MARKET | Jan 4, 2018

Do Big Data and Artificial Intelligence change consumer routes?

An I-Com study analyzes the impacts of Big Data and AI on businesses and consumers

The impact of the data economy on the Italian economy amounts to 28.4 billion euro (1.52% of the national GDP), with a value of the data market in Italy that is expected to exceed 6.3 billion euro between now and 2020, growing at an average annual rate of 8.3%.  Big Data, which will grow between now and 2026 at an average annual rate of 13%, are profoundly changing the “consumer routes” that an I-Com study entitled Towards Treasure Island – consumer routes between protection and the market and the map tried to “map out”.

The study, which involved 42 companies operating in various industrial sectors, highlights how the greatest potential associated with Big Data is to be found in Data-to-Management, which however requires a challenging change towards data-driven decision-making within companies, with an important organizational effort that is difficult to apply. So-called Big Data Analytics (BDA) is still scarce in Italy but also in other EU countries: Eurostat data show that in 2016 only 9% of Italian companies used BDA instruments, slightly less than the EU average (10%); the best performance in this sense is recorded by Malta and the Netherlands where, in any case, only about one company in five uses these instruments.

Limits identified by the study that risk slowing down if not curbing the development of commercial enterprises include: lack of critical skills useful for forming specific professional profiles (such as Data Scientist, Data Architect and Data Management experts); lack of investment in adequate infrastructure to support the new technological paradigm (fast networks, 5G, security infrastructure); lack of attention to data privacy and security; ownership of data; the so-called data divide, that is the gap that is generated among those who widely use digital tools and those who – making very marginal (if not zero) use of digital devices and therefore producing a very limited amount of data – are likely to see the their needs, values ​​and views underrepresented.

According to I-Com, most of the companies interviewed already have an area dedicated to consumers (86%) and 37% of the sample foresees an increase of at least the 50% in their investment in financial and human resources in Big Data over the next 3 years. As for the digital channel, the main tool used by users/customers in the relationship with companies remains the traditional website (51%), use of mobiles/smartphones (25%) and social media at 12%. Even less widespread is the use of chatbots, which stands at 5%.

Compared with data collection, the companies interviewed incentivise the customer to release more data guaranteeing additional services compared with the basic offer (61%) or through a fidelity card (41%). The data obtained are then used mainly for customer profiling and development of new products and services.

How does the consumer route change with Artificial Intelligence?

The opportunities of AI are really important, even if still little exploited by companies. In the commercial field, in particular, Artificial Intelligence will improve customer profiling and product customization. A Narrative Science study shows that companies implement Artificial Intelligence solutions mainly for performing predictive analysis (38%), eliminating repetitive and dangerous tasks through the assistance of robotics (27%), and monitoring and evaluating company activities (14%). According to IDC, worldwide revenues deriving from Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing applications will reach about 13 billion dollars by the end of 2017 and by 2020 will be over 46 billion dollars.

Data from the study show that in Italy 59% of companies in Italy say they favor adoption of artificial intelligence systems, despite 46% of the sample currently not having any AI device in operation. On the contrary, 33% use chat-bots. 37% of those interviewed see customer care as being the corporate function that is most suitable for being integrated with or replaced by Artificial Intelligence devices and 38% imagine that AI ​​systems can carry out some jobs in their company within three years.

As with all “disruptive” technologies, companies are not without fears: 22% of the sample, for example, fear for the civil and criminal liability regime and 19% for the protection of personal data, as well as for ethical issues (17%).

What would help companies to better design routes through digital?

There are several things on which to focus according to the report: continue to push on building infrastructure, and in particular on optical fiber and 5G; support rapid implementation of policies to support the acquisition of digital skills and access to enabling technologies; favor digitization of business models of both industry and markets, namely to ensure that the way of offering products or services becomes digital rather than analogue; put awareness campaigns in place that are aimed, on the one hand, at making businesses and citizens/consumers understand the enormous opportunities related to digitization, without forgetting the risks, starting from information security.

Sonia Montegiove