Artificial Intelligence or AI has been around since the 1950s and was mostly used by the US government in the improvement of its services and intelligence efforts. Nowadays, whether we are aware or not, we have already been using this technology in our daily lives.
Artificial Intelligence has been defined by Merriam-Webster as “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” AI is also called “machine learning” because as it is defined, it is the process of teaching a machine on how to react on some simple data types and as you add more information to it, the more complex the processes become for the machine.
Artificial Intelligence used to be frowned upon because nobody has really believed that it is possible for machines to do what humans can do. It was believed that machines can never replicate the way the human mind thinks or even do tasks just like how humans do it.
With rigorous and thorough studies, countless of research and experiments, and with the advancements in technology over the years, artificial intelligence in business has helped, especially the smaller businesses, automate their services and lower the costs that small businesses incur in the course of its operations. Artificial intelligence has also been known to reduce risks in doing business, increase sales, and improve customer service.
Currently, artificial intelligence is used in almost everything, including cybersecurity software, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, among other similar systems as tools by which small businesses can use in order to streamline and make their business operations run smoothly and more efficiently. With this premise, the following are some ways by which you can use AI for small businesses for the same purpose.
Artificial intelligence in business has changed the way people have been doing business, especially now that we are all still trying to recover from a pandemic. Despite the global negative effects of the pandemic in all industries and economies, the pandemic paved the way to boost the artificial intelligence industry because a lot of the small businesses are now going online and utilizing all the available tools to make business operations easier and less costly.
The use of artificial intelligence in business is mostly to enable these businesses to manage and maximize whatever shortage on skills and manpower that they have. Integrating these deficiencies into a good machine learning technology would enable these small businesses to maximize their resources and still put them to good use and a considerable rate of advantage over their competitors.
With all these talk about artificial intelligence being used in business, how will this seemingly complicated technology help small businesses thrive and survive especially during this time?
1. Improvement of customer service
You will notice that most businesses have now gone online, with product or service inquiries that must go through messaging applications like SMS, email, Facebook Messenger, Viber, or Instagram direct messaging, among others. A lot of these small businesses have already employed the application of artificial intelligence into their business systems through chatbots that automates answers to all possible questions that might be asked about a specific business’s product or service. Of course, there are still limits to what these chatbots can do and answer because the activities and answers of these chatbots are also programmed by the staff into the AI systems that the business is using. And when this option has been exhausted, that is the only time that a customer service representative or agent may come in and assist you further with your other queries.
Why go through chatbots? It is simply because this saves the customer from a lot of waiting over the phone for someone to answer your basic queries. Almost all chatbots of these small businesses would carry almost all the possible and most basic questions and answers about the business’s products and/or services that a potential customer might want to know about the company.
2. Understanding your customer data
A small business’s customers may come from people from all walks of life. Normally, a business would have a database of their customers for records purposes. Usual data on this file would include the type of product or service they purchased, the number of times they purchased from you, their location, and other pieces of information that are on their invoices.
What is good about employing AI for small businesses is that it will be able to give the business owner a variety of insights into the behaviors of their customers when it comes to online purchase history, their online interactions in the webspace, basically, their digital footprint. It is said to boost the business’s relationships with its clients and gain even more in the long run.
Employing artificial intelligence to interpret this data may now be done so that the business owner can better understand the type of current customers that he or she has. This will also be helpful in identifying potential customers from certain locations or groups in the future where the business’s products or services may be offered.
3. Predicting customer behavior
Now that a lot of the businesses are already online, so do their customers. These current and potential customers keep abreast with the latest trends and updates on practically almost anything that they can purchase around them via their social media platforms.
Artificial intelligence for business helps curate basic information and preferences about your current customers and potential clients just by tracking these social media platforms that you are on. Basically, when a customer or potential one clicks on a post of yours or maybe just your webpage, some of these automated trackers curate the activities of these customers related to your post and the AI system may be able to tell the business something about the demographics of your customers, such as location, interests, and the like.
AI for small businesses can use these data gathered to forecast possible sales offerings of better or a wider variety of products and services that would fit their customers’ needs and wants. These data may be used to provide key insights into what the future of the business operations would be and take this as an advantage against the business’s competitors.
4. Streamlining tasks for human resources
Small businesses have limited or even have a shortage of manpower and skills that would be needed to fulfill the most mundane and most repetitive of tasks within the business. We are all aware of how tedious human resources work is in terms of the hiring process which includes recruitment, onboarding, trainings, and other similar tasks. AI for small businesses can help streamline these services.
Currently, a lot of employers and small businesses have already started using artificial intelligence integrated software to aid in the processing of job applications, administering the required psychometric employment tests, and even the processing of the needed background checks to complete the recruitment process. These saves the business a lot of time and cuts the manpower needed to man these recruitment events and will be able to help the business hire the best and right candidate for the job.
5. Increasing productivity
A small business should be able to maximize productivity even with limited people and resources. AI for small businesses can help that happen even with the limitations involved in the business operations.
There are repetitive and, sometimes, mundane tasks within the business that can be addressed using artificial intelligence programs and algorithms. What it does would be to remove these tasks from people within the organization, most especially if there is limited manpower. Bigger enterprises, especially those in the manufacturing sector, has already started using robotics to replace human employees from doing simple yet time-consuming tasks such as labeling or packing products. These human employees are then delegated to tasks that would better need their skills or expertise.
