What an exciting time to be in business! Companies big and small are finally shifting their focus away from millennial stereotypes and turning to customer-centric approaches that are more insightful and mature. Personalization and automation, the two catchiest buzzwords of 2017, have only recently started to show their true meaning. At last, we’re empowered by both big data and big tech solutions.
Judging by the current state of things, 2018 will be one for the business books.
These are the 5 trends that will make it the most successful in a while.
#1 The New Customer Experience Is All About AI
From e-commerce to healthcare, from lead acquisition to customer support, all industries and departments are enjoying the benefits of current AI explosion. The tech itself, though virtually unrealistic until only a few years ago, is already affordable and applicable enough to go mainstream.
Of course, AI is just the solution. The problem is much more complex and can be approached from different directions and with various strategies. In 2018, customer expectations will only grow bigger, and businesses will need to find something newer, better, and even more convenient to meet them.
Even then, entire organizational structures will revolve around the receiving end. Customer engagement strategies might change their direction from AI to something entirely different but will remain just as crucial for survival. The means and tools for getting to know the customer will stay vital.
And what is a CRM if not the perfect tool for understanding customers’ needs and preferences? At the moment, AI engages and converts through customer-facing services like chatbots, but in 2018, we’ll see machine learning and NLP become a part of CRMs to tailor a more holistic customer experience.
# 2 Beware of the First Serious Social Media Backlash
We’ve promised a list of trends that will make your organization more successful in 2018, but this one has the potential to turn a lot of business models upside down. It’ll still be only as challenging as you allow it to be, and becoming aware of the potential problem is the first step towards finding a solution.
And who knows? If social media really experiences its first serious backlash in the aftermath of the Facebook scandal, your business might find an even better and less risky way of promoting its brand and engaging with customers. Be it as it may, you’ll need to stay vigilant and prepared for a big change.
#3 Collaboration Is Breaking All Barriers of Space
One of the most interesting and farthest-reaching millennial stereotypes was related to digital nomadism. Without going into how realistic and constructive it truly was, we must agree that both limitless connectivity and remote work have entirely reshaped the way we do and conduct business.
The remote work trend put another emphasis on collaboration, for once. It reminded us that two brains are better than one, especially when they can be physically separated but still connected in an instant. This paved the path to better freelancing, outsourcing, long-distance teamwork, and learning.
Though it started with remote learning, this trend reminded us of how much knowledge retention benefits from free exchange. It quickly rekindled interest in social learning too, finally providing adequate collaboration tools to support it. In 2018, remote employee training will feel far less lonely.
#4 The Most Engaging Content is Streamed Live
In relation to collaboration tools, we must also mention the upheaval in how visual content is being delivered and consumed. When we talk about modern-day communication, we’re necessarily talking about real-time interactions. Waiting times, delays, and bottlenecks are now finally a thing of the past.
This still poses a challenge for customer relationship management, especially when it comes to sales and support. While both of these parts of customer journey are already being successfully streamlined with real-time communication tools like messaging apps, live chats and chatbots, one remains behind.
Until very recently, marketing was all about evergreen content. As such, it relied on ads, articles and other types of blog posts to catch the audience's’ eye and their position the brand. In 2017, the demand for real-time collaboration and communication sparked interest in real-time marketing too.
In result, live streaming expanded from peer-to-peer webinars to customer engagement strategies (in targeting, retention and retargeting alike) that are focused on content. Companies now stream product launches or Q&A sessions, hoping, nay, succeeding to grab the audience’s scattered attention.
#5 Blockchain Is Slowly Becoming the Next Internet
Blockchain technology is much, much more than a bitcoin trading protocol. Though it may started that way, this liberating new trend is now being applied in a surprising number of industries and in a surprising number of innovative ways. It’s liberating because it allows us to circumvent the mediator.
Thanks to a little tech thing called a distributed ledger, blockchain has everything it needs to become the next internet. Why should you care? Because this technology offers a whole different process for regulating digital property, conducting reputation management, and establishing payment systems.
By cutting the middleman from the creator-consumer chain on one side, and making exchange of digital goods and services much safer on the other, blockchain may revolutionize both marketing and sales in addition to other parts of the business landscape. It may also render salespeople obsolete.
But this is still long ahead of us. For the time being, blockchain enables a kind of digital transaction that’s very fast and secure, thus tempting savvy companies to start serving their clients with blockchain and experimenting with payment options by accepting bitcoin instead of local currencies.
Whatever happens in 2018, a couple of things are certain
Artificial intelligence will still play a leading role in customer engagement, whether by chatting with customers, or by collecting and analysing their data in order to help companies tailor more personalized experiences. Some social media-based businesses will find themselves on rocky grounds, while others will discuss their survival through social learning. Both live streaming and blockchain will gain further momentum, only to equip savvy businesses with another way to stay ahead of the curve.