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    June 17, 2024

    Mike Monroe of Deloitte Digital: How AI Can Drive Next-Level Growth and Profitability for Brands

    Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
    “What we're seeing is marketers placing what I like to refer to as ‘no regret bets.’ They're identifying areas where productivity can be raised and making the investments to use AI to drive productivity gains.” — Mike Monroe, Managing Director, Deloitte Digital

    It’s safe to say we’re living in the era of artificial intelligence (AI). With the emergence of generative AI, businesses are poised to unlock even greater levels of productivity and creativity.

    AI offers brands endless opportunities to engage customers better, deliver compelling product content, and drive innovation that propels future growth and profitability. 

    According to Deloitte research, early generative AI adopters experience a 12% return on their generative AI investments in the form of increased efficiency, seamless, scalable content creation and delivery, and more effective strategic planning.

    The next wave of technology transformation is officially here, and brands that want to maintain a competitive advantage will need to design and execute a comprehensive AI strategy, says Mike Monroe, managing director at Deloitte Digital.

    Monroe appeared on a recent episode of the “Unpacking the Digital Shelf” podcast, “From No Regrets Bets to Operational Transformation: Crafting an AI Strategy to Win Big,” to share his perspective on how AI can optimize performance for brands. He also discussed how brands can align their tech stacks, people, and processes, and the “no regrets bets” they must make to achieve digital shelf success.

    Brands Under Pressure

    Several market pressures are increasing the need for AI within commerce.

    “What we see across the board with our clients is that growing the top line, protecting market share, growing market share, and increasing profitability are top priorities, and they're under a lot of pressure,” Monroe says.

    Companies are laser-focused on improving the customer and brand experience to achieve these goals, which means they need to tell a compelling, connected story across channels. As a result, they’re developing more content than ever before. Marketers created over 50% more content in 2023 than they did in 2022, reports Deloitte.

    With this in mind, brands’ best option is to integrate AI to extend their capacity and produce content at scale that drives a more seamless customer journey.

    How AI Can Supercharge Marketing and Customer Engagement

    Monroe says brands often treat every channel the same, which doesn’t work in an omnichannel environment where each channel has a distinct audience and unique content requirements.

    “The mistake many brands make is they take a one-size-fits-all approach to playing in these different channels.”
    — Mike Monroe, Managing Director, Deloitte Digital

    For brands to achieve success, they must improve efficiencies in their conversion funnel, create an agile content supply chain, and deliver frictionless experiences that increase customer engagement, Monroe adds.

    Driving efficiency is one of AI’s biggest benefits. Brands are already harnessing the technology to deal with content velocity and boost customer engagement. However, what they aren’t doing is using it to replace their teams. Despite all the concerns about AI displacing workers, the technology is powerfully enabling them to do their best work.

    “A large percentage of marketers are actively identifying tasks that can be converted to AI,” Monroe says. “Humans are still very much involved in the process because the governance of the outputs, as well as the management of the sources and inputs, require high levels of skills. So, very skilled people are very much part of the process.”

    Crafting Your AI Strategy: 3 Big Opportunities for Brands 

    As brands develop their AI strategy, they can capitalize on the technology in three different ways, Monroe says.

    1. ‘No Regrets Bets’ 

    Driving process improvements that increase operational efficiency is likely the first and best AI use case for brands.

    “What we're seeing is marketers placing what I like to refer to as ‘no regret bets,’” Monroe says. “They're identifying areas where productivity can be raised and making the investments to use AI to drive productivity gains.”

    2. Emerging Opportunities

    Brands also can seize AI to experiment with future-driven use cases, such as creating personalized customer experiences. Monroe refers to these forward-looking applications as “emerging opportunities.”

    “One-to-one marketing truly becomes enabled through AI,” he says. 

    3. End-to-End Business Transformation

    Propelling enterprise-wide business transformation is probably the most impactful way organizations can leverage AI. Monroe says brands can use the technology to transform how their business thinks and operates. However, before they even get to this step, he says businesses must implement effective AI governance.

    Once a company “has the framework and guardrails in place, they can then challenge their business leaders to identify the most valuable ways to deploy this technology to grow their business,” he says.

    5 Best Practices for Effective AI Implementation and Execution

    Developing a winning AI strategy won’t be a one-and-done process. It will require constant adaptation for brands. Here are a few best practices Monroe shared during his podcast appearance about how brands can maximize the value of AI.

    Best Practice #1: Create a Content Factory

    Monroe says brands should create a content factory: “One that learns from itself, that has a virtuous cycle where market feedback and market results — what worked and what didn't work — is fed back into the factory and more of the things that work are done, and less of the things that don't work are done.”

    This factory approach allows brands to embrace a mindset and regimen about what works well, so they can focus their efforts in the right place.

    Best Practice #2: Prioritize Quality Inputs

    Data fuels AI, so brands need to pay close attention to the quality of the data sources they use to generate AI outputs. Wrong or incomplete information could lead to less-than-optimal results — or even worse, bad business decisions and outcomes.

    Best Practice #3: Technology Enablement

    Technology underlies this entire process, Monroe says, so brands need to optimize their tech stacks to enhance content creation and delivery. 

    “That technology solution is super important,” he says. “We find many [Deloitte] clients have a patchwork of systems. Many folks are living off spreadsheets and things like that. So, the evaluation and investment in technology is super key here, too.”

    Best Practice #4: Empower Your People

    Brands also need to empower their teams to use AI, otherwise they won’t maximize the return on investment (ROI) of their AI investments. 

    “What happens in real life is that a lot of users just work outside of the system or use cases come up that were never considered, and so they just improvise something that's offline,” Monroe says. “You have to require people to work in the system and you have to require your tech team to support these use cases.” 

    Best Practice #5: Focus on Good Governance

    Monroe says that good AI governance must be a core part of any brand’s AI strategy. 

    “I would encourage brands to really take this moment and take this capability very seriously and understand that it has the very real potential to be transformative in their business,” he says. “If they believe that — and I encourage them to — then they need to create organizations inside of theirs that begin to think about what their charter is going to be with AI.”

    Monroe suggests brands create something akin to an AI center of excellence to “define the rules of the road” for using the technology within their organization. They should involve not just their operational and ecommerce teams in this process, but also their legal team since generative AI comes with several unique risks, including personal data misuse, potential copyright infringement and trademark violations, and certain ethical and social implications around bias and misinformation. 

    Establishing effective guardrails around the responsible and ethical use of AI can help brands realize the value of this technology while minimizing their risks. 

    The AI-Driven Future of Commerce

    AI offers so much promise for brands, but to realize this promise they must craft a thoughtful AI strategy that hinges on balancing operational excellence with effective governance.

    Monroe says he’s excited about the potential for AI to transform how brands do business. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the possibilities of AI.

    “It’s not even the bottom of the first inning,” Monroe says. “Obviously, the level of adoption and interest in AI is very high, but truly there's so much more to go. Once teams get comfortable with this and begin to understand the strengths and weaknesses, then I think the real ideation — the next level of ideation and thinking — will come.”

    Listen to the full episode to hear more of Monroe’s insights on AI and the future of commerce.