Pre-pandemic, the use of productivity tools and applications have been consistently on the rise because it helps streamline some processes that gets work done easily and with just a few clicks. Especially now that businesses have provided work from home and remote work options because of the pandemic, these applications and artificial intelligence for business tools have become more useful and makes communication and work more bearable. The use of these tools such as Evernote and Asana may be designed to suit the workflow of a certain team in order for them to still be productive and meet deadlines even while working from home or anywhere remote.
At an age where businesses are going online and processes are being made more simple by programs under artificial intelligence, human intervention and interaction is still needed. However, the repetitive tasks may be delegated into an artificial intelligence system that lessens the workload so that the employees or staff may be able to do other tasks that cannot be done, for now, through artificial intelligence.
6. Improvement of sales and marketing strategies
We have all been receiving emails containing marketing information about products and services being offered by different companies. We sign up to the newsletters of our favorite brands, wanting to always be updated with the latest products and offers. We will also, sometimes, willingly sign up for promotions of different products and services in the hopes of winning the good prizes that they offer and maybe to try out their products and services later.
As a lot of businesses have been transitioning to capture both the traditional and online markets, AI for small businesses have proven to be very helpful when it comes to the development of a variety of marketing strategies to boost their sales and increase their presence in both avenues.
Digital marketing is booming primarily due to lesser costs to the business. A lot of small businesses, especially startups and home-based ones, sign up on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to gain wider reach and mostly for free. Also, these platforms include free AI for small business tools that collect and provide data to the small business as to how it is doing in terms of social media presence. Premium accounts on these platforms have to be paid but considering that you will not really need a lot of manpower to monitor the data, even the business owner can already get a hold of the data with just a few clicks and be able to discuss it with his marketing and salespeople for proper analysis and appropriate action or response.
Aside from that, there are a lot of free AI for small business apps that can be used to boost sales and increase their presence. The use of email marketing tools such as Mailchimp, has been proven to help boost sales and increase market presence of these small businesses. Although these emails may be considered “spam mail” before and are not really being read by people, the pandemic has made consumers turn to online shops and businesses for the services and products that they need. Subscriptions to these newsletters and emails coming from these businesses are being read more nowadays because this is where they can get discounts or deals that are exclusive for their loyal customers’ use. The use of the more popular Salesforce already integrates a customer relationship management software into their system making it easier for the marketing and sales team to draw up data from their customers to increase sales and profit for the business. Coaching your sales team may also be done via applications like Chorus or Jong are also proven to be helpful in boosting sales and improving your marketing and sales teams’ strategies. All of these applications are based on artificial intelligence which could truly make your work as a business owner more streamlined and easier.
The increasing number of online shops with artificial intelligence integrated functions have proven to be an effective marketing tool. They have become one-stop shops for every consumer’s needs without having to go out of their homes to get the items. On the logistics side, such as delivery functions, this function has also been tied into these platforms making a sale extremely easy to obtain without having to really go out of the office. Artificial intelligence for business has made the whole sales process easy to complete with just a few clicks, making it extremely convenient for current and potential customers. The data that a small business may gather from their sales online with these artificial intelligence for business tools are extremely helpful for their marketing and sales teams to come up with better strategies and plans to yield better sales numbers for the business.
Social media presence, especially for startups, home-based, and other forms of small businesses, is now considered to be an exceptionally reliable tool in ensuring that they can still meet their sales target even during this time of a pandemic. Artificial intelligence can track data of customers’ frequently purchased items and their other preferences, customers will be able to pick out delivery options suited to their needs, and the delivery of
7. Reduce risks and protect your small business by boosting your cybersecurity functions
At this day and age when almost everything is already online, including businesses, securing your business systems and resources is essentially important to protect them from the risks of hacking and other online intrusions.
Cybercrimes at this time have become so advanced that programmers must also level up their skills and programs to counter these events. Top cybersecurity companies are constantly improving their systems with increased research and making sure that their systems are fool- and fraud-proof for use even by small businesses. Unfortunately, a lot of these small businesses fall victim to a whole lot of these cybercrimes, ranging from fraudulent transactions to hacking of their customer databases (which contain sensitive and personal information) because they have not invested on a good cybersecurity program, especially for their online platforms.
Since a lot of these small businesses utilize a variety of social media platforms which also offer a wide array of cybersecurity programs for their protection, it is essentially important to do your own research and, if needed, seek the advice of an IT expert on what program the business would really need when it comes to applying cybersecurity programs that would best suit your AI for small business needs. One good advantage of using AI for small businesses is that with the use of both simple and complex algorithms, it would be able to track and identify user and data patterns which may potentially harm the business operations.
With the advent of online or e-wallets and online banking, most of these companies can and will be able to track the usage of your accounts with them. AI for small businesses backed by a reputable cybersecurity program will enable the small business to identify irregularities, threats, deviances in transactions by their customers, and point out possible breaches in security even before they are completed.
In conclusion, artificial intelligence for businesses is constantly being studied and developed to further enhance its features and resolve all evident loopholes for future use especially by small businesses. Artificial intelligence is already in place everywhere now not just by the big organizations but even by small and medium businesses to keep up with the times. There are still debates about whether AI for small business is totally feasible in the long run. With big technology giants such as Microsoft and Google going into full blast about improving artificial intelligence programs, we can expect more efficiency in business operations even with limited resources.
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