Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In a growing digital landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer the sole domain of large companies. In a poll by Vistage involving 1,467 leaders of small and mid-sized businesses, 13.6% indicated they are presently using AI in their operations. Specifically, 6.9% are applying it to business functions and 6.1% for client interactions. Close to a third, or 29.5% of those surveyed, believe that AI will soon be among the most impactful technologies.
Referring to a study by Deloitte and Stanford University, Spectrum Business says that one in four small businesses is using AI to perform various business functions.
As demonstrated by these numbers, the ground is set for small and mid-sized businesses to embrace the AI revolution and tap into never-seen-before opportunities to compete equitably with larger organizations. They are well-equipped with the necessary resources and capabilities to use the latest AI technologies to their advantage. Here are several ways small and mid-sized businesses can leverage AI to keep up with the competition:
Related: How AI Is Revolutionizing Small Businesses
1. Concept validation
Small businesses can seek help from AI to examine market dynamics, customer input and historical data to confirm the viability of new concepts. AI can forecast the potential for success based on trends, insights and forecasts.
2. Brand ideation
The strength of a business brand has the power to transform customer perception into lasting loyalty, turning everyday interactions into lifelong partnerships. Small businesses can use AI to scrutinize brand values, customer sentiment and industry trends to spark inventive brand concepts that resonate with the target audience. Machine learning can analyze public sentiment towards various brand elements, enabling fine-tuning in real time.
3. Documentation management
There are few better tools than AI to rationalize documentation processes that are usually resource- and labor-intensive. AI can propose templates, generate reports and automate routine tasks that are intrinsic to documentation management.
4. Customer service
Chatbots can intelligently handle a variety of tasks including answering queries, booking appointments and assisting with purchases. And the best thing is that they can do all this 24/7. This not only frees up human resources but also provides timely service to customers.
5. Marketing personalization
AI algorithms can analyze consumer behavior and provide actionable insights that are fairly accurate. This allows small businesses to tailor their marketing efforts and reach their target customers without having to spend a lot of money. In addition, AI can take stock of consumer feedback to suggest refinements or enhancements to existing product and/or service offerings.
6. Cost-effective advertising
AI enables small to mid-sized businesses to optimize advertising costs in several ways. By analyzing data, AI helps pinpoint specific target audiences and their behaviors. This allows businesses to utilize their advertising budget more effectively. AI also adapts content dynamically based on user engagement and identifies optimal times and platforms for ad placement, ensuring that each dollar spent yields maximum impact.
7. Inventory management
AI can predict stock needs based on historical data, ensuring that your business neither runs out of inventory nor wastes resources on excess stock. This could also result in substantial savings on warehouse expenses.
Related: How Small Businesses Can Leverage AI to Battle Bigger Competitors
8. Process automation
From onboarding employees to managing invoices, AI can handle repetitive tasks, reducing operational costs and human errors. Automated workflows can save up to 20 hours per week for an employee.
9. Operational enhancement
AI can assess current workflows, identify operational bottlenecks and propose enhancements. Machine learning algorithms can refine procedures by learning from data and getting better at learning.
10. Advanced analytics
Real-time data analytics powered by AI can offer valuable insights on performance and user engagement, helping small businesses make informed decisions quickly and in a cost-effective way. These analytics can also help companies pivot their strategies over the medium to long term.
11. Competitive pricing
AI can set and track dynamic pricing models that are based on various factors such as demand and availability, market conditions, competitor activities and even weather forecasts. This ensures that small and mid-sized businesses can develop and maintain a competitive pricing strategy.
12. Business rationale and exemplars
AI can help build persuasive business rationales and create illustrative case studies that underscore the value of a company’s products or services. This could help draw investors’ attention and infuse much-needed capital for future growth.
13. Adjacent service exploration
Small and mid-sized businesses can leverage AI to dive deep on market data, uncovering potential adjacent services that align with their business objectives and customer requirements. This enables companies to expand into new market segments with minimal risk.
Related: How To Use Artificial Intelligence To Boost Your Small Business
AI offers an opportunity for small and mid-sized businesses to level the playing field. By adopting AI technologies, not only can these companies automate mundane tasks, but they can also delve into advanced analytics and offer highly personalized experiences to customers — things that were previously only within reach for large corporations.
Do you know any other ways AI can help small to mid-sized businesses? I would love to learn!