Jasmine Williams

Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today's business and marketing. When she's not being all serious and busy, she's usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, and delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88

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How Small Businesses Are Using AI and Machine Learning to Grow

Applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Business

Jasmine Williams

November 08, 2018

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For decades, science fiction has shown the power of machines to help humans accomplish a wide range of tasks. While this has largely been fantasy for most of this time, science fiction may now be becoming reality. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be one of the biggest boons to small businesses, allowing them to accomplish a wide range of tasks that only the largest of businesses were previously able to hire people to do.

Just as digital devices have given everyone access to their own personal assistants, machine learning and AI are opening up opportunities for even the smallest of businesses to accomplish all of the tasks of larger businesses with full staffs. Here are some ways small businesses are leveraging the power of machine learning and AI to grow their businesses.


1. Offers even the smallest of businesses a full customer service staff


Customer Service 4.0 is giving small businesses a competitive advantage against even the largest of corporations. Customer Service 4.0 is poised to provide small businesses everything from a full-time 24/7 virtual receptionist to a knowledgable and educated full service customer service department. Both businesses and customers alike have long been frustrated by complicated phone trees, but live voices are expensive.

As frustrating as phone trees may be, they help direct traffic to help utilize live personnel to the best advantage. Machine learning and AI, however, are creating chat bots that are able to interact with clients and consumers so realistically, they may not even know they aren't speaking to a live person. In addition, connected chatbots can look up information significantly faster than live agents and always give the same information every time.


2. Provides powerful analytics to help small businesses increase performance


A small bakery owner may not notice a sudden 6% increase in sales on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month, but powerful analytics can. By recognizing even the most minute upsurges in business or sales during certain times, business owners have a chance to investigate potential causes and even turn them into bigger boons. Not only can analytics help point out even the smallest increases or decreases in sales, but it can also help find the source.

For instance, a bot may scour local websites and digital bulletin boards and discover a new book club meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month. Armed with this information, a small bakery owner may be able to turn that 6% increase into a 15% or more increase by suggesting sandwiches instead of just baked goods or even offering the use of the back room that the book club host was unaware the bakery had.


3. Interactive programs offer a more comprehensive performance picture


Gathering data has not been difficult since the dawn of the computer age. Interpreting that data into a comprehensive picture has. In addition, creating a realistic picture of business performance relies on collecting data from a variety of sources. For instance, a small bakery's performance is dependent on analysis of not just sales, but also on fluctuating prices of key ingredients as well as constantly changing business expenses. A small rise in the price of flour can have a significant impact over the course of a month, as can a slight increase in Federally mandated wages.

More and more programs are being designed to integrate seamlessly with other programs, however, which can help give small businesses a much more comprehensive picture of performance. For instance, Square is designed to integrate seamlessly with Quickbooks, which can in turn be analyzed by Bison Analytics. The more sources analytics can use to pull data from, the more comprehensive a picture the business can gain of their performance on a number of levels.


4. Helps provide more self-service opportunities

There is a reason self-service is on the rise and will only continue to grow as a trend. While many customers will always prefer to be waited on or have personal service, personal service also tends to be both time consuming and expensive. Therefore, the majority of customers prefer to save both time and money by simply serving themselves. Even businesses themselves can profit from self-service analytics. The truth is, the more ways in which businesses can allow customers to serve themselves, the more resources the business frees up to grow their business.

Some ways that businesses can create self-service opportunities for their customers is through online stores, online scheduling and comprehensive websites that offer a wealth of information about products and services. The less information you give clients and consumers about your products and services, the more time you will spend informing them and waiting for them to make a decision. Even the largest storefront businesses save a wealth of time by offering comprehensive product and service information online. This allows the consumer to spend all the time they want online researching products and options before purchasing. When they walk into the store, they know exactly what they want and proceed to purchase it immediately.

AI and machine learning is allowing smaller businesses to offer more and more comprehensive services, while still keeping overhead low. AI and machine learning also helps you offer a better customer experience without needing to hire or manage a large staff. Not all small businesses want to become large business, but simply want to besuccessful businesses. AI and machine learning can help you do either one.


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