They say change is the only constant, so how do you stay ahead in a business world where the landscape keeps changing? How do you continue to grow and remain competitive when the tools you’ve come to rely on don’t work the way they used to?

Well, staying competitive means knowing which trends are going to be useful to your business, which aren’t, and which you need to keep an eye on. Even if a new technology isn’t directly applicable to your business model, (at least yet) knowledge is always power! Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting business trends for 2018, and how you can use them to grow your business, interact with your customers better, and stay current.

The experience economy:

If there’s one thing the digital age has revolutionized more than any other, it’s what customers expect from the companies they choose to support – and you’re one of them. We expect answers instantly, we expect to find that information easily, and if one company can’t fill the need, there are plenty more out there that will just a few clicks away.

To stand out from the global crowd, you need to deliver that something special that no-one else is. This is nothing new to the business world, it’s just that the stage is a lot bigger and the customers are a lot pickier! If your potential customers can’t find the answers they’re looking for on your website, they’re a lot less likely to pick up the phone and call you – they’re going to try someone else first.

On the flipside, if they have a great experience with you, they’re a lot more likely to share that experience with others. Domino’s Pizza is a great example. A simple change – allowing customers to place orders via text or email rather than having to phone up – paid off big time, and cost them next to nothing. What it meant for the customer however was being able to place an order without being overheard (at 4pm from the office, for example). It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it paid off. Place yourself in your customer’s shoes, and ask yourself how you could make their experience with you that little bit more pleasant.

Shared values:

Another way to stand out is through supporting a cause that resonates with your customers. Millennials in particular care more about what their money is being used for than any generation to date, and that trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Young consumers want their cash to be put to good use, and they’re willing to fork out more of it if you align with a cause that speaks to them. Donating a portion of proceeds to a charity, cause or environmental group can dramatically increase your sales, meaning that you, the organization you choose to support, and your customer all win. Now that’s good business!

The Uber Effect:

The age of the ‘disruptors’ is here, and it’s not just the way you hail a cab that’s set to change! Online traffic ticket fighting sites TIKD and Off The Record recently came under fire with their service offering, which helps customers contest traffic fines from the comfort of their own home, and assigns their case to a suitable lawyer to appear on their behalf in court when need be.

Artificial Intelligence means that customers might soon be taking other legal concerns to chatbots for advice before they deal with real attorneys or even commercial lawyers. Done correctly, this could streamline the system for both parties, but like all change, it isn’t always comfortable!

Influencer marketing:

Most of us don’t like being advertised at, and believe it or not, marketing agencies are aware of this! Influencer marketing is a clever way of aligning your message with a personality who already has, well, influence in the sector you’re trying to target. It’s a bit like celebrity endorsement, just a lot more targeted.

If you’re looking for a new and on-trend way to grow your customer base, then finding someone who has authority among your target market, giving them some samples and asking them to review the product if they like it can help you reach countless new fans.

Blockchain:

Possibly the trend with the biggest hype, and definitely the most mystery, is blockchain – and it’s about so much more than just Bitcoin! Essentially, blockchain is about building a set of records that’s spread out across multiple computers rather than just in one central location. This means, in theory, that fraud becomes impossible – because you can’t deceive all the computers at once. Why this makes sense for a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is obvious, but if you put your thinking cap on, it has almost endless possibilities.

One thing’s for sure, the future of business is about combining technology with human creativity and that personal touch. If you want to stay on trend, don’t fight the tech; embrace it.

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