How to Integrate A.I. into Your SMB
Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) are constantly finding ways to remain competitive in an ever-evolving world. Embracing change and keeping up with current trends prevents companies from becoming stuck in a rut and is vital for longevity. Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to using computer systems to simulate processes usually conducted by humans and has become a hot topic in recent times. Artificial intelligence, as opposed to human intelligence, includes self-driving cars, expert systems, and machine vision.
But AI is not just limited to large enterprises with endless budgets. AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT have been a game-changer for businesses of all sizes and reached one million users just five days after their launch. The chatbot helps employees brainstorm ideas, code, produce essays and articles, and simplify complex topics. As 25% of small businesses are using or testing generative AI like chatbots, it is clear that SMBs are waking up to the notion that AI can be a helpful tool for improved efficiency and streamlined processes.
How can AI help small businesses?
Artificial intelligence is more than just a buzzword or fad — it is becoming increasingly integrated into our working lives. In fact, AI and small businesses go hand in hand. Keep reading to find out how AI can help small businesses.
1. Cost savings and increased efficiency
Increasing interest rates, high inflation, and supply chain issues are hugely challenging for SMBs. Holding onto and generating a healthy cash flow appears to be more and more difficult in today’s climate. With 66% of SMBs facing financial challenges, many companies are turning to AI to take on tasks usually implemented by humans, helping them save on labor costs and other related fees such as sick days and bonuses.
Moreover, machines can produce a stable output and consistent quality, meaning companies may spend less time and resources resolving such issues. Investing in AI boosts efficiency by literally buying SMB managers and employees time to focus on more important duties. Interestingly, 31% of SMB owners said they would use the time saved by using AI to complete tasks such as streamlining bookkeeping or producing ideas for a marketing campaign to plan their future business strategy. Releasing employees from the burdens of monotonous and labor-intensive responsibilities enhances efficiency and lets them focus on more complex topics.
2. Competitive market advantage
With globalization and increased competition from international organizations, companies must find their competitive advantage to stay ahead, and AI can help them achieve exactly that. AI can assist companies by collecting business insights and market trends, which are used to streamline processes or reshape strategies and product designs. It can also help SMB owners make better strategic decisions by presenting industry fluctuations. With more and more businesses outsourcing tasks to AI, SMBS must jump on the AI bandwagon to remain competitive.
3. Better understanding and customer engagement
AI-powered chatbots learn while doing, meaning their knowledge expands rapidly. As such, chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as a first line of engagement with customers. Chatbots provide handy insight into consumer behavior, allowing companies to create a more specific marketing campaign and tailor their offerings to target customers rather than adopting a hit-and-miss approach.
Customers appreciate brands that make an effort to understand their needs. Studies suggest it takes more than just a quality product to create customer loyalty: 83% of consumers notice how they are treated by brands. It would benefit SMBs to utilize AI tools and develop products consumers will love.
4. Scalability for future growth
Implementing AI can help businesses enhance scalability for future growth. For example, by streamlining processes and cutting labor costs, SMB owners can focus on creating a lucrative future for their business. Enhancing processes and remodeling operations does not just facilitate immediate cost savings — it can help companies save money and flourish long-term, too.
Key areas for AI integration in SMBs
There are plenty of AI applications for small businesses regardless of industry. Here are some areas AI may help SMBs achieve maximum success through enhanced processes.
1. Customer Service
Just as we would go to a physical customer service desk for help with products, AI-powered chatbots provide immediate assistance from behind a computer screen. Chatbots and automated response systems are becoming increasingly accepted by customers and act as the first point of call for service-related questions. Examples of such systems are ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft Copilot, which use natural language to respond to customer queries with ease.
2. Marketing and Social Media
Generative AI tools like DALL·E and ChatGPT can revolutionize marketing departments by generating high-quality, creative, and personalized visual and written content at scale, significantly reducing the time and resources required to produce such material manually. By leveraging these AI tools, companies can create content, such as visuals, banners, promotional materials, and copy, to align with brand aesthetics and messaging, enabling more effective and targeted campaigns. Moreover, AI can collect insightful customer information like segmentation and demographics, and generate predictive analytics, allowing marketing strategies to be more responsive and adaptable.
