Small Business Advice

5 trends to watch out for in 2018

Oliver Jones

The new technologies that are shaping the future of business.

As the modern world accelerates at an already breath-taking pace of change, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of business trends.

Some of the headline developments in 2018 may not seem directly relevant to your business, but whether it’s Google cars altering traffic on your commute, or CocaCola's AI altering the taste of your coke - the changes coming will affect us all.

Whether you’re looking to start a business or improve your existing services, predicting how new trends will affect your market will be key to flourishing in 2018.

So here are the 6 crucial trends we’ve predicted will be especially significant in the coming year:

  1. Augmented Intelligence

We’re not talking about a robot-takeover (yet). Augmented intelligence refers to the use of AI-powered software to help human workers do their jobs (cyborg-takeover? Maybe).

For instance, workers on Apple assembly lines use primitive AI to help them build Apple watches. IBM’s AI, Watson, notifies flight attendants which flights are delayed automatically and provides instructions.

These changes are being pioneered by big tech firms, and the innovations that work are sure to trickle down and affect the lives of you, your business and your employees.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Ok, so maybe we are talking about a robot takeover – but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

There’s a Windows AI running in Windows 10, while Google has released TensorFlow, an open-source machine-learning software library that means everyone can create their own primitive AI, if they have the know-how.

Amazon is starting to sell machine-learning services to other businesses, and one of the biggest chat bot developers, Next IT, has just opened up its libraries, allowing businesses with the technical expertise to create their own sophisticated chat bots.

Siri, Google Now and Cortana are all, in effect, primitive AIs. And data collected from their use by millions will be used to develop new generations of talking smartphones. Video games make extensive use of AI, mainly to make virtual enemies more realistic.

Again, these developments are mainly coming from big tech companies. But where they lead, you can expect pretty much the whole world to follow. Which brings us to…

  1. The “Frightful 5” continue to dominate

That’s Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, for those who don’t know. Between them, these technological giants own most of our everyday activities.

From the tools we use to work, to the media we consume, to the ways we access information, to the ways we communicate, modern life can’t really function without regular recourse to these five companies.

And as Google expands laterally into self-driving cars, and Amazon scoops up retail chains like Whole Foods, this ubiquity is only going to get more pronounced.

  1. Experience sells

Successful commerce is increasingly driven by customer experience, rather than product tailoring. Consumers are choosing to spend on things like concerts, eating out and holidays, rather than televisions and sofas.

In part, this is a product of an anti-materialist streak, which has managed to make an obsession with cars and furniture untrendy (without quite penetrating the equally superficial joys of beach-bathing and Netflix-binging).

  1. Robot replacements

Uber’s already made the first automated truck delivery, delivering crates of Budweiser from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Pizza Hut is hiring robot waiters and Walmart now has robot accountants.

Chat bots are writing high-converting headlines and Coca-Cola has an AI residing its vending machines, monitoring consumer choices in order to produce ever more delicious formulae.