EXCITE 2023 was a commerce event like no other, with inspiring presentations, insightful interviews, and thought-provoking panel discussions on various hot topics. One such conversation, focusing on the digital commerce AI trends and impacts of AI in digital commerce across different industries, brought together four exceptional minds, each standing at the forefront of innovation:
- Stefanie Hegener, Head of Global E-Commerce and Digital Services, SMA Solar Technology (solar energy equipment supplier).
- Daniel Kugler, Global Head of Digital Marketing, Weleda (Natural, ecological and sustainable cosmetics).
- Paul Fischer, Head of Digital Market Channels & Global E-Commerce Sales at ZF (global technology company supplying systems for passenger cars).
- Nils Radsak, Independent Consultant, Former CIO/CDO Audi Brasil/LATAM.
These experts are not only leaders in their respective fields, but have also harnessed the power of AI to redefine the business processes they engage with.
Below, we share their insights into the digital commerce AI trends and behaviours enabled by AI across their varied industries.
1. AI-Assisted Supply Chains
Paul Fischer of ZF was keen to point out that the impact of AI isn’t limited to a single sector; it has a broad influence spanning across various industries. One significant trend highlighted was the concept of digital twins, a term and practice that has been circulating in the tech world for some time, set to transform how we model and manage supply chains. Emphasizing the challenges businesses have faced in recent years forecasting demand and supply, Paul posited that digital twins, driven by AI, offer a promising solution to these issues.
2. Rapid Content Generation
Daniel Kugler of Weleda described the challenges that companies face when it comes to generating content for a diverse range of products across various international markets. Using the example of toothpaste, a Weleda product, he highlighted the growing demand for a multitude of visual content, such as images and videos, to effectively market these products globally. The complexity arises from the need to cater to different demographics in a wide variety of regions, with businesses struggling to create many content variations to engage diverse audiences.
This is where generative AI (or GenAI) becomes a game-changer. By creating high-quality, original content once and then rapidly modifying, manipulating, and translating it to suit the needs of different markets, businesses can offer a seamless and coherent brand experience, regardless of the language or region. Ultimately, Daniel suggested, this will revolutionize the way companies handle content generation on a global scale.
“We require an extensive collection of images and videos for one of our best-selling products and, given the various versions of the same item, generating this content has been a financial challenge in the past. The prospect of employing generative AI for this task is particularly appealing, allowing us to efficiently create all necessary assets simultaneously in a cost-effective manner.” – Daniel Kugler
3. Data Analytics
Data analytics, with the help of artificial intelligence, plays a significant role in shaping multiple industries, including the solar and automotive sectors. Stephanie Hegener of SMA highlighted the importance of analyzing consumer consumption patterns, and shared that in the solar industry in particular, understanding when and how consumers use energy is invaluable. By leveraging AI and data analytics, companies can harness this information to optimize energy storage and availability. Stephanie also emphasized the shift towards more algorithm-based and machine learning-driven solutions. These advancements are not only driving efficiency but also enabling the creation of innovative products that cater to evolving consumer needs.
“I think this is something which would really help us and also would enable us to build up new products.” – Stephanie Hegener
Nils Radsak also emphasized the inseparable relationship between AI and data, citing the example of smart cities in China. In such advanced urban settings, managing massive datasets becomes a necessity. Take, for instance, traffic predictions in these locations, a task of enormous magnitude. To address the complexities of handling vast data, some organizations, including the Volkswagen Group, are even turning to quantum computing, as Nils pointed out. In such scenarios, effective AI implementation lies in data quality and availability. As the potential for AI and data analytics further advance, the importance of reliable, high-quality data becomes all the more important.
4. AI and the Job Market
The discussion revealed how AI’s impact on the job market is a multifaceted topic. Paul Fischer of ZF emphasized that AI, particularly GenAI, has the potential to revolutionize the automotive industry by enhancing customer interactions and streamlining vehicle repair processes. Stephanie Hegener echoed this view, stating that AI complements human efforts, providing support scaling businesses, managing knowledge, and improving customer service. AI, in her view, is not a threat to the workforce but rather a valuable addition thanks to the assistance it brings human employees.
Daniel Kugler of Weleda shared this positive outlook on digital commerce AI trends. He acknowledged that AI may take over specific tasks, but that this creates opportunities for humans to focus on more valuable and fulfilling work. The potential for AI to transform mundane and repetitive tasks was described as a positive change, allowing individuals to grow and develop in new directions.
