Commentators and industry experts give us their views on what’s on the horizon for this year. We’ve distilled a number of articles and opinions for you and have come up with our take on the top three business trends coming your way in 2018.

1.       Artificial intelligence and its influence on the customer experience

Many companies are already using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate business processes, perform repeatable tasks and to process large amounts of data. A great example of AI in action is Google Maps which uses real-time customer data from our smartphones. However, far from being a dehumanising, impersonal process, increasingly companies are using AI to create more enriched, personalised customer experiences. In 2018 we can expect to see businesses continue to develop more customised content delivery, which is automated to a consumer’s specific persona and lifestyle.

2.       Live streaming of video content

Video is now one of the most dominant forms of media thanks to smartphones and tablets. And so video should already be an essential item in every marketer’s toolkit; however, impersonal, generic marketing videos are no longer hitting the spot for consumers. More and more companies are increasing the value of video by live streaming on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. Live video is a great way to develop real-time, human connections with your target market. It could be streaming a product launch, running webinars, offering Q&A sessions or streaming product reviews. The truth is that live videos are becoming an established part of an overall business marketing strategy. And its popularity is backed up by research with the latest survey suggesting that 80 per cent of audiences would rather engage with a brand via video than a blog post. The companies that will dominate in 2018 are those that wholeheartedly embrace live streaming as a marketing tool.

3.       The best marketing focuses on solutions

Traditionally, marketing has tended to focus on features and benefits but those sorts of messages are no longer resonating with consumers in the way that they once were. Nowadays, the top performing companies are those that focus on resolving problems and achieving results and this trend is likely to continue in 2018. The fact is potential customers may not be interested in your solution if they don’t even realise they have a problem in the first place. Marketing messages now need to focus on the challenges and issues you can help your clients overcome, rather than concentrating on the products and services you offer. It’s a subtle but very important shift in emphasis to focus on the customer and their needs. So in 2018 make sure that your marketing addresses the problems your product or service solves instead of its features.

Some of this year’s trends are in the fledgling phase, whereas others are already more established. Whichever is the case, their impact on businesses in 2018 will be the same and is likely to be significant so make sure your business is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.