SAN FRANCISCO — Each year, extensive research is done to identify the 10 top business trends that are driving successful businesses forward to greater levels of achievement, profitability, sales, customer loyalty and client engagement.

These lists may vary slightly, but generally they include common themes that cross industry boundaries. Also, what applies in 2018 can apply to the new year, now that 2019 is here.

Since fabricare has a distinct retail component and an equally distinct manufacturing component, we will explore various ways to incorporate the trends in each department starting here in Part 1 with sales, marketing and customer service. This two-part column will emphasize impact on growing sales and profitability.

For this discussion, the focus will be on the specific list generated by Ian Altman for Forbes Leadership because it exemplifies a consensus of the 2018 trends lists.

(For the entire article, go to: https://www.forbes.com/ sites/ianaltman/2017/12/05/the-top-business-trends-that-will-drive-success-in-2018/#23e807fb701a)

10 TRENDS

1. Artificial intelligence

To apply the trends, it is necessary to first understand what they are. Artificial intelligence (AI) is all over the media in many contexts. It’s so commonly highlighted that it is very often referred to only with the initials AI.

According to IBM, AI is, “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

A familiar version of artificial intelligence is Amazon’s Echo devices with Alexa. Hotel installations, like the Winn Resort in Las Vegas, allow guests to control the climate, services and food ordering, and to ask a range of questions about amenities, sites of interest and entertainment.

Drycleaners with 24/7 kiosks have been incorporating artificial intelligence for years. Also, there are many available apps for the industry designed to give customers more options than static software provides.

If you have not at least incorporated an app into your business, you have likely not captured the younger replacement generations of fabricare customers.

2. Communities embrace live interactions

With all the social media alternatives, why do people still spend their own money to travel to live events and meetings?

The interactions are different but augment and enhance each other. The initial social media contact creates a sense of community and the live contact enriches that feeling. A middle ground on this spectrum is interactive video.

The more options you provide for engagement to your customers, the greater will be their loyalty to your brand. Are you active on social media? Do you have a Vlog (preferable to a blog)? Do you sponsor live events with lifestyle partners?

3. Millennials welcome Generation Z

Just as business had to adapt to Millennials — now reaching their mid-30s — a new generation is moving into the workforce: Generation Z, or “Gen Z” for short.

Born after 1998, Gen Z is the first generation born surrounded by personal electronic devices. 

They present a whole new set of traits that are being furiously studied by behaviorists, managers and businesses that want to recruit them as associates and customers.

Are you ready to adapt to their preferred form of payment (smart-phone), communication (24/7 interactive), and other preferences?

4. Wages and more on the rise

The combination of a growing economy and low unemployment is causing a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) prediction of an average 3% wage increase this year.

Monetary compensation is only one of four components influencing job holders and seekers. They are also weighing: flexibility, benefits (including ever-more expensive health care), and autonomy.

The “generation of the associate” influences the weighting between the four mentioned components and others that might be sought after.

Can you offer job-sharing, remote work location, flex hours, more self-management, and choice from a menu of benefits?

5. Social learning

This social learning — live interaction via social media — is group learning, and it outperforms individual learning when ranked on actual performance. This factor indicates a combination of reading or online training augmented with group interactive learning and role playing.

How are you training your sales and service team? Don’t forget to involve remote workers so they feel connected to their peers and the company.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.