“The global dominance of AI is unlikely, and while it won’t replace all jobs, it will certainly assume certain roles. This evolution in technology has been a constant, presenting an opportunity for individuals to assign routine, non-value-added tasks to AI, allowing for personal growth and development in more impactful areas.” – Daniel Kugler
The overall panel consensus was not that AI will take over the world, or all human roles, but rather coexist alongside and assist employees in improving their efficiency across various industries.
Using AI to boost efficiency and streamline operations resonated strongly throughout the panel’s insights. Nils Radsak emphasized AI offering a clear pathway to enhance efficiency in various domains, from user experience to personalization and sales optimization. He was also keen to reflect on how AI gives customers, as well as businesses, more time to focus on other tasks by streamlining various responsibilities and services.
Stephanie Hegener of SMA also underscored the significance of AI in helping businesses respond rapidly to scaling demands, especially in booming industries like solar technology. In a time when various sectors are experiencing exponential growth, AI offers a solution to not only keep pace but excel by optimizing processes and ensuring efficiency, making it an indispensable tool for modern businesses.
“AI enables swift responsiveness in scaling, a crucial advantage in our rapidly growing industry, particularly in solar technology. With sales and customer demands doubling or even tripling, the traditional pace of hiring is insufficient to keep up with the dynamic market conditions.” – Stephanie Hegener
6. Customer Journey
The concept of the “customer journey” emerged as an area of business impacted by developments in AI. Stefanie Hegener of SMA underscored AI’s role in supporting various facets of the customer journey, such as learning, knowledge management, and providing timely information. AI facilitates the distribution of relevant content, optimizing the customer’s interaction with the service or product.
Nils Radsak pointed out the inherent complexity of the customer journey, emphasizing the need for cultural adoption among customers, as well as for businesses to carefully consider privacy and data security. From his perspective, it’s vital to ensure that the customer’s experience is enriched without compromising their privacy.
Nils also provided a broader perspective, using the automotive industry as an example to demonstrate how AI is reshaping the customer experience. The advent of autonomous driving and the potential for urban air mobility highlights the transformative power of AI in evolving customer behaviors. As AI continues to play a pivotal role in enhancing the customer journey across industries, a promising and exciting journey lies ahead for both businesses and their customers.
“As the automotive industry undergoes a transformative journey, the future of customer experiences takes center stage. Picture a realistic scenario: waking up, and seamlessly entering an autonomous capsule for your commute from A to B. In this evolving landscape, the everyday becomes extraordinary, and the way we interact within the vehicle subtly but significantly transforms.” – Nils Radsak
7. Ethical AI Business Practices
The importance of ethical business practices in AI implementation was also discussed at great length. Daniel Kugler of Weleda emphasized the significance of sustainability and ethical responsibility within his organization when using AI, and presented a comprehensive framework used by Weleda to ensure integrity and ethics when using AI. These measures prioritize human accountability and data protection, aligning with the company’s commitment to ethical AI practices.
Paul Fischer of ZF echoed a similar sentiment, expressing the importance of clear rules for data interpretation by AI. He emphasized the need for human validation to avoid ethically questionable outcomes, potential intellectual property infringements, and biases in AI-generated outputs. Diversity and ethical decision-making are integral to ZF’s approach, as they recognize the ethical implications of AI within the organization and its impact on promoting diversity. Both panelists stressed the significance of an ethical and cautious approach to AI, reflecting their commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices in the age of artificial intelligence.
“As we navigate the realm of AI, our focus is on ensuring ethical outcomes, steering clear of any questionable implications. Yet, challenges persist in this space. Consider the risks, such as unintentional infringement on third-party intellectual property, an issue heightened by tools like ChatGPT. The subtle accessibility to information may inadvertently lead to IP concerns. Additionally, addressing inherent bias in datasets stands as a pivotal concern. At ZF, these challenges represent ongoing priorities, reflecting our commitment to responsible and unbiased AI development.” – Paul Fischer
Summary of Digital Commerce AI Trends
In summary, EXCITE 2023 delved into the profound impact of AI across diverse industries, with inspiring insights from Stefanie Hegener, Daniel Kugler, Paul Fischer, and Nils Radsak. From transforming supply chains with digital twins to utilizing generative AI for efficient content creation, the panelists highlighted AI’s far-reaching influence. The consensus was clear: AI, when employed strategically and ethically, enhances efficiency, fosters innovation, and enriches the human experience across industries.