The average number of artificial intelligence tools that organizations use to streamline business processes doubled between 2018 and 2022, from two to four.1
Many savvy small business owners are leveraging these tools: By 2035, those who do could improve their profitability by around 38%.2
In this article, we’ll go over what AI is and six ways small businesses can use AI to their advantage.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence by machines and software that:
- Perform the tasks humans typically perform
- Emulate humans’ thinking patterns
You might hear people use the terms “AI” and “machine learning” interchangeably. However, as human intelligence is complex, multi-faceted and often emotional, scientists and computer programmers haven’t created true AI yet.
Machine learning is an application of AI. This application involves widening data access and creating algorithms so that AI “self-learning” machines can continue to pick up information and improve accuracy.
6 Ways Small Businesses Can Use AI
AI tools can create major time savings and efficiencies for small businesses, thereby helping business owners increase their revenue and profit.
There are plenty of affordable AI tools on the market that you can use to streamline your:
- Online Sales and Customer Service
- Appointment Scheduling
- Staff Scheduling
Would you be surprised to know that nearly 70% of marketing teams across the globe have fully defined AI strategies?3
AI can help businesses streamline their marketing efforts by:
- Producing content marketing ideas: Google frowns upon AI content that is created solely for search engines and not people.4 But you can use advanced AI tools like Jasper to generate content ideas that you can use to start your content research and create original content for marketing campaigns.
- Crafting personalized emails: Grow your email newsletter audience, generate more leads and improve email engagement with a tool like rasa.io, which allows you to send unique, personalized communications to each of your subscribers.
- Performing sentiment analysis: Leverage sentiment analysis tools like MonkeyLearn to select the most appropriate messaging for your brand. This tool pulls all of your customer feedback into one place and generates insights from it that you can use to adjust your marketing messages.
2. Online Sales and Customer Service
If your business sells products or services online, then you can look into a platform that uses automation to complete those sales. Chatbots are a great option here.
Some advanced chatbots and messaging platforms can enable the purchasing of services or products over messaging channels like a website chat function. This is often referred to as conversational commerce.
A conversational AI tool like Haptik can help you communicate with users on your website, reduce cart abandonment, upsell target offerings and solve customer service issues that arise from sales.
And even if your business doesn’t have an e-commerce arm, AI tools like chatbots can help you improve customer experience by answering regular inquiries. Using a chatbot for your website can save your team from answering 80% of routine customer questions, leaving them to work on other valuable tasks.5
For more, read: Creating a Chatbot for Your Website
3. Appointment Scheduling
Small businesses that add booking systems to their websites can increase revenue by as much as 120%.6
An online booking system can help your small business:
- Show up online when customers are searching for services in their local areas.
- Appeal to customers who prefer to book services online and outside working hours: Ninety-four percent would book with a different business if that business offered online booking.7
- Save time and resources that your business would otherwise spend manually scheduling appointments.
You can input scheduling rules into an AI tool like Fresha so that the software knows when your business is open. Then, you can leave your customers to make bookings, saving you time and resources.
Read our guide on the best online booking platforms for small businesses.
Small businesses can save up to $10,000 by using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen resumes and identify the best-fit candidates for their job vacancies.8
These hiring systems can:
- Pull data from resumes to identify candidates who align with your business goals.
- Collect candidate references.
- Analyze candidate performance in recruitment tests.
- Automate interview communications.
- Prepare targeted interview questions.
- Gather data from candidates’ previous employers.
For example, Manatal can simplify your screening process by scoring candidates’ profiles against your job requirements, and collecting insights from public profiles like your candidates’ social media accounts.
5. Staff Scheduling
Scheduling worker shifts can be a time-consuming task. Fortunately, AI staff scheduling tools can save small business owners this valuable time, with some claiming to reduce time spent on employee scheduling by as much as 80%.9
Staff scheduling tools analyze factors like your business’s peak times to identify the best times to schedule team members’ shifts and then assign shifts at scale.
For example, When I Work can automatically schedule team members’ shifts based on their availability. Businesses can also use this tool to track attendance and time spent on tasks.
It’s usually possible to manually process around five invoices per hour.10 But small business owners can save time on invoicing and managing their accounts by investing in accounting software.
AI accounting software can:
- Process invoices automatically.
- Organize and tag your accounting information.
- Locate accounting data to save you from digging through spreadsheets.
- Generate analytics that help you understand your accounting data.
For example, accounting software like Xero automates basic accounting processes, forecasts cash flow and captures data from your bills and receipts.
Free Up Your Time with AI Tools
AI tools can help free up time for what you do best, such as promoting and selling your offerings. Make 2023 the year you look into creating more efficiencies for your small business.