AI for small business

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Business processes are becoming more digitized than ever before, and SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) are finding new ways to enhance their operational efficiency by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

Even though artificial intelligence was once a far-out notion, it has become fairly commonplace in the business world. Today, the application of AI holds a lot of power, and industry leaders are taking notice. In fact,a recent study discovered that 72% of business executives consider AI to have a huge business advantage in the future.

In this post, we'll discuss how small businesses can leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve their bottom line.

What Is AI?

AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. It leverages predictive analytics to provide actionable insights—it has the ability to rationalize and take actions that have the best chance of attaining a specific objective.

A subset of AI is machine learning—it refers to the concept that computer programs can automatically learn from and adapt to new data without human input.

While artificial intelligence isn't a replica of human capabilities, it can be utilized to perform tasks, interpret new languages, and make predictions.

How AI Can Help Small Businesses

Here is an outline of some of the key ways AI can help small businesses:

1. Business Process Automation

AI can support business process management initiatives by automating routine tasks. Machine learning, data analysis, and predictive analytics can automate several business processes. According to McKinsey, Artificial Intelligence can automate up to 45% or more of a given job, thereby freeing up workers for high-value tasks that technology can't accomplish.

Here are some use cases of AI:

  • AI applications can be used to improve customer support. Chatbots can be set up using scripted responses and FAQs to deliver the most appropriate response to a human user's query.
  • An AI tool can be used to optimize workflows. For instance, by applying machine learning, the tool can identify forms, data, and scenarios that lead to a higher than the necessary time investment.
  • AI can also be used to streamline the payment process and enhance customer delivery services.

2. Hiring the Best Candidate

AI tools can significantly reduce the time human resource employees spend screening employees, allowing them to focus more time on candidates who meet the job qualification.

Whereas one of the benefits of AI is its unbiased collection of potential candidates' information, how the information is used depends on what the business provides. Suppose certain credentials or demographics are underrepresented in a company, data about previous successful hires may not be sufficient to help AI learn all the best connections between candidates and company objectives. AI works best with more feedback on its outcomes. As such, it's important to give it more room to improve.

Besides the screening process, AI can be used during the interview process to automate communication with applicants and to collect information from references.

3. Boosting Cybersecurity

AI is even an indispensable tool when it comes to looking for loopholes in your computer network defenses. Cybersecurity AI can identify various types of cyber threats by monitoring patterns from data input. Once the threat is detected, AI works quickly to remedy or remove the threat. It also backtracks through your data to find the source and help prevent future threats.

It's important to understand that malicious programs are made using AI-guided programs. As such, investing in a robust cybersecurity system is an excellent way of ensuring your business's longevity and upholding customer trust.

4. Building Better Marketing Campaigns

Artificial intelligence can help businesses make informed decisions pertaining to what their customers really want. For instance, by using a CRM (customer relationship management) software with AI, businesses are better organized for convenient mass communication.

AI CRM can 'listen' to customers in a way that humans can't, gathering and analyzing information from various channels. What's more, AI not only understands the costs and effectiveness of getting customers to the front door, it also knows which marketing efforts produce the most revenue in your business.

5. Analytics

AI uses a large amount of data to identify patterns in people's search behavior and offers them more relevant information regarding different circumstances. As AI technology becomes more advanced, and as people use their devices more, users will have more personalized experiences. This means the world for your small business, given that you will have an easier time targeting a specific audience.

By merging AI with business analytics, data collection, decision-making, and customer engagement improve dramatically. This is because it provides you with insights on things such as customer shopping habits, product demand, and competitor pricing.

How to Implement AI in Small Businesses

Given the benefits that your business can gain by leveraging it, the chances are that you have AI on your radar as a tool that you can use to improve your business processes. Even so, it's not always clear how you can start generating high ROI (return on investment) when it comes to the implementation of AI. You can be easily lured to the flashiest and boldest AI initiatives, which may be both expensive and challenging to pull off.

Whereas dreaming big is, in most cases, a good thing, small businesses should focus on manageable initiatives and build from that point. Here is a look at how you can implement AI for your small business:

View Problems Through the Lens

While machines have become smarter, they are still years away from attaining human-like intelligence. Even so, until then, it's possible to understand how a machine can learn from data. Depending on what its use case is, you can classify, segment, interpret, extract, and run regressions on data. Looking at your business processes this way is the entry ticket to the world of AI.

Begin With Something Small

Regardless of how intuitive software is, new technologies can be overwhelming. This is not only due to the fact that it's new, but also the change aspect around it. As such, it is advisable to first set up a pilot –or an experiment –to determine whether the new technology provides a positive ROI.

Scale

AI applications usually become more valuable as the amount of data being processed grows. So once you've proven the use case, it's in the business's best interest to integrate as much data of the same kind as possible. The reason for this is that accuracy increases with each instance the model receives similar data, thereby leading to a higher overall performance of the business.

Conclusion

Whereas some small businesses have moved quickly to embrace AI, others are still exercising a little more caution. Regardless of where you lean, the reality is that AI is here to stay. It might already be helping you save time and resources. It has the potential to make your business more efficient and profitable.

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