Some small business owners might consider artificial intelligence (AI) as a higher form of technology that’s only available to large companies with big budgets. However, recent technological advances in AI in business have brought down prices, making artificial intelligence more affordable.

Let’s take a look at how to use AI in your business to improve company efficiency, lower operation costs and improve profits.

What Is Artificial Intelligence in Business?

Artificial intelligence is a broad term that refers to the area of computer science that creates intelligent machines that work and act like humans. AI engages in human-like activities such as learning, planning, speech recognition and problem solving.

AI is not intended to replace human intelligence, but instead to act as more of a support tool that relieves humans of boring, manual tasks and helps them become more productive and enjoy working in a more creative environment.

AI Automates Business Processes

We hear a lot about how AI will take jobs, but the reality is this: AI in business can help eliminate mundane tasks. Because most small businesses have a limited number of employees, transferring any time-consuming tasks to AI helps these businesses use their human resources more efficiently.

Business managers would like to move  such tasks as routine paperwork, timesheet preparation, scheduling, accounting functions and email management to digital assistants. According to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, tech experts believe that AI could create a workplace that amplifies human abilities and allows them to spend more time on problem-solving, decision-making, high-level thinking and creativity.

In addition, using AI to take over these humdrum and repetitive activities can reduce the need to hire more employees, which would increase payroll expense and costs of benefits.

A woman at work on a laptop in an office gives a command to an AI device that's on her desk.

AI in Business Provides Insight through Data Analysis

AI makes it possible for small business to collect significant amounts of data on various business activities, analyze this information and draw meaningful conclusions. Entrepreneurs can now use artificial intelligence in business in conjunction with advanced statistical techniques to find patterns in this data and make more informed decisions.

The following are a few applications of the benefits of AI in business:

Using AI for Marketing

Small businesses were previously limited to advertising budgets for whatever they could afford in their local markets. Now small businesses can use AI-based advertising platforms that have been developed for huge technology companies such as Google and Facebook. Small businesses can use these platforms to more specifically target the customers who would be receptive to their messages.

For example, AI can examine customers’ demographics, review their purchase history, amount spent and scan their social media accounts to come up with personalized product recommendations. This is similar to what Amazon and Netflix are already doing with their “next buy” and “watch next” recommendations. Small businesses no longer need an army of marketing personnel to analyze and craft advertising campaigns; AI can do this more quickly and at a lower cost.

Artificial intelligence in business can analyze data to find the most productive return on your marketing dollars. Take your email marketing program, for example. Using regression analysis techniques, AI can find the optimal combinations of keywords, subject lines, email frequency and calls-to-action that produce the most click-throughs and highest sales.

AI Analyzes Your Competition

AI and machine learning in business now make it easy for you to quickly analyze your competitors’ published digital information, such as written and video content from social media posts.

For example, AI can scan your competitors’ social media accounts and identify complaints raised by their clients, such as showing up late for appointments. With this information, you could target those customers, pointing out that your company has a history of promptly responding to customer inquiries and keeping on-time performance.

AI and Sales Teams

If you’re a small business owner with a sales team, you want to use the techniques that produce the most revenue. AI has the ability to record and evaluate the details of every call that your sales reps make. This data can be analyzed to find strategies that are used by the most successful sales team members. It might be something like the choice of words or the ratio of time that the sales reps spend talking rather than listening.

AI in business will allow you to find your company’s “secret sauce” that the best sales reps use and share these successful techniques with all of your sales staff.

AI and Customer Relationship Management in Business

The role of artificial intelligence in customer experience is expanding the capabilities of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In the past, CRM software from tech companies such as Salesforce and Zoho required a lot of human involvement to keep data up-to-date and accurate. However, the application of AI transforms normal CRM systems into platforms that can update and correct themselves to keep your customer database current.

AI also makes it possible for companies to interact in more ways with their customers. In today’s marketplace, it’s essential for businesses to respond more quickly to customers’ changing concerns and preferences.

One example of AI is the “chat” function that many websites now have. Usually, these conversations begin with customers interacting with automated AI bots that can understand natural language and correctly respond to it. They provide customers with the information they are seeking and direct them on how to find solutions to their problems.

A person has their smartphone open to a messaging app.

If you feel that your business cannot afford a dedicated customer service staff, then a chatbot could be the solution you could implement with very low cost and stay ahead of the competition. Small businesses can use chatbots to provide customer service 24/7. AI-powered chatbots will provide assistance to customers whenever they need it and provide immediate answers to potential questions looking for more information about products.

Plus, the data collected by chatbots during these interactions will help small businesses analyze customer information and reveal ways to further customize and personalize the user experience and increase customer satisfaction.

The Effects of AI on Retail Businesses

With AI, small businesses now have the ability to compete for online retail business with the big players in the market. AI enables small businesses to deliver more personalized and better results to customers.

Take augmented reality, for example. AI in business now makes it possible for customers of small businesses to get a better feel for their products. For example, with augmented reality an online furniture retailer can allow customers to create a visual image of how a piece of furniture—such as a sofa—will look in different places in their living room. Businesses that provide their customers with a more personal experience will have an advantage over the competition.

But how can AI help small retailers that have physical stores?

1. Analyzing actual sales data and linking it to specific customers 

Over time, artificial intelligence will get to know your customers, their preferences and how they could be expected to react to different types of promotions. Sometimes, AI in business will know what the customers want even before they know they need it.

2. The physical store layout 

We’ve all heard stories about how large retail stores get customers to buy more by controlling the traffic flow. You might think there is some magic formula, but there’s not. Every store is different, but with historical sales data on a specific store location, AI can discover patterns and learn your customers’ buying habits. AI can learn what products are bought together and can then suggest how to arrange items so customers will buy more. In these situations, AI’s recommendations don’t follow any general retail industry axioms or rules-of-thumb but are tailored to specific store customers and shopping environments.

 

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