AI for Business – Capitalizing on the Continuing AI Revolution in 2024
January 04, 2024

Picture a world where organizations navigate a changing landscape seamlessly, using AI to elevate their decision-making and reshape their industries. In 2024, more leaders are already doing just...

Picture a world where organizations navigate a changing landscape seamlessly, using AI to elevate their decision-making and reshape their industries. In 2024, more leaders are already doing just that: using better tools to boost business performance and meet evolving customer needs with agility.

In 2024, the race to capitalize on AI’s game-changing potential will be on, and the growing conversation around AI underscores the intensifying focus of Canadian business leaders on this rapidly developing technology. Here, we explore the trends poised to shape the coming year and their implications for the retail, financial services, energy, and security sectors amid AI’s transformative tide.

Retail: Enhancing Customer Experience

It would be rare to find a retail leader who had not discussed AI with their team in the last year – especially in relation to keeping customers happy and engaged. As a recent study of sector CEOs reveals, more than half of leaders now consider improving customer experience to be their top priority, in line with the desire among shoppers for greater personalization. Not only do leaders predict AI can play a vital role in achieving that goal, 64% also foresee its ever-closer integration into decision-making over the next half-decade as they look to futureproof their businesses.

As Craig Eaket, Managing Partner, Communications, Industrial and Distribution Sectors at IBM Canada affirms, retailers are now “reimagining the customer journey in the age of AI as customers look for a more tailored, seamless shopping experience.” Emphasizing AI’s potential to move beyond simple chatbots answering questions, Eaket adds that “industry leaders who recognize this will build experiences creating greater loyalty and smarter, growth sustaining operations.”

Forward-thinking merchants integrating AI into their operations are already seeing faster growth and greater edge in a crowded and competitive landscape. In 2024, as Canadian retailers look to claim a larger share of consumer spending, many will take advantage of AI tools to create more responsive and engaging shopping experiences and come out ahead.

Financial Services: Advancing Customer Care

Talent, security, and customer experience are all areas where leaders in this fast-moving sector see the prospect of substantial dividends in Generative AI’s transformative potential. Just over half of all CEOs now consider customer care, in line with expectations accelerated by digital transformation during the pandemic, to be of paramount importance in building trust and loyalty. Furthermore, three-quarters of leaders assert that gaining competitive advantage will require using Generative AI in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Another key area where AI is set to revolutionize the financial sector is in data analytics. “By using Generative AI as a research tool to collect and analyze customer service interactions, financial institutions are learning more about their customers than they ever thought possible,” says Daniel Cascone, Consulting Financial Services Sector Leader at IBM Canada. “The vast potential of AI in analytics also presents new opportunities to reinvest those learnings into customer service and operational streamlining.”

Financial institutions are now realizing the benefits of Generative AI keenly outweigh the risks, suggesting its use in the sector will surge in 2024. The biggest opportunities will lie beyond perennial areas of focus, like strategic decision-making and growth, in piloting technology that reinforces trust and confidence among customers.

Energy: Prioritizing Sustainability

Sustainability is now ranked by as many as half of all Canadian CEOs as their primary focus, ahead of leaders from 30 other countries. With increasing pressure to stay profitable and productive, while showing progress on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, Canadian organizations are racing to adopt Generative AI to make data-driven decisions, from supply chain optimization to managing energy use across the business.

In fact, sustainability already trumps productivity and profitability as a leading concern for CEOs in Canada. As Dave McCann, President of IBM Canada has observed, “Canadian leaders are realizing sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand.” Emphasizing the need to assess AI’s strategic impact while ensuring privacy and fairness, McCann has added that “organizations must hone their focus for deeper clarity on their purpose, profit, people, and planet-specific objectives.”

The Canadian federal government's recent proposal for cutting more than one third of emissions in the oil and gas sector by 2030, which it believes can be achieved “through technological changes,” suggests AI can play a significant role in helping enterprises meet their sustainability targets. In 2024, the intersection of AI and climate strategy will be a fertile ground for many of Canada’s largest companies, both in managing their footprint and delivering on the ambitious climate goals expected by stakeholders, as well as helping governments assure a sustainable economic future for the country.

Security: Mitigating Data Breaches

Increasingly sophisticated and opportunistic bad actors continued to target industries like energy, retail, and banking this year. In 2023 alone, Canadian companies footed nearly CA$7 million on average in data breach costs, the third highest amount globally, suggesting the importance of AI in empowering businesses to mitigate the effects of cyberattacks is set to grow substantially.

AI is already showing its potential in helping companies stay ahead of attackers to keep sensitive information and assets safe, by helping predict and identify increasingly complex threats. Canadian companies using AI and automation to fortify their security operations are already experiencing breaches that are 33 days shorter, and costing CA$1.74 million less on average.

As part of a comprehensive risk management strategy encompassing investment in threat intelligence, encryption, identity and access management (IAM), as well as employee training, new AI – like predictive analysis, deception tools, and endpoint protection – can significantly reduce the financial and reputational cost of a breach. Next year, more enterprises should seek to explore the opportunities of AI in risk and operational impact management as well as recovery.

In 2024, widespread adoption of AI will have huge implications for clients across a range of industries, both in solving problems – while raising others requiring close attention. IBM will stay at the forefront of delivering AI and analytics to help clients transform customer service and business operations, to stay adaptable, agile, and well-prepared for the next wave of change.

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