Here's what has been gaining momentum in the last 11 months.

Staff Writer

Want to know what to expect next year?

1. People held businesses accountable through social media.

“Social media is increasingly a stage for unsatisfied customers to speak their minds and demand issues be resolved in the public eye, rather than by a private email or phone call. Whether it’s a global reaction like the viral uproar over United Airlines’ mistreatment of a passenger, or a more everyday customer service complaint, people are using social media to call out brands and demand better. According to data from the Q3 2017 Sprout Social Index, 80 percent of consumers believe social has increased accountability for business. The turn toward social for the resolution of these issues speaks to a trend that will only continue to grow–businesses need to recognize that social customer care is in fact a crucial marketing effort.”

–Andrew Caravella, VP of strategy and brand engagement for Sprout Social, which provides social media management, analytics and advocacy solutions for businesses

2. Facial recognition technology was a hot topic.

“Apple released its Face ID feature to streamline the user experience, and we saw a lot of buzz around a patent Walmart filed for facial recognition technology that could register customer sentiment. Moving into 2018 and beyond, expect to see the early stages of beta testing this technology in brick-and-mortar settings to better understand the connection between customer emotion and behavior. However the real value of data from facial recognition technology will be when it’s analyzed in tandem with feedback, demographics, loyalty metrics, online browsing behavior and purchase history to automate highly personalized next-best actions. As with all invasive technologies, brands will need to proceed wisely and with transparency. Today’s customers are discerning and know the difference between real value, creepy and outright inappropriate.”

–Andrew Park, senior director of customer experience strategy at InMomenta Forrester-recognized leader in customer experience feedback strategy

3. Demand for security grew along with the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Consumers are drawn to digitally integrated systems that optimize their experiences with products, and we’ve seen a massive adoption of technologies with IoT capabilities. Along with it came concerns from consumers about the security of their connected devices. In 2017, we saw a serious movement from tech companies to discover ways to safeguard IoT enabled devices from hackers. While there’s still a lot of work to do in the grand scheme of things, a lot of progress been made in the area of IoT security. Security will always remain a concern with IoT technologies so it is of utmost importance that the value of the IoT service provided more than justifies the security exposure incurred.”

–Daniel Huang, founder and CEO of Immotor, a technology company committed to the research and development of electric intelligent personal transportation devices

4. Augmented reality was used to validate construction progress.

“In 2017 McCarthy began implementing Augmented Reality (AR) (specifically the HoloLens with AR apps such as HoloLive, Umbra, and Fuzor) to validate installed building components relative to the planned location per the BIM Coordination Model.  Rather than implementing laser scanning, or laborious field measurements to ensure we deliver an as-built model for each of our clients, we can validate that installations match their intended location, in real time, and at 5 percent or less of the traditional cost.  Moving into 2018, we see this as the norm for continuous validation of as-built conditions, QA/QC job walks with our clients, and even moving to billing approvals through use of virtual job walks.”

–Jordan Moffett, virtual design and construction manager at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., the oldest privately held national construction company in the U.S.

5. 3D printing opened new opportunities and revolutionized what it means to create.

“Within the last few years, 3D printers have gone from overpriced and unreliable to affordable and easy for the average consumer to use. The community and demand for 3D printing has grown tremendously, and soon 3D printers will be as commonplace as desktop inkjet printers. As 3D printing technology continues to advance, crafting ideas and designs into real life objects will become easier and easier. We’re on the brink of seeing this technology continue to penetrate the consumer segment even more.”

–Bernard Luthi, CEO of Monoprice, an ecommerce seller of high-quality consumer electronics and products direct-to-consumer

6. More workers entered the gig economy.

“For those seeking it, the gig economy delivers flexibility and control. An estimated 34 percent of today’s workforce is involved in the gig economy and that number is expected to grow to 43 percent by the year 2020. We responded to this trend this year by focusing our corporate team’s efforts on arming our OPTAVIA Coaches with a new powerful lifestyle brand, tools and resources to empower them to shape their destiny and create a life of greater momentum and potential financial freedom.”

