Name any one of the top ten tech companies today, and I can tell you that the key component to their revenue success and dominance within the industry is ‘Data.’ Data is an essential resource of today’s digital economy. But without special procedures and processes for the extraction of data, the data is useless.

AI should be seen as a tool, a tool that assists in the extraction, analysis, and interpretation of data. This enables organizations or businesses to use the data immediately and make better decisions.

“How is this possible?” You may ask. The answer lies in the fact that all these companies have embraced the concept of deep learning and integrated a data-based decision-making system into their infrastructure. In this article, we take a look at how AI has helped to break barriers and increase a company’s competitive advantage in their industry.

Initially, these top business brands adopted the AI technology into their infrastructure as a means of learning from consumer behavior and insights, but over a couple of years, Artificial Intelligence has proved to have many other uses. Today, one of the more significant functionalities of AI is the constant focus on characteristic improvements, which allows a business to improve it’s servicing and thereby grow at rates much faster than its competitors.

Why is AI important?

Information technology in the world today has evolved beyond process automation and business logic. The real potential of AI is the release of actionable insights that would go unnoticed in massive amounts of data. These data are usually unstructured or poorly-structured data such as data generated from videos, business documents, photos, social media posts, written reports, and electronic messages.

According to reports from MIT Sloan Management Review, Seven out of 10 companies surveyed report minimal or no impact from AI so far. Companies with large budgets have already outpaced the other companies with not-so-big budgets in implementing solutions to augment human capabilities, automate processes, and deliver breakthrough results. And these companies who have invested heavily in AI and data analytics are beginning to experience the results from the adoption of AI.

The adoption of AI is rapidly spreading across industry and domain. And every business or organization that is developing competencies pairing data analytics with AI is developing the potential to make a big leap ahead of competitors. Pioneers who were wise to invest early in AI applications are setting the standards in several ways.

At the moment, the early adopters of AI:

  1. Have integrated AI strategies with their overall business strategy to drive growth as well as improvements in day to day operations – this includes using AI to either efficiently manage or modify business operations.
  2. Are already reaping the benefits of delivering profitable products and services.
  3. Are investing more resources in advanced AI capabilities and applications than their counterparts.
  4. Are engaging in AI projects that focus more on revenue growth than cost reduction.

Data, in the form of insights, is the new currency and the speed with which we can scale that insight and the knowledge that comes along with it is the basis for value creation and the key to competitive advantage. According to a study by Gartner, AI will become one of the top five investment priorities for more than 30% of CIOs worldwide, in 2020 and by 2021 AI augmentation will create $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally.

What this implies is that more companies will seek AI solutions to improve decision-making and process automation. Many businesses worldwide are still early in their data science journey and are trying to understand how AI can transform their businesses.

Traditional business strategies hardly included AI or data analytics components, but today, these emerging and converging technologies are vital to any large organization’s strategy for the future.

Using AI to Achieve a Competitive Advantage

In a survey of 800 industry leaders across eight countries (US and Europe,) forecasts indicate that approximately 93% of high growth companies having double-digit organic growth will invest in AI in the next one to three years. According to Computer Scientist and Global Leader in AI, Andrew Nig, “It is almost impossible to think of any major industry that will not be affected by AI transformation.

The major industries are education, transportation, healthcare, communications, agriculture, and retail. There are distinct pathways for AI and data analytics to influence these industries. It can be assumed that AI must be utilized to stay competitive in business.

Building AI and data capabilities for best results

An easy way to kickstart a healthy debate about data analytics is to pose the question of which tool works best! Ideally, the answer to this question depends on what you are trying to accomplish. One thing is for sure: you are not starting from scratch and already have technology systems in place.

Any company with hopes of gaining an advantage over competitors must be certain that any further investment is into analytics and decision management tools that are open and can easily integrate with the existing environment. However, the critical requirement is to understand how to utilize and manage those analytics within the day-to-day operations.

The value of analytics shows best when it is applied. Connecting data and insights harvested from analytics to daily operations will yield positive business outcomes. With the application of prescriptive analytics, business rules can be developed or optimization models added to the analytics.

These will trigger specific commands to be executed in every different scenario based on a deep understanding of every situation, predictions, and other business constraints or regulations.

It is important to note that turning data into a competitive advantage is not for dominating enterprises alone. As artificial intelligence becomes more advanced and more widely accepted and adopted, there is going to be an increase in the number of companies investing in AI to profer improved strategies to compete on a fair playing field against their competition.

