5 Key Trends for 2018 that could reshape your business

Guest author Dave Mattin shared five insights into 2018 that could make a massive difference to your business - if you can act on them.

It’s that time of year again. Marketers, brand strategists, founders, product designers, CEOs: business professionals across the globe are deep in planning for 2018.

At TrendWatching, our obsession is with the trends reshaping the mindsets, behaviours and expectations of consumer – of your customers – all over the world. So here are our five key trends for 2018; trends that can empower you to build your next product, service, campaign or business model, and know they’re deeply grounded in the shifting expectations of consumers across the coming 12 months and beyond.

Absorb, think, and then act!

1. A-Commerce

In 2018, shoppers with more important things to do – and that’s all of them – will embrace the outsourcing of a whole slew of retail experiences to algorithms and smart devices. That means the automation of hunting, negotiating, purchasing, delivery arrangements and more.

One example? Check out Finery – launched in October 2017, this app allows users to users to outsource and much of their online fashion retail. When shopping for clothes online, users can save items they are interested in to their Finery virtual wardrobe. Finery will then go to work for them, alerting them to prices changes and other discount sales, and even letting them know if they can get the item cheaper somewhere else.

In the end, this trend is about a shift that's about as deep as it gets: towards a world in which you’ll be selling to algorithms as well as humans. The implications – for your pricing strategy, your entire approach to marketing and messaging, and more – are endless. In 2018, it's time to start thinking about them!

2. Assisted Development

Post-demographic consumers – of all ages! – are crafting new narratives of adulthood. In 2018, they’ll look to brands for help. That means teaching them new life skills, letting them manage daily tasks and helping them to realize their own staging posts of adulthood.

Launched in August 2017, US-based startup Loftium is leveraging an intriguing business model to help consumers achieve one traditional marker of adulthood: home ownership. Loftium will loan buyers a deposit of up to USD 50,000, and in return the lender must agree to continuously let one room of their new home on Airbnb. The rental income is split between the home owner and Loftium.

Want to apply this trend next year? Start by asking:

  • How are those narratives changing for the people we serve?
  • What life goals and life staging posts would they look to us to help achieve?

3. Virtual Companions

AIs and virtual assistants are making the leap from functionality and transaction to something deeper. 2018 is the year that millions of consumers start to feel it is possible to have a meaningful conversation – a relationship, even – with virtual entities that entertain, educate, heal and even befriend.

Launched in March 2017, Replika is an AI chatbot intended to become a mirror of the user's personality. The bot learns about its user via questions about interests, aspirations, hobbies, values and more, and over time becomes an ever-closer approximation of the user's deep self.

 

No, we haven’t lost our minds ☺. This trend might sound more sci-fi than reality. But it’s grounded in deep shifts, both technological and social. Apple sees these shifts coming: they are hiring psychologists into the Siri team so that Siri can learn to have ‘more serious conversations’ with users in 2018. How will you respond?

4. Forgiving by Design

Online, consumers have come to expect an endless series of upgrades and improvements to the services they use. Now, they’ll expect all kinds of products and services to forgive them when their past – the product they selected, the size they chose, the service they wanted – doesn't match their future. How? By near-magically adapting around their changing needs, wants and whims.

One powerful way to offer some FORGIVENESS? Design services that allow consumers to travel back in time and change past decisions. July 2017 saw Mastercard partner with UK-based mobile wallet Curve to offer a new service that allow consumers to switch the credit or debit card they used on a purchase up to weeks after the event. The service is called Financial Time Travel, and to use it customers must sync their bank accounts and credit or debit cards to their Curve account.

Need a shot of motivation to persuade colleagues on this trend? Ask them: what’s the opposite of a product or service that is FORGIVING BY DESIGN? The answer: rigid and inflexible. Not a good look.

5. Glass Box Wrecking Balls

In 2017, a business is a glass box. Outsiders can easily see inside. They can see the people, the processes and the values. The key, and revolutionary, consequence? Your internal culture is becoming a powerful part – perhaps the most powerful part – of your public-facing brand.

 No innovation here. Just two powerful lessons to ponder. Uber faced a hugely turbulent 2017 in large part because of its internal culture. A culture of sexism and bullying was exposed when an employee blog post went viral. The brand was tarnished. And CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to resign during the fallout. It’s a story that perfectly encapsulates the shift towards the business as a GLASS BOX.

Meanwhile, witness the huge power of the #MeToo movement. A connected world isn’t only a more transparent one. It’s also a world in which victims of wrongdoing can find one another, and act in unison to corroborate one another’s stories and insist on being heard.

So how is this going to impact you – your business, your department, your team – in 2018? The first step is to create – or reinforce – a culture that tells staff that it is safe to speak up if they have been wronged. And if a WRECKING BALL does hit you in 2018, take prompt action and be totally transparent about what you’re doing to put things right.

How to use these trends

Remember, these trends are useless if you don’t act on them. Ambitious professionals should read this list with one thing on their minds: how to apply these trends to create compelling new innovations that will delight your customers (and win new ones!).

And if you want more insights, statistics and innovation examples, then read TrendWatching’s 5 Key Trends for 2018!

David Mattin is Global Head of Trends & Insights at TrendWatching. He contributes to this blog as a guest author.