The global economic outlook for 2018 is shifting into a positive light. The two major surveys of consumer attitudes, namely the Conference Board’s Survey of Consider Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment are both strong. Forbes Economist, Bill Conerly, says that while consumer spending isn’t the whole story, it is an important part of the economic forecast for 2018 – 2019. To predict future spending, Bill analyses consumer incomes, pent-up demand, interest rates and credit availability, and attitudes.

Income is still rising, but at a slower rate, and the growth rate of real disposable income has slowed. Bill says that consumer spending showed weak growth in the second half and will continue to show weak growth early in 2018, but after that he predicts that wages will rise, thereby improving incomes and enabling faster growth in consumer spending.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the world economy’s acceleration last year was stronger than earlier estimates, with an upswing towards the end of the year in nearly all the world’s major economies. The International Monetary Fund’s flagship report, the World Economic Outlook, forecasted growth of 3.6% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2018.

Towards the end of last year, the SA Reserve Bank’s leading business cycle indicator pointed to a number of factors that could signal better times are ahead for the local economy, including growth in mineral exports and marginal growth in private sector credit extension.

Even with an upward swing in the economy, businesses know that they cannot be complacent, so we’ve rounded up a few upcoming business and marketing trends that will drive success in 2018:

E-commerce will continue to rise
Getting your brand out there, especially in the built environment, involves having solid products, a great reputation and a hands-on solution. There are, however, ways that manufacturers continue to tap into the rise of e-commerce business.

“We’re seeing an increase in flooring manufacturers who are setting up websites so that their consumers can choose products online and even track their progress to delivery. In the past you had to go to a showroom to see what was on offer, but everything from high quality graphics and video content is helping flooring manufacturers showcase what they have to offer online. This, coupled with the ability to customise products with the click of the button, will continue to help manufacturers reach wider target audiences,” says Roxanne Mancini, Editor of FLOORS in Africa magazine.

Connecting people instead of selling to them
Today’s generation is the most ‘marketed to’ generation in history. People no longer even see spammy ads and it’s hard to reach people with one-way marketing. We live in the connection economy, where people are using apps and social media to find what they want in real time. Instead of focusing on how you can sell to your potential buyers, consider how you can use technology to connect them with what they want.

Greener products
Millennials are becoming older and are increasingly in decision-making positions within companies. Millennials are quite conscious of the types of products they buy, they turn off the taps when they brush their teeth and are actively looking for socially conscious companies to purchase from. This, coupled with building guidelines in South Africa and rising electricity prices, makes it more important than ever before to focus on providing green products and services.

“Many local flooring manufacturers have invested heavily in green production processes and material sourcing, and many designers and architects are committed to sustainable design practices. One of your business goals should be getting your green messages to the right people. Use the right communication vehicles to make sure that the people who are making the buying decisions understand the environmental impacts of your products, the lifecycle, your supply chain decisions, and everything involved in your commitment to sustainability,” says Roxanne.

Establish a strong online presence
According to Independent We Stand research findings, 97% of internet users conduct online research before making their purchasing decision. Consumers browse through several websites to find useful information and they are likely to lose confidence if such information isn’t available. Your reputation is king and it’s important to make sure your brand has the right level of online credibility.

“What comes up in search engine results when your product names, project names, or company CEO’s name gets typed into Google? Not only should your website and personal LinkedIn profiles be comprehensive and complete, reputable industry publications should be featuring your brand as well,” says Roxanne.

These are only a few success strategies that can help you make 2018 your most successful year yet. Keeping an eye on consumer trends, making the most of opportunities in the market and engaging with the right people at the right time will put you in good stead for the next 12 months.

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.forbes.com, www.wsj.com, www.inc.com, www.growthstrategies101.com and www.fin24.com for some of the information contained in this article.