–Dan Chard, CEO of Medifast, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of clinically proven healthy living products and programs

7. Ingestible skin care grew.

“Both online and offline discussions as well as data coming from the consumer surveys shows that ingestible skin care is becoming a mainstream concept, globally. We have discovered that more and more people believe that beauty comes from the within. Some surveys show that two thirds of consumers questioned, replied that eating and drinking their way to beautiful skin is a normal day-to-day approach they take.”

–Golan Raz, head of the global health division at international wellness company Lycored

8. Marketing technology became more accessible.

“Marketing technology has become more accessible over the past few years, largely driven by the rise of cloud solutions and better integrations between tools. While the number of solutions on the market can be daunting, these options have actually empowered marketers (both enterprise and SMB) to see greater ROI from their tools, regardless of department or budget size. Today, more than three-fourths of SMBs are already using more than one marketing technology, and plan to adopt additional solutions to grow their business.”

–Jason VandeBoom, CEO at ActiveCampaign, an SaaS marketing automation platform

9. Digital commerce exploded in B2B.

“Fueled by B2B customer expectations for buying experiences that mimic their personal lives, organizations have made major investments in digital commerce that have transformed how they interact with buyers. Amazon’s investments in Amazon Businesshave supercharged this shift, driving businesses to adopt digital solutions that enable customers to self-serve in order to stay competitive. For the first time in history, nearly half of B2B businesses sell their full line of products online, illustrating the value businesses and buyers are placing on more flexible, convenient commerce experiences.”

–Emily Johnson, marketing manager at CloudCraze, an enterprise B2B commerce platform built natively on Salesforce

10. Digital automation increased the efficiency of many processes.

“In the age of being as efficient as possible, automation was a huge player in making this happen in 2017. From automation in digital advertising to consumer products bringing automation into our homes — this is a trend that is likely to increase in the future. But while automation is great for efficiency, we still need to maintain that human element behind it. In order to keep that creativity incorporated into our daily mundane tasks, we must embrace this technology while striving for a higher level of strategy.”

–Nancy Lim Rothman, director of marketing at CallRail, a call tracking and analytics application

11. Machine learning arrived, and it’s here to stay.

“One of the biggest tech trends of 2017 was that companies are finding tangible ways to apply machine learning within their organization. Machine learning is still in the early stages, and we will see it be applied to more business use cases as we progress into 2018. The concept of using large data sets to find patterns in behavior is a trend that will impact the way companies do business. Understanding when a project is on the right path to success, seeing warning signs of where things can go wrong or recognizing why a customer might leave are questions every business owner wants to address. Machine learning has, and will continue to, provide those answers.”

–Chris Rothstein, cofounder and CEO of Groove.co, a sales automation platform

12. Consumer-oriented augmented reality took mobile applications by storm.

“For mobile technologies, the advent of consumer-oriented Augmented Reality (AR) experiences across both the iOS and Android platforms was extremely significant. We’ve already seen these new technologies driving powerful new consumer experiences for marketing, e-commerce, and retail, and I fully expect we’ve only scratched the surface this year in terms of what experiences will be created for end users, not to mention the wide array of internal, disruptive enterprise-focused use cases for AR.”

–John Sprunger, senior technology architect at West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consulting firm

13. We saw the dawn of the era of massive digital transformation of local governments.

“There is a perfect storm brewing in IT departments within local governments. They’re running on decades-old IT systems, have been slow to adopt modern, cloud technologies, and IT budgets have come to pre-recession levels. With up to 50 percent of IT staff coming up for retirement over the next 5 years, there is a once in a generation opportunity to define the digital government of the future. The initiatives around open data, transparency, and civic engagement have been early indicators of the progress to come in 2018 and beyond.”

–Adnan Mahmud, CEO and Founder of LiveStories, a civic data platform

14. HR data became the holy grail of providing feedback.

“Data has invaded almost every line of business and HR finally got its turn in 2017. This year, more companies armed themselves with real-time feedback capabilities like activity streams and pulse surveys as well as the analytics to support them. These data-driven tactics allowed HR departments and managers to revolutionize performance management and employee engagement while gaining better insight into overall organizational health. Organizations that began housing this rich HR and engagement interaction data in one central location were definitely winners in 2017.”

–Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HighGround, an employee engagement and performance management software provider

15. Companies made strides towards GDPR compliance.

“In 2017, companies started making real strides toward compliance. Organizations of all sizes are preparing for the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and have made it a priority. With potential fines of up to 4 percent of annual global revenue, GDPR affects all companies with a European presence, as well as any company with a website offering goods or services to citizens of the EU and cloud services developed by US-based companies and deployed globally. As we get closer to the May 2018 deadline, we’ll continue to see companies implementing better and stronger privacy and security controls.”

–Dana Simberkoff, chief risk, privacy and information security officer at AvePoint, an IT solutions provider

16. InsureTech startups partnered with direct competitors.

“In 2017, InsureTech startups saw a meaningful shift towards forging relationships with traditional carriers rather than competing directly with them. This likely has to do with the barriers to entry most startups face in the forms of heavy regulation, large capital requirements, and the wide variety of functional expertise required to build integrated insurance entities. In 2018, it will be interesting to see whether those who choose to partner or those who stay the course of direct competition will see more success in the InsureTech space.”

–Kyle Nakatsuji, founder and CEO of Clearcover, a data-driven auto insurance startup

17. Hospitality took on tech and it’s paying off for everyone.

“Swaying from its interpersonal roots, the hospitality industry took on tech this year in hopes of improving the experience for both the restaurant owner and customer. For starters, it saw a rise in e-commerce adoption beyond simple reservation services like OpenTable. Customers can now book catering or private events, for example, with just a few clicks instead of a series of phone calls or email chains. And like most industries, the hospitality industry reaped the benefits of the mobile tipping point this year. Software vendors finally cracked the code on getting employees to adopt mobile tech, as everything from employee scheduling, to payment collection, to event management can now be completed on mobile devices.”

–Nick Miller, cofounder and CEO of event management software Gather, an event management software for restaurants and venues

18. Cloud computing reached its inflection point.

“Many companies have been thinking about migrating to cloud computing, a number of them have made the move but with small and low risk applications. Now that cloud computing has proven itself to be a substantial improvement over self-hosting, this trend is now significantly accelerating. The key trend going forward is that companies are evaluating their portfolios of applications and determining which of the “four R’s” make sense for them: Rehost (also referred to as “lift and shift”). This involves mass migration of existing application to a different cloud-based hardware environment, without changing the applications themselves. Refactor, which means running an application on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, while modernizing some of the application code to fully take advantage of the cloud environment. Rebuild, which involves completely redeveloping an application to take full advantage of the cloud infrastructure provider’s platform. Replace, which means discard an existing application and switching to a SaaS model. Much of the next year’s activity is likely to be in the ‘Rehost’ category, where companies try to take advantage of the cloud, while yet extending the life of their existing, and proven, applications.”

–Ed Szofer, CEO of SenecaGlobal, a software development solutions and services provider

19. People are being more conscious of what they put into their bodies.

“Natural remedies were a great 2017 trend to watch. Curing a migraine with a pill isn’t the immediate instinct anymore. Consumers are getting smarter, so it raises the bar in providing a better product. We looked at the migraine problem differently and found that weather-related migraines were among the primary causes. No medicine can stop the weather. By creating an ear plug that allows atmospheric pressure to more gradually affect a sufferer’s middle ear, we discovered a drug-free migraine solution. By thinking differently and fully embracing the natural remedy trend, we came up with kid-friendly, drug-free headache relief.”

–Drew E. O’Connell, CEO of MigraineX, a natural, drug-free option to help to reduce weather-related migraine pain and symptoms

20. There was a spike in people searching for addiction and treatment options online.

“Nearly 80 percent of internet users are looking up medical conditions like alcohol and opioid addiction, and how to get help. We want to make that process of getting vetted, unbiased info on addiction treatment way more transparent, so people can make genuinely informed choices.”

–Patrick Nagle, founder and CEO of Rehab.com, an unbiased and transparent resource for those searching for drug, alcohol, and mental health services

21. Companies increasingly incorporated wellness into their workplace environment.

” Whether it is healthy snack and supplement options or staff yoga, it gives business leaders and their staff clarity and makes everyone feel enthusiastic about starting their day. Keeping that momentum going throughout their work schedule [provides] amazing results.”

–Zev Ostreicher, founder and CEO of Zoganic, a drinkable vitamin supplement made from 100-perecent organic fruits and herbs