23 Trends That Will Shake The Business World In 2018

After a new year comes and goes, every business owner has the future on their mind. Sales projections, marketing campaigns, tax documents and other business activities for Q1 are among the top priorities as they launch into 2018.

But on a broader scale, business owners are also thinking about major industry shifts and new technologies that will significantly impact the way they operate in the year ahead. We asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council to each share one trend they believe will influence their work next year.

All photos courtesy of individual members

Members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their insight.

1. “Away” Status Functions On Instant Messaging Platforms

Before Slack, my morning routine was typically to get into the office, plan my day, scan through emails for anything that needed immediate attention, and then get working on my backlog of priority tasks. After Slack, I’ve found when I get into the office I open Slack and, for each account, I go through all the channels with notifications and read through each channel. Throughout the day I find myself responding to “fires” and answering questions that I probably don’t need to dedicate my time to. In 2018, a trend that will help is using Slack more like email messaging by turning it on only during certain times and for a certain length and then closing it. Turning on away messages and focusing on what matters is a trend I need back. – Michael Averto, ChannelApe

2. Greater Reliance On A Freelance Workforce

I already work with many freelancers, but as I grow, I expect that all my workforce is going to essentially be a freelance workforce rather than any traditional employees. This is a good thing, as it allows me to scale up and down with different businesses I am working on, and implement projects on an on-demand basis. In turn, I can continue to maintain a lean budget without having to contend with so many overheads. Even if business should slow at all, I can adjust accordingly without having to worry about letting employees go. – John Rampton, Calendar

3. Blockchain’s Interruption Of New Industries

Blockchain has already made a big impact on the banking industry, and this year, it will make its way into new industries. Everything from procurement to legal management will be looking to blockchain to increase security throughout the entire customer experience. For business leaders like me, we’ll need to keep our eyes on the horizon for opportunities to integrate new technology like this into our business processes. – Stan Garber, Scout RFP

4. Social Shopping

Social shopping seems to be on the rise. This holiday season will be a telling sign of the growth in this trend in 2018 and beyond. It will change how we think about selling products and services because it is a relatively newchannel that requires a different approach. There are challenges and opportunities to research, track and respond to. – Peter Daisyme, Calendar

5. Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

We have been building applications for eight years. Recently, we’ve started to see demands from our clients to build apps that involve artificial intelligence and machine learning. This had pushed us to enhance our skills in AI and ML tools, so we can implement them in the products we build. I anticipate that in 2018, we will have more demands from our clients to build apps with AI so that products are smarter and more intelligent. – Piyush Jain, SIMpalm

6. Live Video

With live streaming videos already gaining popularity and interest from brands this past year, it will continue to progress in 2018. With the digital era being so instant and saturated nowadays with content and apps, people will want to see events and performances at their fingertips immediately. From fireside chats and discussion panels to company events, live video is here to stay. – Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

7. Wellness At Work

The wellbeing trend is gaining a lot of momentum, and I anticipate it being more and more important as people seek balance and simplicity. It’s becoming more normal to consider working smarter not harder, and with more employees in flexible or remote roles, there is an opportunity for great improvements here. At the same time, it’s also important for businesses to know what’s going on and be able to hold employees accountable. This is the downside of remote work. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

8. Customer Contact By Text

Increasingly we are finding that our customers are reaching out to our customer service team by text. Whether on the Facebook app, by iMessage or on Whatsapp, we are finding that our customers want immediate answers and a more informal means of communication. Ever since we installed the Facebook chat feature on our checkout, we immediately identified the shift in tone and immediacy of what our customers are expecting. When you have set hours for phone calls or you communicate by email, the customer is not expecting a 24/7 experience. As soon as the customer can reach you by text, the urgency in response and time windows increase. 2018 will be the year we will need to figure out how to tend to an always-on customer who is comfortable with a quick, informal response. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

9. Chatbots

In the SAAS business, chatbots are becoming more and more prevalent. Customers want to work with companies that deliver 24/7 customer service through chat. They don’t want to be on hold for 30 minutes to talk to someone; they would rather open up another browser window if they have to hold. Chatbots may even help with Google rankings as visitors will stay on the site longer, decreasing your bounce rate. For businesses that are accustomed to having customer service calls or help tickets, chatbots will require a change in process and new training. It’s something we’re in the initial stages of implementing, but we look forward to the changes. – Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

10. Commoditization Of Tech

Commoditization is coming for tech, especially for development. I’ve seen it creeping in over the years and I think we’re close to the point where commoditization is going to reshape the agency industry. But I think if you’re smart, you can get ahead of it. The name of the game now is creating a powerful brand and differentiating your service offering – if you can provide a white glove service and a level of value that other people can’t copy, no $8-an-hour dev team halfway across the world can ever touch you. – Ben Lee, Neon Roots

11. Voice Search-Based Ad Personalization 

The ways in which people are interacting with voice search are only going to keep growing, and that is creating new opportunities and avenues for potential ad strategy. Once the platforms are available, I suspect this will have a major impact on how brands interact with people. – Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

12. A Boom In Coworking

I think that coworking will become the norm for a lot of corporations. Obviously it’s a great idea for startups, but more established companies are also exploring this type of environment. Coworking isn’t just about saving money and pooling resources. It is also an amazing networking tool. Corporations that want to get closer to their future B2B customers and trend-spot will start establishing satellite offices in various coworking spaces. It also allows companies to be more flexible with their hiring and increase their ability to enter newer markets. – Artem Maskov, DEVTRIBE INC

