The rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) seems like something out of a science fiction movie. Thanks to advances in machine learning, computers think more autonomously than ever before. Programmers have taught computers to think more like humans do through natural language processing (NLP) and thanks to faster processors.
While the magic still comes from the person coding the machine, computers have the ability to take over most repetitive tasks businesses deal with. Gartner predicts that, in 2020, customers will manage about 85% of their interactions without using a human component. Advances in AI impact nearly every industry, including both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.
As AI becomes more commonplace, the cost of services goes down, making it more affordable for small and mid-sized businesses. There are several factors to consider when deciding if your B2B business should invest in AI technology in the near future. Thanks to One Idea LLC for the cover photo.
1. Connect Better With Customers
In today’s market, you compete not only with other businesses in your community but also with those around the globe. If you want to stand out from the competition, you must offer a personal touch. Figuring out ways to communicate better with customers will set your business apart from both big corporations and outdated mom-and-pop shops. AI offers unique ways to connect with your core audience, such as by sending out automated messages on special days to remind them to order because it’s been a while, or even just to inform them of a new product they might find interesting.
The chatbot market is still in growth mode thanks to advances in machine learning that respond intelligently to questions and commands. Statista predicts the market will hit a value of $1.25 billion annually by 2025. In another report, they surveyed over 1,000 consumers and found that 40% of them had used chatbots in their retail purchases. If you only implement one type of AI this year, a virtual live agent is a valuable and affordable choice.
2. Automate Your Business
AI’s rapid advances impact nearly every type of business model. No matter what type of operation you run, there are likely some repetitive tasks you and your employees conduct over and over. Analyze your company and which tasks a computer might be able to perform more efficiently than a human. Spend time redefining roles within your firm so that those who are displaced by machines still have a position of importance in your company.
Freeing up time for your employees allows you to focus on one-on-one attention to new leads and your top clients. For example, a computer may be able to better generate reports on sales and inventory. You can set up the system to automatically place an order when supplies run low in the warehouse or generate invoices on your behalf.
3. Improve Marketing Efforts
Marketers now utilize AI to come up with audience segments as well as manage campaigns. By the year 2023, the industry will see a 28.3% growth in the use of AI in social media marketing. No matter the size of your business, you can use computers to improve your online and offline marketing.
Use big data to run reports and analyze the effectiveness of past marketing campaigns. Which posts got the most likes and shares? What are your conversion rates? Figure out current and new audience segments by looking at the buying behaviors of your customers and predicting future trends. Automate tasks such as scouring the internet for related articles and sharing them with your followers.
Photo: Matt Moloney
4. Beat the Competition
One way that AI benefits small businesses is by offering in-depth information on competitors. Not only do machines analyze your own customers, but they can also take data from the industry or from your own studies of similar businesses, mull it over and kick out a detailed report. Discover what sales areas are covered in a particular location. Identify gaps in service you can step in and fill. The more information you have, the more likely you are to outpace your competitors. You may be up against some giants in the industry.
However, AI allows you to see what niche areas they might not cover, such as personalization. Add information on their other behaviors and buying habits and you’ll discover the best use of your own resources and which products and services you should offer people.
5. Pass Off Unskilled Tasks
AI has been used in some pretty interesting ways in the last decade. For example, the MD Anderson Cancer Center used computers to help patients’ families figure out hotels and restaurants in the area. That might seem like a much less important task than making diagnoses and coming up with treatment plans. However, it was one of those unskilled tasks that can be placed in the hands of the computer. This frees up hospital staff to give more of their attention to the patient’s care.
Any type of business can do the same thing. If you hire someone to order supplies, can a computer do the same thing better? You can then move that person into sales or customer experience work.
6. Create Emotional Experiences
The better you understand your target audience, the easier it is to connect with them. Computers can take all the information you have on past customers and spit out detailed data on the best approach to connect with them. While the machine doesn’t exactly understand emotion, it can analyze behavior patterns. While you need the data in the first place, once you get into the habit of inputting certain details about customers, the machine can do the rest.
You can also tap into behavior analysis for your sales department. If the machine recognizes that Bob Smith of ABC Corporation always calls in the last month of each quarter in a panic because he needs supplies yesterday, then it can send him a reminder to order before the panic sets in. You could also set up automated ordering tools that tap into Bob’s system and track when he is running low on a specific item.
Photo: Bruce Mars
Where Will AI Take Business in the Future?
AI is already transforming the world around us. As machines get faster and smarter, expect them to do more and more of the daily tasks humans completed for decades. Business leaders will have more time to focus on the creative and interpersonal aspects of doing business. As companies vie for the attention of consumers, those who tap into the modern tools available will move ahead of the pack. Should your business invest in AI?