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The Adoption of AI Helps Organizations Become Industry Leaders — This Smith School of Business Executive Explains Why

Ceren Kolsarici, Director of the Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics, shares her insights

By Sarah Kelsey 


Augmented reality (AR). ChatGPT. Face ID. These are all futuristic things you’ve likely heard about in the media. But if you’re involved in the world of business, Ceren Kolsarici — the Director of the Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University — says these are tools that have the power to accelerate and transform your organization, be it in the profit, nonprofit, or government space.

“There are so many things changing in the business landscape thanks to technology, and leaders who overcome the fears they have about the rapidly changing digital world, and who take the time to understand analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), will find their early adoption and presence on certain tools beneficial in all that they do,” she says. “At Smith — with the research projects we’re managing — we can see the massive opportunities before us; not just for small and large businesses, but for solving global problems on a societal level.”

If it sounds like Ceren is excited about the opportunities that AI, big data, and analytics are presenting the world, that’s because she is. In her current role at Smith — where she is also an associate professor and Ian R. Friendly Fellow of Marketing — she spends her days working with a team of researchers, graduate students, and practitioners from a cross-sector of disciplines to create new models and methods to improve how managers can make decisions, develop strategies, or optimize integrated campaigns with the use of technology. 

You want to be better than your competitors, but you also want to be able to do things that they cannot replicate,” Ceren notes. “These are the things that will help you thrive and that will help you stay ahead. They also aren’t as scary as they may seem.” 

She points to Sephora’s use of augmented reality on their website as a good example. “When you go into Sephora, you can try products out on your actual face: different lipsticks, different mascaras, but with their [Virtual Artist tool], they’ve created a way for consumers to engage with hundreds of makeup products any time of day — it’s a gamification of shopping, and the frequency of adoption, plus the accessibility of product information, will build brand loyalty. ”

Chatbots, those little pop-up customer service boxes, are another tool organizations can use to streamline communication with clients and create a more frictionless experience that will breed loyalty, Ceren says. She and her team are working with Lululemon and other corporate partners to determine how to make the “chat” experience even more like an interaction with a human. 

“These kinds of tools are only going to become more and more commonplace for businesses of all sizes; they’re definitely here to stay,” Ceren notes. “The data generated from these types of tools will also provide businesses with a wealth of information they can use to improve their overall offering or the campaigns they create.”

One of the “futuristic” AI applications Ceren is not entirely sold on, at least not yet, is the Metaverse. She says it’s still not as mainstream as some big brands would have hoped. The whole idea of an alternate universe and shopping in it with an avatar is a little esoteric — and companies like McDonald’s and Disney may not have yet seen the initial bang for their investment buck, she adds.

What this shows, she notes, is that not all tools or applications that get announced and put forward to leaders need to be used or adopted immediately. It is not enough for brands to be excited for change, consumers need to be ready too. For some companies without a grand budget, taking a strategic “wait and see” approach may be best. Decisions will ultimately depend on who your audience is and where they’re playing in the digital landscape.

Ceren also doesn’t believe that AI-based tools — much to the chagrin of media outlets trumpeting doom and gloom headlines — will replace the need for human intelligence in key roles like strategy, content creation, or where a lot of judgement is required. Machines, as sophisticated as they are, are inherently not good at certain things among which emotional intelligence and judgment are just two. 

“I love that there are so many opportunities now; this field of work is starting to flourish and it’s starting to grow,” she says. “As much as it’s a scary concept — AI and analytics — it’s actually a space where you get comfortable quite quickly with the help of researchers. And so many schools — like Smith — now offer information to ensure leaders feel like they’re at the forefront of understanding and tackling these digital challenges.” 

Ceren adds, “I see machines helping make the world a better place, and being at the forefront of this work at Smith, I love this time and I love what we do.”

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