9 Innovative Fields Where You Should Focus for Business Growth in 2018

Edelman Digital's predictions for the year ahead

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Writing in this space a year ago, our team at Edelman Digital predicted—and indeed have witnessed—the rise of influencer marketing as a mainstream force, and we also correctly foresaw that blockchain would get off the ground.

As 2017 winds down and we look ahead at what the coming year has in store, we believe it will be all about “The DTI”—Data, Technology and Innovation. We wanted to cut through the hype in these areas to provide a clear perspective for how current technologies and consumer behaviors can be leveraged for business success. Here are a few areas we’re keeping a close eye on within the “DTI” space that we think are going to drive business results in 2018:

1. Ecommerce: Triumph in the age of Amazon

As commanding as Amazon has become, it’s not indispensable. Armed with the right data, partnerships and media strategy, it’s not only possible to survive without Amazon as a direct-to-consumer brand, it’s possible to become a leader. If you take a deeper look at the landscape, there are numerous opportunities for brands to build a stronger presence and bolster their bottom lines.

2. Data and analytics: The power of big data and bold strategies

Today’s technology is more complex than the tools of the past, but the guiding principles for your data remain the same. The information you collect is worthless without a plan to properly utilize it. When navigating the world of big data, always focus data strategies on business impact, put the customer at the center and hunker down for a long ride together.

3. Artificial intelligence: Going beyond the buzzword

Don’t underestimate the need for human involvement. Right now, even the best AI must initially be directed by humans—at the very core, the technology needs to know what it’s looking for. To track significant results, a marketer must set goals, then measure against defined data points to ensure that the work is proceeding within the intellectual emotional, and cultural boundaries you’ve set out to achieve.

4. Conversational technologies: Voice is the new fingertip

Voice technology continues to improve and take the world by storm. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and others have already sold more than 20 million devices (a number expected to double in less than a year), paving the way for voice technology integration. Using this technology caters to existing consumer tendencies, making it easy and intuitive for users to participate. Billions of users already access voice assistants like Siri, and this number is guaranteed to rise as more options flood the marketplace.

5. Personalization: To be truly tech-savvy, focus on humans

Customers are being inundated with aimless ads because marketers and executives have been focused on the technology that powers “personalization.” For the most part, marketers have over-indexed on using technology for this personalization. As a result, they’ve often neglected to develop the strategy and planning infrastructure to maximize the delivery of that technology’s promise. A casualty of this approach is the customers themselves. Focusing so much on the technology often leads to an oversimplified, unidimensional view of customers.

6. Digital transformation: Disrupting the org chart

Established companies from the pre-internet era are learning what Silicon Valley has known all along: that “digital” isn’t just a technological novelty; it’s a foundational, organizing idea. Transformation must go beyond just technology and evolve workforce, culture and processes to stay competitive. In fact, doing so is often more important—and more valuable—than the technologies themselves.

7. Augmented reality: Its time has finally come

Of the four types of AR, mobile is poised to make the largest wave as the technology advances in the next year. Hardware giants like Apple and Samsung are incorporating more AR-ready components into their devices, while software companies including Facebook and Google, have doubled down on developing advanced AR features and tools to integrate seamlessly into our mobile experiences.

8. TV: The rise of post-cable networks

Post-cable networks are on the path to creating enough content to supply a 24/7 news cycle, mirroring what we’re accustomed to today from traditional networks. Unlike TV’s biggest channels, however, these new players are able to tap into niche verticals and distribute a very large amount of video content on multiple platforms every day. Their content ranges across live, original and unscripted video and is designed to spark the most amount of social engagement for a network’s target verticals.

9. Influencers: The art and (data) science behind influence

Influencer marketing has become a fast-maturing space, its evolution driven by the combination of exponential growth of time spent on social media and the downfall of trust in both advertising and brands. However, without the rigor of science and data, influencer marketing will fall short and brands will leave it behind. One thing remains constant: best-in-class influencer marketing marries the right data with sound strategies to create successful campaigns.

2018 will be all about how emerging technology moves past hype and into tangible results for brands. With data making for better influencer campaigns and AR already being used in the b-to-b space (for example, doctors using AR “patients” to fine-tune techniques or connect with remote colleagues), brands are poised to benefit from not only being on trend, but also making the trends work hard to deliver value.