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Can small businesses use AI? The short and smart answer is YES

Can small businesses use AI? The short and smart answer is YES

Thinking that artificial intelligence or AI is this newfangled and complicated thing that’s only for large enterprises is a misguided thing to do. If you look at the gears that make email work behind the scenes, you’ll find complex programming and code that’s unintelligible to non-developers, yet email is used by just about everyone. So just as much as it wouldn’t make sense to stop using such a vital business tool, skipping out on AI would mean giving your competitors a huge advantage.

In fact, AI applications are already available for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to use. Here are four ways by which SMBs can leverage AI right now:

#1 Use AI to launch vast, cost-effective marketing efforts

According to McKinsey Global Institute’s 2018 discussion paper entitled Notes from the AI frontier: Applications and value of deep learning, AI holds the most value in the area of marketing and sales for consumer-facing industries such as retail. Reducing customer acquisition costs is vital for companies with small marketing budgets, which means that SMBs must know whom to target with their messages and which channels to use.

AI-powered advertising platforms such as those built by Google and Facebook are able to analyze mountains of consumer behavior data. These give small companies the ability to reach as many potential customers as possible without ever needing to hire an entire team of marketers and salespeople.

#2 Let AI take on repetitive, mind-numbing tasks

SMBs only have a handful of employees, so maximizing their contribution to the business is crucial to helping it grow. To have them work on tasks that directly bolster growth, delegate important-but-monotonous-and-time-consuming logistics and operations tasks to AI programs.

With AI, you can automate many aspects of bookkeeping, scheduling, invoicing, setting purchase orders, and many other backend tasks. When used as an extra helping hand, AI will help staff members make more meaningful contributions to the company.

#3 Practically have your very own data scientists

Statistical analysis is a method of distilling useful insights from data. For instance, airlines would use it to come up with new routes when key destinations are blocked by travel bans due to outbreaks of communicable diseases. Factoring in airport distances, jet stream airflow patterns, and fuel costs, they would create data models for optimizing their fleet and crew. They would even consider tapering off services and laying off staff if demand for flights drops significantly enough.

For airlines and other such enterprises with mountains of data, artificial intelligence makes statistical analysis easier. But even with smaller data sets, small businesses can use AI, too. SMBs can use predictive analytics — a branch of data analytics that combines historical data mining, AI, and predictive modeling to foresee future outcomes — to determine strategies for growth. To illustrate, they can use data modeling to determine if franchising is a better expansion strategy than opening more company-owned shops.

Small businesses can even direct AI to study their competitors. Crayon, a competitive analysis tool, takes note of the activities competitors undertake across all online channels to help users understand what their competitors are up to. Users can then learn from the effectiveness of those strategies, or come up with counterstrategies of their own.

#4 Help customers while getting to learn more about them by using chatbots

AI-powered chatbots are not only designed to answer customer queries, suggest products or services, generate quotes, and even book appointments, but they are also built to gather data while doing so.

These can capture contact information and keep track of customer queries, preferences (such as which types of promotions they respond to the most) and habits (such as whether they buy straight from chatbots or place items in wishlists first). The data chatbots gather — in conjunction with all of the other information collected from other touchpoints — helps firms of all sizes convert leads and form personalized relationships with customers.

AI is but one of many powerful IT tools you can use to help grow your business — and [company_short] can help you leverage such tools. To have a better understanding of what we can do for you, check out our free eBook on IT outsourcing.

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