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AI has made and will continue to make significant headlines. Most of these are fairly sensational; AI is becoming sentient; AI-generated art wins a contest; AI can now compose music (and more). However, what rarely makes the headlines is just how transformational AI can be when it comes to business —specifically, how AI can help brands connect with their customers without becoming a flashy sci-fi headline.

Because of the general “sci-fi” perception of AI, many business leaders haven’t seriously considered how to apply it to their business beyond data analytics or cutting-edge research labs. And once they’ve decided to dip their toe in AI, they don’t really know where to start. Doing too much too soon is never the answer — instead, businesses need to take a “think globally, act locally” approach.

So, what exactly does this mean? Thinking globally means examining the impact of an AI implementation holistically and considering the business’ larger vision and objectives. When it comes to implementing AI, you need to act locally, focusing on one small project at a time with the goal of eventually scaling up and out. But what does this look like in real life? Here are a few considerations when starting your AI journey.

Determine your global goals

The first step to kicking off an AI implementation strategy is identifying those large “global” goals and needs. This is going to look different for each organization. Some may be starting from scratch and need to find any way possible to better connect with customers. Some may already have a few AI tools in place and are looking to reframe their martech/adtech strategy with the sunsetting of third-party cookies on the horizon. Additionally, with an impending recession, customers’ needs are on the cusp of changing drastically. Many businesses may be shifting from a customer acquisition to a customer retention model.

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This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and recognizing that is half the battle. While most, if not all, businesses would agree that a top-level goal is retaining customers, not every organization can approach this the same way. Determining your global approach requires addressing the needs of all stakeholders while ensuring your systems are optimized for the maximum benefit of the customer. And while it sounds like a big transformation, starting small can dramatically enhance existing practices and technologies and reconstruct them into continuously successful customer engagements.

Implementing smaller projects locally

Once you’ve determined your larger goals, it’s important to reframe your thinking to acting locally. For example, if your global goal is to retain customers, a local action could be deploying AI capabilities that integrate with your existing customer data platform to ensure that you’re maximizing your owned data. This doesn’t require ripping and replacing, but rather enhancing what you already have.

Using AI to better organize and activate existing customer data can enhance marketing strategies, like where and when to engage with your customers based on their exact context at a particular moment in time. Ultimately, this improves your customer’s experience with the brand, but organizations can also remove friction from the employee experience by taking the guesswork out of client interactions. When customer-facing employees can access data instantly to inform engagements, their job becomes easier and they are able to be more successful over time. This is good for the brand externally and internally.

Essential AI strategy: Knowing when to scale

Once the AI project has proven its value, it’s time to scale — consider whether you would benefit most from scaling your AI capabilities up or out. If you’ve applied AI to gain more insights from a specific customer data set, maybe it’s time to expand that out to the rest of your data. Or, maybe it’s a matter of implementing an AI decisioning hub that can pull information from all parts of your customer-facing business to understand the full scope of the customer journey — from sales, to marketing, to customer service and beyond. Regardless, this is most certainly a marathon and not a sprint, and businesses that will benefit from an AI implementation strategy the most are the ones who build carefully and strategically for long-term success.  

The lesson here is to evolve over time. Transformation can be overwhelming and significantly disruptive. But by taking it small and learning what works best for your organization, you can get a sense of what your growing needs will be and ultimately create a more robust and attainable long-term growth strategy.

Tara DeZao is product marketing director for AdTech and MarTech at Pega.

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