As a business person or manager in the retail sector, you should already have your own ideas about trends in the sector you are likely to witness over the next 12 months. These ideas and visions into the future are probably already driving your strategy for 2018 and will underpin your planning for the year. But we thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas that the expert writers at Forbes have suggested might be at the heart of business practices next year. These snippets of expert opinion might offer further insight; they might vindicate your own thinking; or they might throw up some completely new ideas. Here are five top business trends as identified by Forbes Magazine. 1. Artificial intelligence (AI) drives customer experience. Rather than dehumanising interactions, AI is set to enhance it. How? By getting machines to perform repeatable, redundant tasks but using AI to enrich consumer experiences. One example is delivery times. Google Maps uses real-time customer data from our phones to give a range of highly accurate travel times. Top tip: expect to see more highly-customised content delivery automated to a consumer’s specific persona and lifestyle. 2. Communities embrace live interactions over social media Companies are realising social media and technology do not replace the need for in-person interactions, social media can actually make in-person interactions more valuable. Since consumers are already connected in the virtual world, in-person relationships can be built at a rapid pace because you already feel as though you “know” the other person. For example, community events such as the B2B Forum sells out to people seeking high value face-to-face interactions - having first met virtually online. Top tip: Companies will run more live events. 3. Social learning outperforms remote learning Where the water cooler used to be the meeting point now, as more professionals work remotely, companies have found creative ways to keep employees connected and develop their talents outside of the office. Social learning is the process of learning through peer social interaction. Two or more people run into each other, share ideas, and walk away knowing a little more in the process; this is social learning. Modern social learning can take place in informal one-on-one encounters, among teams in the course of real-time problem-solving, communities of practice, through social software and much more. despite appearing to be isolated, the most successful online learning courses include a digital community where participants can share their experience, ask questions of each other, and engage in social learning that goes beyond the course curriculum. Top tip: Mentoring will become a major tool in staff development. 4. Live streaming video content gains momentum Although video has become a necessary part of a company’s marketing toolkit, the customer is too savvy to accept generic, impersonal marketing. Customers demand real connections with real people. Done well, video marketing is the most effective way to engage with your audience. According to Nick Losq, chief creative officer at Starbeast: “Video is the most easily digestible form of media in a landscape now dominated by smartphones. And when a business starts adding a \"live” component, introducing real people, in real time, it has the power to connect with consumers in a personal and honest manner, allowing businesses to separate themselves from their competitors. Live video has the ability to give many businesses a face and a soul.” Top tip: See a rise in webinars, Q & A sessions with expert staff and streamed product reviews. 5. Serve your community, not just buyers. Today’s consumers do their research. They vet a company by scouring their website, reading online reviews and asking for peer reviews through their online social community. By the time a customer reaches a salesperson, they have done their due diligence. It pays a company to be a ‘friend’ within the customer’s community. This might mean displaying your corporate and social responsibility credentials, hold events that support the local community, demonstrate your commitment to supporting local charities. These are just five trends that a leading business publication has identified. You will probably have your own thoughts on what will be big news in 2018. Whatever your plans for the year ahead, here at Pursuit Software, we offer you a successful and meaningful 2018.