Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organisations’

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How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Small Businesses

13 September 2021

These days, artificial intelligence isn’t just for massive companies like Amazon and Facebook.

Small and medium-sized businesses all over the world are benefiting from artificial intelligence and machine learning – and integrating AI into core business functions and processes is getting more accessible and more affordable every day.

How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Small Businesses | Bernard Marr

When I work with SMEs, we go through the same process I use with my larger clients. We look at their strategy and identify how they can use artificial intelligence to help them better understand their customers and improve the way their business works. We ask questions like:

  • How can we use AI to deliver smarter, more customized products?
  • Can they automate any business processes using AI?
  • Is it possible to monetize their data and make money from it?
  • Where are good data sources available (either proprietary, or from another source)?
  • What are some ways to aggregate or analyze the data?

An AI Breakthrough for Small Businesses

The critical change that has enabled smaller companies to benefit from artificial intelligence is that AI is now available as a service.

With this change, AI becomes a reality for more companies because they don't need to develop their own competencies or infrastructure to benefit from AI. Companies don't even need to use their own data – they can use data collected by companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google and then turn it into insight. They don't need to customize their own AI, which puts artificial intelligence within reach of most organizations.

Another way AI is making its way into smaller organizations is via AI-enabled services. If you are using any leading cloud-based accounting, HR, marketing, or CRM tools, then you will be using AI already. To name a few, tools like Salesforce, HubSpot, SuccessFactors, and QuickBooks are all great examples.

5 Practical Examples Of How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Small Businesses

  1. Plan staffing, ordering, and inventory management. A butcher shop could pull in weather data to predict sunny days, so they have burgers and hot dogs in stock for spring and summer barbeques.
  2. Spot trends. SMEs can use Google trends to look for spikes in search volume for specific terms. This can help them plan and create successful products and services.
  3. Automate and customize marketing campaigns. AI algorithms for email can help businesses create automated messages that are triggered by subscribers' activity. Many CMS or email service platforms have AI built-in, and you can use it right out of the box.
  4. Streamline time-consuming HR tasks. Companies can use AI to match candidates to open jobs, onboard new employees, and answer frequently asked questions about benefits and company policy.
  5. Give customers a first-hand look at products. SMEs can use augmented reality and artificial intelligence to give customers a virtual tour of products in their catalog. Picture a virtual “showroom” of furniture that a customer could customize to meet their needs.

If you’re a business leader in a small or medium-sized business, and you’ve been writing off artificial intelligence as a technology you can’t use or can’t afford, I urge you to rethink your strategy!

AI is more relevant to small businesses than you think, and it’s vital that you approach AI strategically and leverage it to make your business more successful.

Data Strategy Book | Bernard Marr

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