What is artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence for small business is used in many tools to help businesses to boost efficiency, productivity and growth. There isn’t one agreed definition of artificial intelligence. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as:
The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
According to IBM:
At its simplest form, artificial intelligence is a field, which combines computer science and robust datasets, to enable problem-solving. It also encompasses sub-fields of machine learning and deep learning, which are frequently mentioned in conjunction with artificial intelligence. These disciplines are comprised of AI algorithms that seek to create expert systems that make predictions or classifications based on input data.
Improve sales and marketing efforts
Sales and marketing are key activities where AI can be used in business. For sales activities, customer relationship management (CRM) systems collect, store and provide data to improve sales activities. AI can be used for data collection and retrieval. For example, some CRMs can capture and transcribe interactions with customers. This data is then tagged and organised into key topics to uncover insights and trends which can be used to increase sales effectiveness.
AI solutions in marketing can boost e-commerce sales by collecting data on customer behaviours and automating responses. One example is cart abandonment which occurs roughly 70 per cent of the time. When this happens, e-commerce solutions based on AI can follow up with email reminders and special offers to motivate customers to make the purchase. Research by Listrack revealed that initial emails sent three hours after a consumer abandons their online shopping cart have an average open rate of 40 per cent and a clickthrough rate of 20 per cent. So there’s a good chance of making some of these missed sales by following up using AI for small business marketing.
Social media marketing is another area where small business owners can benefit from using AI tools. One example is Sprout Social, a cloud-based social media management platform, that automatically generates tweets to respond to customers and followers. Another is Hubspot’s social media software which automatically creates social media posts based on the metadata of the content link you copy and paste, saving you time with social media management.
Businesses are using chatbots on their websites to initiate communication with customers and answer questions. These are usually pop-ups found at the bottom of the screen when you first visit a website, asking if you have any questions. Chatbots use AI technology to automatically send replies based on customer queries. Having a chatbot on your website makes it possible to interact with customers 24/7 while reducing the need for staffing resources. This is why 80 per cent of sales and marketing leaders say they either currently use or plan to use chatbots in the near future.
Streamline human resources
AI-based tools can be used in human resources as well. One example is analysing job applications to determine which applicants most closely match the position criteria. By avoiding the painstaking process of analysing candidate characteristics manually, you can save time and resources in the hiring process. After you have created a shortlist, artificial intelligence can be used to analyse skill assessments and other data to compare candidates with employees who have proven themselves in the organisation.
In addition to hiring, AI can be used to help with rostering staff to avoid having too many or too few people working at one time. AI can analyse large amounts of data, including the history of peak times, employee skills and availability, and other factors, to determine and meet staffing requirements at different times.
Artificial intelligence for small business inventory management
Inventory management requires the analysis of vast amounts of data to avoid overstocking or understocking inventory. Factors such as customer purchasing behaviour, seasonality, and delivery times can be analysed using AI to determine optimal inventory levels. For example, retailers can use real-time data from purchases to determine points when inventory needs to be replenished. Having inventory in stock where it’s needed boosts customer satisfaction as well as the bottom line.
Artificial intelligence for small business bookkeeping
Bookkeeping is another example of how artificial intelligence for small business can save time and resources. Programs like Xero use machine learning to categorise payments and receipts. For example, if you make a monthly payment for your mobile phone service, the program automatically categorises the payment based on how you first set up the transaction manually. By integrating with your bank statement, you don’t have to enter the data when the payment occurs each month.
Time management and productivity
Artificial intelligence for small business can help managers and staff with time management and productivity. One example is Microsoft’s Cortana, a virtual assistant program that uses AI to organise meetings and reminders. For instance, if you write “I will send you more information about…” in an email, you will receive a reminder the next day to ensure that you have sent the information you mentioned.
Implementing AI capabilities into your business
We often see high profile uses of AI, such as the development of autonomous vehicles. But artificial intelligence is a reality that you can use to increase your efficiency and effectiveness and grow your business. You’re probably now using software solutions that use AI and these will only increase as the technology advances.