Seasoned investors often approach the markets with a long-term view, using short- and medium-term volatility to buy into the themes they believe will pan out over many years. While identifying these trends is difficult, tuning out the noise can reveal what’s to come, possibly resulting in significant gains.

As we move through the fourth quarter of 2022, let’s highlight five of the most popular investment trends right now — looking at several themes that show significant potential for growth.

1. Inflation protection

Americans are dealing with higher prices across a bevy of items, as inflation has surged to its highest level since the early 1980s, according to data from the U.S. Labor Department. With the increasing cost of living, investors are looking for ways to protect their purchasing power.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, and Series I Bonds are two simple ways to protect your savings from the costs of rising inflation. Both securities are issued by the U.S. government and are designed to reflect the inflationary environment. The par value of TIPS rises with inflation, while I Bonds have a variable interest rate that adjusts to the current inflation level. I Bonds currently come with an interest rate of nearly 10 percent, but that rate will be set at a new level at the end of October.

Stocks have also proven to be an effective inflation hedge over the long term. Companies that have pricing power can pass on higher costs to their customers, allowing them to maintain or even increase their profit margins over time. In the short term, however, concerns around inflation can spook investors and cause stock prices to fall.

Gold has also been thought of as a traditional inflation hedge and is often viewed as a store of value. But unlike stocks, gold doesn’t produce anything for its owners. You won’t receive increasing dividend payments over time like you will with a broad stock portfolio. Gold investors can buy the physical asset or can invest using exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

2. Shift to online shopping

More and more retail spending has been shifting online from physical stores since it became available in the 1990s. Online sales accounted for 14.5 percent of total retail spending in the second quarter of 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That number has risen steadily over time and seems poised to increase further in the coming years as more and more shopping categories shift online. Items that were once thought to be immune from the online shift, such as cars and furniture, have become major e-commerce businesses as consumers have shown they value the convenience and selection offered by shopping online.

You can invest in this trend by owning stocks in individual retailers such as Amazon (AMZN), Wayfair (W) or Carvana (CVNA), or by owning funds that track the online retail industry. Two funds to consider are the ProShares Online Retail ETF (ONLN) and the Amplify Online Retail ETF (IBUY).

While most people think of online-only companies such as Amazon when they think of e-commerce, some traditional retailers have invested in their online businesses as well. Companies such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) have built large online offerings to complement their physical stores. Both companies saw their online sales grow faster than sales at their stores during their most recent quarters, a trend that could continue for years to come.

3. Artificial intelligence

The technological revolution has brought artificial intelligence (AI) to the forefront of society, making a reality of what was previously only imagined. With AI disrupting many aspects of our lives, the new technology could become the most influential industry of the century.

At its core, AI attempts to replicate human intelligence in a computer or machine with faster speed and greater accuracy. So as these systems become more intelligent, AI becomes more powerful, with its uses and applications impacting nearly every industry.

Analysts at International Data Corporation (IDC), a provider of market intelligence, predict that by 2023, worldwide revenues for the AI market will top $500 billion, with the market growing at an annual rate of about 20 percent over the next five years.

AI is everywhere. Whether it’s Apple (AAPL) using facial recognition software to unlock iPhones, companies like Samsung building smart appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, or robo-advisors leveraging automated algorithms to optimize investments, the technology is all around us.

For most retail investors, there’s a chance you already have exposure to AI, as many large U.S. public companies are either already using it or are actively looking to invest in the technology. But for those seeking more direct exposure, some notable names include Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), Upstart Holdings (UPST), Intel (INTC), Trimble (TRMB) and Brooks Automation (BRKS).

4. The metaverse

The future of the internet includes virtual worlds where humans can interact without the confines of physical space. And according to analysts’ estimates, these virtual environments could be the next big investment opportunity.

Thanks to greater computing power, faster internet connectivity, and other technological advancements, tech companies are developing ecosystems where people can shop, play, exercise, learn, and experience most life activities digitally. Facebook, for example, has changed its name to Meta Platforms (META) and plans to invest billions in its ambition to build the metaverse.

As audiences for these virtual environments grow, so does the interest from corporations trying to capitalize on this trend. Art gallery Sotheby’s, for example, announced last year that non-fungible tokens (NFT) sales reached $100 million and began operating Sotheby’s Metaverse, a new virtual gallery in Decentraland, a 3D virtual world. Though 2022 has been significantly more challenging for NFT sales as prices for cryptocurrencies and other speculative assets have declined.

Nike (NKE) has also been investing in the metaverse through NIKELAND, a digital world built on the Roblox platform. Nike uses the space to release virtual products and has held events with athletes such as NBA superstar Lebron James. In March, the company said nearly 7 million players from 224 countries had visited NIKELAND since being launched in November 2021.

Likewise, Microsoft (MSFT) has set in motion the acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in the most significant gaming deal in history — and a big bet on the expansion of the metaverse.

Among other investment opportunities, some analysts point to NVIDIA (NVDA), a semiconductor company that powers computer graphics, as a potential winner from the growth of the metaverse. In addition, Autodesk (ADSK) and Unity Software (U), software makers that allow architects and designers to create 3D models, and cloud-technology provider Fastly (FSLY) are also top names in the space.

For those looking for broader exposure, Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF (METV) offers an efficient and easy way to invest in metaverse-specific stocks.

5. ESG investing

The disruption and uncertainty caused by the global pandemic ignited a renewed interest from investors, consumers and employees to favor those corporations that prioritize environmental, social and governance (ESG) causes. These companies focus on issues that matter to all stakeholders and may sacrifice short-term profits in favor of long-term impact.

The fund industry has pounced on investor interest in sustainable investing. Funds focused on ESG investing managed about $2.7 trillion in 2021, according to Morningstar.

By creating societal value through sustainable practices, shares of these corporations also tend to be more resilient than their peers.

For example, research from Bank of America shows that shares of corporations with solid ESG practices tend to be less volatile, have higher three-year returns, and are less likely to declare bankruptcy.

One way to invest in socially conscious companies is through ETFs like the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (SUSA), which tracks an index of highly rated ESG companies. Some of the names in the fund include Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), Home Depot (HD) and Tesla (TSLA). Other options include the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN) or the SPDR S&P 500 ESG ETF (EFIV).

Purpose-led organizations hope to set the pace for a better future. By focusing their efforts on reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, advancing social issues, and fostering equality, equity and inclusion, among other noble causes, these corporations are redefining the role of business in society.

However, it’s worth noting that an increased focus on environmental issues by companies doesn’t necessarily mean the death of traditional energy investments such as oil and gas. In fact, over the past year the energy sector is the best performer in the S&P 500 thanks to a rise in oil and gas prices.

Note: Bankrate’s Brian Baker contributed to an update of this story.

Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.