How Can Small Businesses Prepare for the AI Future?

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When many people think of artificial intelligence or AI, they tend to think of science-fiction. Movies like I, Robot and Terminator have introduced the movie-going populace to a very specific concept of artificial intelligence. Too often, we think of AI as something that will arrive in the distant future and is potentially nefarious.

In fact, artificial intelligence has been disrupting the business world for many years. From algorithms that can predict shoppers who are pregnant to voice recognition assistant software like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, AI is already changing the world around us and the way we do both shop and do business.

How can your small businesses prepare for the inevitable and continuing disruption of artificial intelligence in the marketplace?

Understand How AI Will Affect Your Bottom Line

There are many different applications for artificial intelligence. Some of the most obvious ways that AI will be used by small businesses right now include customer service, hiring, and marketing. As more processes have become computerized, many businesses are sitting on an absolute wealth of data about their customers that is far too complex to analyze by hand.

One of the most powerful present-day applications of AI is to help companies analyze their data and better apply pricing, deals, and other marketing tools to the customer in front of them.

According to CEO Dave O’Flanagan, businesses should be looking forward to AI opportunities in their sector, as these changes will offer a chance for companies to engineer a cost out of their business. They may be able to offer better prices to customers and ensure competitiveness in an increasingly tighter marketplace.

Accept Slow and Steady Adoption As The Norm

In movies, AI always arrives overnight, changing our society in the blink of an eye. In real life, artificial intelligence has been slowly changing the business landscape for years, and experts suggest that the pace of adoption will continue to be slow and steady for years to come.

Currently, small businesses tend to use third-party artificial intelligence software; it is likely that this will continue for some time. Developing custom software will likely be cost prohibitive for many years, especially for smaller businesses. Over time, as AI software becomes more ubiquitous, developing custom programs will be more feasible.

Consider What Benefits Marketing Can Offer

80% of experts predict that marketing in particular will be revolutionized by artificial intelligence in the next 5 years. After all, marketing depends on customer data and information about customer choices; the more information businesses can gather about the way customers respond to their current marketing, the more carefully marketing can be tailored to customers in the future.

As AI becomes more adaptive in marketing, companies may need to walk a careful line between offering customers what they want and becoming too invasive. The famous story of Target knowing customers were pregnant before they did, while somewhat overstated, is an example of customers being made uncomfortable by how much a business seemed to know about them.

How Can Companies Prepare?

For companies to take full advantage of the benefits of AI, both within marketing and outside of it, they will need to:

  • Be familiar with artificial intelligence. By knowing what AI can offer in general, and what advancements are being made, your company will be better positioned to seek out the right AI technology for your needs.
  • Be cognizant of your needs. Over the next few years, small businesses will begin to see affordable AI technologies that can offer exceptional voice recognition, accomplish incredible machine learning, and more. To avoid getting swept away by what could be done, businesses should have a clear idea of what they want AI to do.
  • Follow good project management protocols. As competitors begin to use artificial intelligence in their companies, there may be a strong push for other small businesses to use AI right away, in order to remain competitive. While the implementation may be key, good implementation is even more important. Companies need to be aware of, for example, the financial impact of new technologies, the feasible time frame in which a new technology can be deployed, and the training necessary for staff.

As the Internet of Things and other smart technologies and AI expressions become parts of more and more lives, businesses will continue to respond, finding ways to improve their offerings to fit into this new technological landscape. The most successful businesses will find a way to both adapt to what is available while remaining nimble enough to respond when interesting new developments are on the horizon.

How is your company incorporating artificial intelligence into its ongoing business plan? What is your company doing to stay ready for the ongoing changes AI is bringing to the business world?

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