3. Human Resources
Job openings set human resource employees up for screening hundreds of resumes, which is both exhausting and time-consuming. Luckily, AI can help by implementing predictive hiring and employee performance analysis which streamlines the recruitment process. Instead of sifting through piles of resumes, HR staff can directly contact pre-selected candidates who are likely a good fit for the role.
4. Operations and Inventory
AI tools can assist with operational forecasting and supply chain optimization, helping to streamline processes and boost productivity. Using operations and inventory forecasting, company bosses can use data obtained by AI to predict the number of items required for future orders, ensuring that products are never over- or under-stocked.
Unexpected machine downtime can be costly and frustrating for factories, especially if they have a long line of customers eagerly awaiting their products or parts. Intelligent AI algorithms help continually monitor machine temperatures, errors, planned downtime, and predictive maintenance, ensuring production lines are always in tip-top shape. If machine parts must be replaced every six months, AI functions can send reminders after five months to avoid delays or unexpected breakdowns. Allowing AI to take over these tasks alleviates staff of mundane and repetitive jobs, and allows company bosses greater control over operations and inventory processes.
5. Accounting and Finance
AI tools like, the soon to be released, Microsoft 365 Copilot can generate financial reports, saving analysts from one of the most time-consuming tasks in the field. It can also analyze text data including analyst reports and social media posts, which hold nuggets of important information. Intelligent AI tools, like Palantir Foundry, can detect fraudulent behavior, protecting banks and customers from potentially damaging activities.
AI-powered accounting tools help individuals and businesses manage financial information by monitoring transactions, cash flow, budget, and other accounting data. This allows accounting staff to identify trends or errors, and highlight areas for improvement. Moreover, utilizing AI to assist with accounting tasks saves time and money by streamlining processes and reducing the need for manual data entry, allowing staff to focus on important strategic initiatives rather than mundane tasks. It also enhances accuracy and removes the risk of human error, which is crucial when handling sensitive financial data.
6. Product Recommendations
The more people see a product, the more likely they are to purchase it, and E-commerce and retail businesses strive to keep their products at the top of web pages. Perhaps unsurprisingly by now, AI tools can help. AI-powered recommendations use complex algorithms and analyze consumer behavior to predict the types of products customers would buy. Product recommendations are a key concept utilized by streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to suggest shows or products based on viewers’ previous viewing or purchase history.
Steps to get started
Technology is evolving fast, and AI tools are becoming smarter every day. It can be overwhelming to comprehend everything at once, and it takes time to explore potential applications. The first step for SMB owners interested in implementing AI is to understand their company goals and what they wish to achieve. By identifying pain points and inefficient processes, SMB bosses can create a personalized plan to overcome internal issues.
Once the company’s goals and aims are clear, SMB bosses can move onto choosing the right tools and platforms to achieve them. From ChatGPT to Microsoft Copilot and Adobe Firefly, there is no end of AI tools to choose from. Carefully analyzing the company’s needs will make it easier to select the most suitable application.
The future of AI for SMBs
AI tools are highly intelligent, and their capacity to replace humans in the workplace is increasing. SMBs that have decided to implement AI into their business can benefit from future trends such as predictive analytics for marketing, which analyze which promotional campaigns would be most suitable for their target audience. Moreover, AI-powered chatbots are useful for providing improved customer service and can connect with customers in real time, at any time.
Cybersecurity is an increasing concern for SMBs, with ransomware attacks increasing by 150% in 2021. AI can help reduce the potentially devastating effects of cyber hacks by predicting events before they occur.
AI tools and resources are increasingly available to businesses of all sizes. Moreover, chatbots such as ChatGPT offer a free version, which can be helpful for streamlining and brainstorming non-sensitive company information.
Choosing an AI-powered tool for the workplace is a strategic decision that can positively impact the efficiency and profitability of SMBs. By implementing tools like chatbots, SMBs can spend more time developing products and growth plans and less time answering repetitive customer queries. Moreover, AI can help streamline processes by removing monotonous tasks and boosting workplace productivity. Selecting a suitable AI application for an SMB can be overwhelming, so it is crucial for SMB bosses to brainstorm pain points and issues they wish to solve. However, once AI is successfully implemented, it can help SMBs achieve next-level growth. Embrace AI — the future is now.
Jeni is a translator and writer based in Taiwan. She is passionate about business development and loves helping companies enter international markets. She is fluent in English, German, and Mandarin Chinese, and combines these with her industry experience to provide practical market entry solutions.