Dear Doctor Digital, can you please explain how Artificial Intelligence is going to help my small business?
It seems a little science fiction still, but the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) in assisting small businesses are profound, and will continue to evolve and shape small business in all kinds of ways. If you have uttered the words 'OK Google' lately or had Siri help you out, you are already relying on AI to do simple tasks more efficiently. Adopting AI is fundamentally no different than deploying actionable data or even making the switch from paper processes to digital processes like email a generation before that. The keys are to have the right mindset and to take each change step-by-step.
Let’s start with data. I bet you make a lot of business decisions based on data you collect from your business. As you have become more enmeshed with things like Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics etc, you have had more data from much bigger data sets to inform what you do, and more and more sophisticated apps and algorithms available for your use in predicting and anticipating trends and changes in your business. In future, the better use of predictive analytics will translate into better customer insights and improved conversion rates.
AI can help you to automate as much as possible related to the business. Websites, payroll programs like Xero, and the implementation of multi-channel marketing that includes email, social media, mobile and web options as well as customer relationship management systems are all a forms of AI. Many aspects of a small business can be automated through the use of digital tools. You are probably doing a lot of this already. For small businesses, these AI apps and cloud based systems can supercharge operational processes and workflows, which lets owners spend less time in triage and more time growing their businesses.
Difficulty tracking and making sense of data is one of the barriers businesses face when deploying artificial intelligence. Small businesses struggle to benefit from AI if they lack the IT infrastructure to support it. Therefore, smaller organisations should begin their journey toward AI by adopting a modernised approach to IT - one that moves away from on-premises solutions and toward cloud-powered resources that will be able to scale up as artificial intelligence technology is implemented.
Happily (for most of us) there is no technology available that can replace humans and our empathy and engagement. In all businesses the importance of excellent customer service can’t be emphasized enough. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to – no online transaction will ever be better than the human drive for instant gratification.
If you can give your customers an amazing experience, they will pay more to get it then and there and spread the word, guaranteed. And if you are able to collect data, predict future trends, save time and money, and maximise the experience using AI, then your business will benefit exponentially. Businesses are pursuing AI to optimise operations and improve the customer experience. By actively making an effort to learn about and embrace artificial intelligence, your small businesses can prepare for a future powered by AI solutions.