13. Continued Shift To Standing Desks

A significant trend in the office furniture industry has been the continued shift from traditional desks to sit-to-stand desks. Americans are more cognizant of the importance of staying healthy, and ergonomics has transformed from an obscure, inconspicuous subject to a topic of great interest to many. As more and more employees have come to learn that “sitting is the new smoking,” they are increasingly requesting sit-to-stand desks from their employers. In turn, companies have been buying standing desks for their workers and will do so at an even greater rate in 2018. We will need to continue to offer highly-desirable sit-to-stand options and at price points that are accessible to the mass market. – Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs

14. Hospital Consolidations

Explosive population growth has kept hospitals busy and somewhat insulated from competitive pressures felt sooner in other markets. Now, hospitals have moved from their traditional territories to consolidate the market. In 2015, WellStar Health System of Marietta, Ga., bought five hospitals from Tenet Healthcare Corp. in a deal worth $661 million. The not-for-profit system, which ended last year with $1.8 billion in revenue, doubled the number of its hospitals with the acquisition. Atlanta seems to be a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide: Hospitals are hustling to improve economies of scale in purchasing, and to spread best clinical and business practices across locations. This has been undeniably good for businesses, and great for ours. – Ashish Advani, InPharmD

15. Alternative Learning Credentials

We’re going to start seeing a spike in employers that begin accepting alternative learning credentials. Right now, many employers will list a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement, but I think a wave of employers will start accepting Coursera, Khan Academy, Udacity and other online courses in lieu of traditional education. As more employers start taking these alternative learning credentials seriously, it will motivate people to start learning again and hopefully, we’ll start seeing an even stronger list of applicants. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

16. More Intelligent Applications

When I started using computers, applications were, for the most part, a thin layer on top of a database that presented lists of items for people to choose from (think of an old-fashioned music player like WinAMP). Today, there’s so much information coming at us from all angles that we can’t design applications like that anymore. We need to have the most useful information presented to us at the right time. It’s the job of the application to figure out what counts as useful at any moment. With the introduction of sophisticated machine learning, low-latency mobile connections, low-power sensors and augmented reality, we’re going to see applications get much better at filtering and prioritizing information. Ultimately, that’ll free us to focus on generating value. – Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.

17. Growth Of Automation

We’re seeing the growth of automation right before our eyes, and I think we’ll see this coming into more workplaces as we move into 2018 and beyond. While we may not see the game-changing moves happen right away (e.g. an entire role replaced), I do think we’re going to see tools being built in the SaaS space that continue to make our work lives a little easier. Where some people may develop stress around this idea, it will allow us to automate time-consuming tasks and focus on the big picture. Some of my favorite instances of this are social media automation, chatbots and the quick replies that Gmail is beginning to provide that leverage machine learning and AI. – Erin Blaskie, L-SPARK

18. Fractured Social Media

As many different social media platforms begin to resemble each other more closely, they also start to reach different demographics. An example of this is the schism between Snapchat and Instagram users: The recent addition of Stories and face filters from Instagram has drawn some users away from Snapchat. As users begin to draw lines in the sand, our focus will turn towards picking a side as well. To make the most out of our time and resources, we plan on committing to two or three key social media sites by creating content and interacting with followers. It is true that by adopting one network we will be turning our backs on an entire demographic of people. However, the scatter-shot approach just doesn’t offer the kind of return that justifies the extra effort. – Bryce Welker, Beat The CPA

19. Augmented Reality

I’ve been impressed with some of the augmented reality applications that were created following Apple’s release of ARKit earlier in 2017. But I think 2018 will be the year AR goes huge. By bringing the digital and physical worlds together, AR will touch many business processes. I’m particularly excited about the training and educational potential. As a server and cloud hosting provider, we manage several large data centers. AR will be great for training new staff members on our equipment and letting them run through repair and support procedures. I’m also looking forward to integrating AR into our monitoring systems so server administrators can locate problematic servers and access a live overlay of server performance and issues. – Vik Patel, Future Hosting

20. The Human Touch 

A lot of people are focused on innovative technologies like AI and blockchain, and these have a lot of potential. But the biggest trend that matters in 2018 and beyond is how we treat our customers and ensure we continue to meet their preferences. While innovations are exciting, it can be tempting to roll out new tech before it’s ready, potentially alienating customers and even team members in the process. This is why we plan to continue to invest in a world-class customer service team staffed with humans (not chatbots), and remain responsive and open to what our customers need from us. – Ross Cohen, BeenVerified

21. Mobile Everything

There is absolutely no question that the market is exponentially moving to mobile-everything. Mobile usage is up immensely and everyone is scrambling to catch up, especially retailers. Although it may be obvious to some, there are still many brick and mortar business that refuse to believe that the internet is quickly becoming the primary means of business. The data is there to prove it. In 2012 approximately 11% of retail sales occurred on mobile devices. Fast forward to 2016 and 48% of consumers are reporting that its easier to shop on their mobile phones. This is the modern equivalent of companies like Sears not foreseeing internet retail in the early 2000s. If you’re not offering customer-centric, fluid, cross-platform experiences for your customers, you are sure to lose. – Ali Mahvan, Sharebert

22. The Membership Experience

Working in the grooming and retail industry, my team anticipates the rise and importance of customizing guest experiences even further in 2018. As competition continues to grow in the grooming segment, we intend to focus on our membership incentives. It is important to find ways to simultaneously secure annual participation from your customer-base while also providing them with the service and pricing incentives that only exclusive memberships offer. – Ben Davis, The Gents Place

23. A Growing Focus On Diversity

My work with Gaingels is all about diversity, specifically the importance of driving social change through business and capital investment. Our belief is that you drive real change by investing capital, effort, relationships and talent into projects that reflect your values. The change we are looking for is more LGBT leaders, and more representation for all diverse groups at the senior levels of startups and other companies. Given the issues that have arisen over the past year, improving diversity should be a critical issue for 2018, and we intend to be at the forefront of that global effort. – Paul Grossinger, Gaingels

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