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Early Adoption of AI is the Key to Success

Why implementing AI now will lead to the highest ROI

By Benj Cohen

Benj CohenBusinesses that dove head-first into artificial intelligence (AI) implementation are already seeing substantial returns on their investments. One McKinsey study found that companies that poured the most resources into AI (15% or more of their IT budgets) and focused on enterprise-wide initiatives performed the best, extracting 2-5X more impact from AI than aspirant companies that dedicated just 10%-15% of their budgets with a more siloed approach to implementing AI.

With a potential annual global economic value of $5.8 trillion, AI is slated to make even more waves in the coming years.

Distributors that invest in AI now will have time to build their infrastructure, scale and enjoy substantial long-term benefits. Every distributor needs AI to transform operations and stay competitive. As AI becomes more accessible, it will be table stakes rather than a differentiator.

Technology moves quickly. Distributors who stall may lose their chance to strike while the iron is hot. According to some forecasts, early adopters of AI could see a 122% increase in cash flow by 2030. Alternately, slow adopters will only see a 10% increase, while non-adopters will lose 23%. That’s because inherently, AI gets better with time and with more users and data. The more you use it, the more exponential the results - making it hard for laggards to catch up.

Although distributors are in the perfect position to implement this technology, many are still hesitant. With countless success stories and use cases pointing to AI, what’s holding them back? And what is the solution?

Change Management
The problem: We talk to a lot of distributors that think AI will work for their business, but are concerned that people won’t adopt the technology. Their teams are used to doing things a certain way, and they are afraid that new technologies will disrupt their workflows and productivity. They don’t want to cause frustration and are unsure how to promote widespread buy-in, so they wait.

The solution: Although adopting AI may seem daunting, there are steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition. The first step is communication. Talk to your team about any concerns and explain why you are considering a new technology investment. Help them understand the specific ways or features that will not only help the company as a whole, but will also make their lives easier. Partner with technology vendors that understand distribution and have a well-supported change management process. With dedicated support, educational resources, and an eye for your success, the right vendor can help you manage the journey to adopting AI.

You can also take a step-wise approach. Can you implement AI in one part of your organization, then expand once you have proof of its impact?

“Messy” Data
The problem: Many distributors worry that they either do not have enough data or that their data is too “messy” to make an AI investment worthwhile.

The solution: Because most distributors have an abundance of data - transaction history, product data, customer metadata, documents, quotes, and more - they are particularly well-suited to win with AI. Modern advancements in computing have paved a new path for data analysis. Deep learning models are actually meant to handle the noise of “messy”, incomplete, or duplicative data. For example, if a product sheet specifies that a product is dark blue, but your PIM has the product tagged as indigo, the right AI solution will understand the meaning and make a match between the two products.

Over time, your data gets easier to use as AI continuously learns and finds insights within. This is the flywheel effect. “Messy data” isn’t a reason to delay AI adoption - it’s a reason to start.

Is AI Worth the Investment?
We’ve seen distributors yield significant gains by investing in AI. Many achieve triple or even quadruple-digit ROI - increasing sales on digital channels like Ecommerce, and through inbound and outbound sales channels. These frontrunners are building AI flywheels, and competitors that wait to adopt AI won’t achieve the same level of success. Those who don’t adopt AI at all will likely see a drastic decline in profits by 2030.

Distributors historically get a bad rap for not embracing technology. Naturally, distributors are resistant to spending money on something that may not work for them - and most have been burned by bad technology investments. But the landscape has changed. Purpose-built AI solutions now exist for distributors, and the clock is ticking to get started.

Benj Cohen founded Proton to help distributors harness cutting-edge artificial intelligence. He learned about distribution firsthand at Benco Dental, a business started by his great grandfather. Later, while studying Applied Math and Data Science at Harvard University, Cohen saw an opportunity to bring his two worlds together. He’s on a mission to supply distributors with the innovative technology they need to thrive in modern markets. Contact Benj at


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