InnovateX 2024: AI and digital transformation key to business growth

The first day of Solveo’s InnovateX Festival 2024 saw industry leaders highlight the pivotal role of digital transformation and strategic innovation in driving business growth. The first panel focused on experiences and thoughts on leveraging technologies such as AI to adapt to a rapidly changing business landscape, which is evolving with each passing day. 

Vladimir Ristevski, partner and creative director at Piksel, highlighted the transformative potential of AI in generating creative ideas and improving business outcomes, explaining how AI could analyze vast amounts of data to uncover patterns and insights that might not be immediately obvious to human analysts. For instance, an e-commerce client discovered that 70% of their website visitors had a strong interest in sports. By integrating sports-related content into their marketing campaigns, they saw significant increases in sales, customer engagement, and brand awareness. 

He also emphasized that successful AI integration requires a deep understanding of the customer base. Brands that demonstrate awareness of their customers’ broader interests can create more personalized and engaging marketing strategies. This approach not only boosts sales but also builds a stronger emotional connection with customers, enhancing brand loyalty.

“If you use AI in a smart way, you can actually understand what your clients’ needs are. As a company, if you want to have a brand awareness about being a brand that really cares about their customers, you’ll show them that. Let’s say hypothetically, besides selling iPhones, I do understand that you have sports as an interest, or I do understand that maybe you love cooking. So, maybe I’ll introduce some of that into my content marketing strategy to show you that as a brand I care about your wants and needs,” Ristevski explained.

For Natasha B. Mirkova, managing director of Represent Communications Macedonia, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that forced companies to rethink their strategies, particularly in terms of digital communication and e-commerce. 

“With COVID, everything started from the beginning. We saw that e-commerce started to rise at that time since the medical experts were suggesting all of us to stay at home and buy online.” she says, showcasing the example of one financial sector company, which had previously neglected external communication, and that had to rapidly develop a new strategy to align with the shift towards online transactions.

 As a result, in the following period the company significantly expanded their market presence and doubled their profits within a few years.

According to Mirkova, there is also a critical need for agility and adaptability in business. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital tools and e-commerce, pushing companies to innovate and find new ways to reach their audiences. Those that were able to swiftly pivot and embrace these changes not only survived but thrived in the new digital economy.

For Aleksandar Nikov, head of innovation at Netcetera, AI brought plenty of progress when it comes to solutions such as fraud detection in the health insurance sector. By automating the process of identifying suspicious claims, AI can significantly reduce the workload for human agents and increase the accuracy of fraud detection. This allows companies to focus their resources on genuine cases, improving overall efficiency and reducing the risk of fraud.

“What we did was a solution where we tagged the claims that the agents should look more into, and then just also have all the ones that we are absolutely certain there is no fraud, so they won’t lose any time. This really helped them to be much more precise with fraud detection. Maybe even downsize the team that is working on the claim processing as well, but also to make it easier for the agents and not to be really overburdened with all the different things, but really focus on those cases. With the invention of generative AI, we’re also working in the area of extracting data from documents and processing data from documents and we did this in the last six, seven years,” Nikov points out.

He also highlighted the advancements in generative AI and large language models, which have enhanced the ability to extract and process data from documents. These technologies enable more precise and efficient handling of large datasets, making them invaluable tools for industries that rely heavily on data processing and analysis.

Ristevski returned to discuss the importance of education in digital transformation, explaining that when his company first started, a major challenge was educating clients about digital marketing and online business practices. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst, making the value of digital transformation apparent to a broader audience. However, he cautioned against the hasty adoption of AI without proper understanding and testing. 

Companies that rushed into automation without considering all potential scenarios often faced backlash from customers frustrated with inadequate AI interactions.

“The more people get educated about how to use AI, and I’m not talking only about early adopters, the better. You have to disseminate that knowledge within the whole company. Doesn’t matter whether people use AI in terms of their day to day work, they have to understand it, because when there’s a problem they can easily understand how to get to the solution,” he adds.

Education, therefore, is not just about adopting new technologies but also about understanding how to use them effectively. This includes training employees to write proper AI prompts and developing custom AI models tailored to specific business needs. Such efforts ensure that AI implementations are robust, reliable, and capable of enhancing customer experiences rather than detracting from them, Ristevski notes.

Ristevski also listed the challenges faced by non-English-speaking regions, such as Macedonia, in implementing AI technologies. The lack of data in local languages can hinder the effectiveness of AI applications. To bridge this gap, he called for local IT companies to invest in developing AI models that understand and process regional languages. This would enable more businesses to leverage AI and enhance their productivity and competitiveness.

Nikov echoed these sentiments, pointing out that developing regions often lag in AI implementation due to limited access to advanced technologies and regulatory constraints. To address this, there needs to be a concerted effort to develop and deploy AI solutions that cater to the specific needs and contexts of these regions.

“Of course, as there is more demand for such solutions, there will be multiple providers as well. But for the moment, it seems that the developing regions are lagging behind,” Nikov said.

Looking ahead, Ristevski envisions a future where AI and wearable technology, such as smartwatches, play a significant role in healthcare. These devices can collect vast amounts of personal health data, which, when analyzed by AI, can provide valuable insights into an individual’s health patterns and behaviors. 

In turn, this could enable more personalized and proactive healthcare, with doctors using AI-generated insights to offer tailored advice and interventions.

However, he also stressed the importance of data protection in this context, with the benefits of AI in healthcare being balanced with the robust safeguards to prevent the misuse of personal health data.

“There’s a fine line between someone using your data to help you, and abusing your data to do something else.” Ristevski concluded.

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