other key new technologies, such as the Blockchain, Genomics, Self-Driving Cars, Energy Storage and 3D printing. On the other hand, I do not think that Bitcoin or Virtual Reality will be a big topic for big business in 2018.

My final call: don’t fall asleep at the wheel with your mobile or web strategy. The User Experience will continue to evolve and those out-of-date or unfriendly experiences will penalize your business.

Your thoughts and reactions about the key trends for 2018 are, of course, welcome!

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