The key to beating your competition is having superior data - not necessarily more data, but data that your competitors do not have access to. Theoretically, every business or organization is capable of developing its unique data assets which is necessary for competition.

This means that a brand’s customers are slightly different from those of their competition, which also means that there is a unique angle that they can utilize. Therefore, every unit of data gotten on a customer or potential customer is a piece of information useful for crafting an effective marketing or advertising strategy.

In order to utilize information effectively, a decision must be made on the deliverables. Are you looking to make more sales? Is it higher foot traffic in stores? Is your goal to improve market awareness of your product? Once there is a set goal, look at the data to confirm that it is in the right format for use with analytics.

This process does not have an easy explanation, but fundamentally, the useful data has to be in a disaggregated state - it has to come from multiple sources so that more in-depth conclusions can be drawn.

This means it is not enough to know only how many people visited a store, but rather, the exact time each person visited. There is no need to look at just the quantity of sales made, but also what items were sold and to whom. Taking one step further, you can identify the feedback from each customer before and after a transaction, what ads they were shown, and when and where all the interactions occurred.

Digital Travel

According to a Forbes report, 70 percent of enterprises were expected to have implemented AI and data analytics at the end of 2018. A chunk of these enterprises are within the travel and hospitality industry, which benefit from data on constant seasonal sales trends, bookings, past travel data and other valuable insights. Travel companies leverage big data analytics to optimize pricing and implement predictive personalization.

In reality, travel companies such as hotels, airlines, and Online Travel Agencies are witnessing digital disruption and face their unique challenges. Today, travelers proceed seamlessly from researching to purchasing at their own pace; this means the holiday seeker’s journey begins long before they board a plane or check into a hotel. To succeed, the travel industry needs to use AI and other technologies to predict what travelers will want next.

What a traveler wants depends on who they are; this is a field where data analytics is good at defining and refining. After all, the needs of a business traveler are different from a leisure traveler, and a single traveler has different requirements than a group or family. One point worthy of note is that all travelers have a unifying factor: a set of expectations that travel marketers can meet by leveraging data.

To fully benefit in this digital revolution, travel industry leaders are building and integrating new ecosystems based on the latest technology innovations, these include:

1: Using AI-powered chatbots to offer customer support and reduce contact center operations’ running cost

2: Offering travelers a feel and experience of the trip in advance via Virtual Reality (VR)

3: Integrating Internet of Things (IoT) to help airlines and airports better monitor and track assets while improving the accuracy of flight schedules

While it’s a win-win for customers as a result of greater accessibility, improved customer service, increased convenience, and personalized offers, for the travel companies, it is all about data. The most effective way to exceed the traveler’s expectations is by acquiring, accumulating and interpreting customer data. Currently, large Online Travel Agencies, hotel chains, and a few airlines have made significant progress at improving customer experience, which is precisely what today and tomorrow’s traveler is looking for.

Third-party providers that have the requisite industry knowledge, and technology and analytics expertise can come in to provide help enabling travel companies to offer superior user experiences across multiple channels for a competitive edge.

Outpacing the Competition Using Reporting

Majority of businesses focus more on being different from the competition. Businesses want to stand out from competitors so that customers think of them before others, whether that’s because of an offer of higher quality products and services, cheaper products and services, or because of a better customer experience.

An effective way to outpace competition is to offer a fit for purpose, engaging, seamless, and easy to use customer support platform to bolster customer loyalty. Reports from an opinion poll carried out in 2016 showed that an essential attribute of the customer experience was fast response time, where 75% of customers voted this as the most essential element of customer experience.

This report shows that when a customer has an issue, they want it resolved fast. Response times should be a critical metric that is reported on. Forward-thinking businesses all over the world are now shifting their focus to providing a faster response time in customer support services, and this should be made a priority by every other business that seeks a competitive edge.

A study by Livechatinc found that the ‘average response time’ has been going up consistently. From 2016, the average first response time from the companies studied was 56 seconds. In 2017 it was 5 seconds faster at 51 seconds, and in 2018, it became 3 seconds faster again at 48 seconds.

Consistency across channels ranked second, with 55% of customers affirming that this was an essential attribute to their customer experience. At this point, having a consolidated and consistent approach, such as what can be achieved with a multi-support platform is important. Customers need to always feel that they are interacting with your company and your brand, no matter the communication preference.

There shouldn’t be an inconsistency with how businesses deal with customers on email, call, or text – and having all communications in one platform is an excellent way to tackle this. Having a seamless customer service platform that puts the customer’s needs first will give a competitive edge to companies that invest heavily in this area.