Almost all (98%) U.S. CEOs are confident about their companies’ growth prospects, according to the KPMG 2018 U.S. CEO Outlook. At the same time, they’re forecasting only moderate growth in revenue while acknowledging challenges including digitalization and “Millennialization.”

Here are some key findings of the report.

Confidence is high, but expectations are tempered

Constance Hunter, KPMG’s chief economist, notes that “the economy is now tied for the second-longest expansion cycle on record.” This, along with other economic tailwinds, has boosted CEOs’ confidence:

  • 98% are confident in the growth prospects of their company,
  • 84% are confident in the growth prospects of their industry, and
  • 84% are confident in the growth prospects of the U.S. economy.

At the same time, half of companies expect revenue increases of at least 2%, which is significantly lower than past forecasts. The respondents said the reason for this was disruptive innovation, which is making growth prospects more volatile.

In addition, although companies know understand the importance of investing in new technologies, and most (98%) see technological disruption more as an opportunity than as a threat, they’re struggling with how to calculate the ROI of those investments. This is particularly true of robotic process automation — only 30% of CEOs say their organizations know how to evaluate the benefits of these initiatives.

Read more about robots in the food industry:

CEOs rely on data to make decisions (sometimes) and trust social media above all

When it comes to data, CEOs say they trust it, but they often trust their own instincts even more. More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents said that they’ve gone with their intuition rather than data-driven insights to make a critical decision at least once in the last 3 years.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is where CEOs choose to get their data. 96% said they have trust data from social media. That’s more than they trust other, more traditional data sources, including independent secondary information providers (93%), open data from government agencies (80%), traditional media (80%), and government-commissioned research (74%). KPMG’s Traci Gusher suggests that this is because social media data comes direct from the customer, rather than passing through any filters.

Millennials remain somewhat of a mystery

Millennials are driving major changes in how companies connect with their customers as well as with employees. But companies are still struggling to differentiate the way they interact with Millennials compared to other generations.

Here are the 5 biggest challenges for companies in meeting the needs of Millennial customers:

  • Understanding how Millennials’ needs differ from older customers’ (46%)
  • Adapting their sales and distribution model (46%)
  • Appointing senior leaders who can better relate to Millennials (44%)
  • Engaging Millennials in new ways via digital channels (44%)
  • Attracting Millennials’ attention among competing online content (42%)

Read more about how Millennials are impacting the food industry:

View the full KPMG report to learn what U.S. CEOs think about cybersecurity, workforce development, and more.

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