It is a new year. As we close out 2017, we look to the future. What does 2018 hold in store?
“As good as it gets”
As 2017, the year that economists predicted would be “uneven and unspectacular” essentially closes out banner performances in the stock markets, 2018 opens with more optimistic economic forecasts.
A decade after the global credit crisis unfolded, while supportive financial policies are expected to support growth, central bank normalization is finally on the cards.
Bloomberg reports that both Goldman and Barclays expect the global economy to grow at almost 4% this year, the strongest growth since 2011. “As good as it gets” is how Goldman economists led by Jon Hatzius characterize the global outlook, pointing out that most major economies are outstripping pre-crisis averages. To make an even rosier picture, few economists forecast an inflation upsurge.
With the exception of Citigroup, which forecast a 3.4% growth, many of the global financial services companies predict growth near 4%, with JP Morgan, Morgan Chase and Societe Generale predicting growth at 3.7% and UBS group forecasting growth at 3.8%. Societe Generale believes the global economy is in its best shape in about a decade, predicting positive growth in each of the 45 economies it covers for the first time since 2007.
Of course, as many of us know, growth on economies is not always paralleled by the stock markets. In fact, the markets often anticipate actual performance. In fact, while the OECD predicts a 3.7% economic growth in 2018, it flagged asset prices as being too high. Morgan Stanley also warned that 2018 could be tricky for investors as a result of rising inflation and tighter monetary policy.
As always, caution and information is the name of the game for investors.
Let’s begin with my favorite trend watcher. Trendwatching’s (TW) top five consumer trends for 2018 is influenced by three important factors: technology, changing demographics, and the increasing power of the connected consumer.
TW leads with what they call assisted commerce (A-commerce), an increasing trend towards delegating ever larger chunks of buying activity to digital assistants powered by AI (artificial intelligence). TW mentions Finery, an application that manages one of the most nagging problems for women —wardrobe management. Think integrated inventory management but for your own clothes. Finery organizes your wardrobe by color, type and designer. It keeps track of the deadline for returning purchases and will even notify you of bargains and sales on items in your wish list.
Fourth on TW’s list also focuses on digital assistance, but something potentially either deeply engaging or creepy, the increasing trend towards truly personalizing digital assistants. Citing Apple’s efforts to improve Siri by hiring an army of psychologists to tech firm Gartner’s prediction that “by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse,” TW predicts 2018 will be the year when individuals begin to have meaningful relationships with simulated entities.
Also on TW’s list for 2018, increased expectations for customer service especially post-purchase adjustments and cautions about the increasing transparency of corporate walls explaining how easily internal corporate culture and situations can bleed into the larger corporate brand.
For me, one of the most interesting items on TW’s 2018 is number 2, what they call assisted development. Pointing to how different the process of becoming an adult has become. The milestones and stage gates for millennials are different and companies that are able to provide the services to either ease transitions or make them richer experiences stand to make lots of money.
Unsurprisingly, Forbes list of business trends echoes the basic patterns that are shaping the changes in the world. Like many other lists, Forbes’ list begins with how artificial intelligence will be used to drive the customer experience. Forbes, however, points out an interesting side note to the increasing pervasiveness of online interaction—the increased value of live and face-to-face interactions. From actual face-to-face encounters to Facebook live to livestreaming to social learning, Forbes’ list points out that human interaction continues to be a powerful source of value for business.
The Forbes list also included an item on the importance of corporate social responsibility and tagged a truly important demographic event. Generation Z, the generation born in 1998 and after are now poised to begin to enter the workplace as interns and, as college and high school students, are a significant proportion of consumers.
These are the waves of 2018: the rise of AI, the proliferation of data and the increased ability to mine them, the internet of things, increased connectedness and the ability of individuals to band together to force events (Think #Metoo), and the coming of age of Generation Z. They are patterns that are eerily compatible and point the way to possibilities of great change.
We’re opening the doors to a brave new world.
Zukunft is the German word for future. It is a concatenation of the root words “zu” meaning “to” and “kunft” which comes from the German word “Kommen” meaning “to come”. Hence it literally means what is still to come.
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