The pandemic was an accelerant for many companies – especially born-traditional ones – to “up their digital game” and embrace technologies they may not have adopted for years if their operations were not disrupted. In many senses, these disruptions gave born-traditional companies the opportunity to catch up with their born-digital counterparts, who were already adept at incorporating leading-edge technologies into their growth strategies and business models. 

Many companies are grappling with the ongoing disruptions, and they have to be more innovative than ever to maintain their performance. One example of a traditional company that is starting to go more digital with their business model is Wendy’s Co. As demand for touchless ordering and pickups skyrocketed at the height of the pandemic, Wendy’s pivoted to embrace the potential of their app in meeting this demand. Between July and October 2020, Wendy’s saw a 15% increase in downloads. The app and its innovation were great for business, and earlier this month Wendy’s announced their next steps in embracing data and technology – AI in particular. 

AI as a growth strategy

As part of their AI and data-driven growth strategy, Wendy’s will further develop software capabilities to manage the data harnessed through the app, while building computer vision systems, voice-recognition software, and mapping apps, just to name a few digital tools. These tools will allow for advances like voice-recognition software to take orders placed and transcribe them into text for restaurant workers – sharing the drive-through orders with cooks, as an example. This can dramatically increase accuracy and make processes more efficient. Not only can these tools anticipate customer preferences, they can prevent burgers from burning on the grill. Technology like computer vision systems can be implemented to recognize when the drive-through line is getting longer, triggering a command to put another basket of French fries in the fryer, helping with wait times.

How are digital natives winning the AI race?

Wendy’s is on the journey of setting themselves apart from other born-traditional companies by embracing AI. It should come as no surprise that born-digital companies take a decidedly different approach to AI than their born-traditional counterparts do – but what, exactly, is it that makes them so much more successful in the execution? AlixPartners born-digital study sought the answer to this question, and in the process identified five reasons that born-digital companies are pulling ahead in the race to use artificial intelligence to drive explosive growth.

From medical research to movie recommendations on streaming services to last-mile delivery predictions, AI plays a central role in the products and services that most born-digital companies – and more and more born-traditional companies – offer. More often than not, AI does not even have to be visible or obvious to customers to enhance their experience. 

Although it enhances operations and streamlines efficiencies, many born-traditional companies do not harness the power of AI. The mastery gap between born-digital and born-traditional companies’ use of AI is wide: nearly 70% of born-digital companies have fully mature AI capabilities, while 60% of born-traditional companies have barely even started on their AI journey. 

Pulling ahead—and staying ahead—in the AI race isn’t easy for any company—whether it’s born-digital or born-traditional. Companies that realize they’re lagging behind can take action to correct their position by adopting some of the attitudes and practices demonstrated by born-digital exemplars. For more on how and why born-digital companies are winning the race in AI in respect to their born-traditional counterparts, and what the laggards can do to become competitive, read our research here