It's too early to quantify the economic impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but because of this outbreak compounded with the U.S.-China trade war, global supply chains and businesses linked to the world's second-biggest economy are being impacted. As I sit here in Singapore and monitoring the spread of the outbreak in Asia and beyond, the mounting human cost is also especially of deep concern to me.
But even amid adversity comes the opportunity for innovation and invention. Chinese tech companies Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have opened their artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing technologies to researchers to quicken the development of virus drugs and vaccines. U.S.-based medical startups are using AI to rapidly identify thousands of new molecules that could be turned into potential cures. Yet another is using the same technology for early warning and detection by analyzing global airline ticketing data.
This has all served as a reminder for me, an AI founder, of the immense potential of AI for improving efficiency, growth and productivity. AI-enabled automation can really make a difference for traditional services and offline businesses transitioning to digital and online channels.
If increasing productivity while lowering cost is vital for your business, then you might benefit from taking another look at these particular areas where AI can really help: automating processes, gaining customer and competitive insight through data and improving customer and employee engagement.
Banking and financial services
Banks, insurers and lending platforms are seeing a rise in digital transactions with a sharp rise in mobile activity, such as fund transfers, bill payments, time deposits and foreign currency exchanges.
Banking and financial institutions interested in creating a better online presence, in an age when digital is the new norm, should consider implementing AI to help this transition. AI has the potential to help improve efficiency across front, middle and back-office operations within banks and financial services companies.
At the front office, consider using AI to quicken customer identification and authentication. Leverage chatbots and voice assistants to help triage queries and provide personalized recommendations; just be sure to have human representatives ready to take over on questions that the bot can't answer. Within middle-office functions, you can use AI to quickly improve KYC (know-your-customer) regulatory and anti-fraud checks. At the back office, parse relevant customer and business data to help assess and underwrite credit risk. Then, consider marketing your ability to fight fraud and reduce credit risk as a way to build consumer trust.
E-Commerce and retail
Beyond banking and insurance, traditional shopping and retail businesses can benefit. As our society continually shifts to online services, daily footfall and sales in shopping malls and physical stores are down. There's been a rise in e-commerce transactions.
The potential of AI applications within e-commerce and retail services is huge. Most consumers abandon e-commerce experiences because product results displayed are often irrelevant or unaffordable. Consider leveraging advanced natural language processing, as well as image and video recognition. This can help narrow and refine customer searches, resulting in a higher likelihood of conversion.
Streamline digital payments and customer authentication with anti-fraud technology to simplify and expedite the overall customer experience. By leveraging AI in the way, you offer the customer more accurate search results and your business a higher chance of customer conversion.
Company resources, processes and bottom lines will be constantly scrutinized and re-prioritized more than ever. That's why I believe 2020 is a key window for AI adoption and acceleration to take place across the world.
So how do you get started? Here are some questions to consider before you implement AI:
• What is my long-term business strategy?
• What are my priorities; i.e., customer experience, innovation, etc.?
• What are my goals, and what solutions (AI or otherwise) could help me solve them?
• What kind of challenges is my business facing?
The first step is to revisit your long-term business strategy, priorities and goals. When you have a clear idea of your challenges and the path forward, only then should you start thinking about implementing AI. Digital transformations are always about the customer. You don't need to innovate every area of your business, but innovating customer-facing processes could create a better user experience.