- Feb 11
- 5 mins read
3 Ways Small and Medium-Sized Business Can Leverage AI (2020 Edition)
We are already one month into 2020, and it feels like time is only speeding up. As we plunge deeper into this new decade, the emerging technologies of the past decade are getting harder for businesses to ignore. One of these technologies is artificial intelligence. AI has long been associated with science fiction, but that notion needs to be left back in 2019.
Artificial intelligence is a maturing method of business intelligence that a growing number of businesses are using to catapult growth and edge out the competition. If your business is not leveraging AI in some way in the next few years, you will be a dinosaur compared to your peers. So now is the time to hop on the AI bandwagon before you get run over by it.
It’s possible small and medium-size businesses have been ignoring AI because they think it’s something only large enterprises with teams of ivy-league developers can take advantage of. This is another notion that belongs in the past, because AI is a tool that businesses of all sizes can use.
To prove it, we came up with a list of the top 3 ways small and medium-size businesses can leverage AI, right now! The following methods are all ways that companies are using AI to get results that are not breaking the bank, and in-fact, ways for businesses to save money, become more efficient and grow faster than ever.
3 Ways Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Leverage AI Right Now
*Disclaimer* I think I should use this moment to say that neither I nor anyone at eMerge Technologies is affiliated with any of the tools discussed or linked in this article. The products linked are just examples of the types of AI-based technologies that small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of at this time.
RPA (Robotic Process Automation)
RPA has been around for a few years now, but now it’s maturing into a viable solution and not just a bleeding-edge experiment. In fact, RPA might be the hottest thing in tech software right now. In 2018 it was the fastest growing segment in the enterprise software category, according to Gartner. RPA is also projected to keep up solid momentum until 2025!
1. What is RPA?
RPA stands for robotic process automation. RPA uses AI methods like computer vision to mimic the less sophisticated actions of administrators or managers to automate processes that used to be too complicated for computers to handle before. The computer will literally drive itself to complete the actions like filling out forms, sending emails, and creating documents.
Check out this short video to see RPA in action.
If your business processes are flooded with tasks too complex for traditional automation methods to handle but are still repetitive, then RPA is the solution you’ve been looking for, and you just didn’t know it.
The benefits of process automation will affect every business differently and produce varying ROI’s but you can use this infographic from AI Multiple to give you an idea of what you can expect.
RPA + BPM = Magic
If your business already documents all of its business processes with a business process management tool, then an RPA implementation will be much easier and much more successful. The BPM tool will highlight all the tasks the RPA tool can target, and you will hit the ground running with automation.
RPM tools are surprisingly affordable, but like all automation tools, the potential savings should be compared to the expected costs.
2. Virtual Assistants
A virtual assistant, also called a “chat bot,” is an AI-enabled messaging device that uses natural language processing to interact with website visitors, customers, and even employees.
Chatbots can help users achieve an end-goal without requiring resources from the business. Whether that goal is to learn more about a product or get help after they have made a purchase, chatbots make life easier for everyone involved.
You have most likely interacted with these bots by now. They have been around for a few years now, and the data on their usefulness is becoming more convincing.
Virtual Assistants Have Plenty of Uses!
- Can save up to 30% in customer support
- Improve customer conversion rates
- Improve customer retention and satisfaction
- Improve employee productivity
- Provide personalized experiences for customers
- And much more!
Chatbots are available 24/7, never have off-days, and do not get sick. They can help businesses provide instant relief for customers with common or non-sophisticated problems while allowing those business to focus human resources on the more nuanced challenges their customers are facing.
Businesses can also use virtual assistants to help with employee training or when using internal employee resources.
Virtual Assistant Pricing
Chatbots are surprisingly affordable. The top-rated chatbot tools have scaling price models that fit the budgets of any size. Some even offer “freemium” prices for companies that want to dip their feet slowly into the virtual assistant market and scale up once they feel more comfortable.
For the past two decades, we have heard a lot about the benefits of advanced analytics. However, for smaller businesses, there are usually two barriers blocking them from attaining these benefits: pricy license fees and the skills gap.
Up until recently, top of the line BI platforms usually costs thousands of dollars per year in license fees. Even if you could swing the license fees, getting full value out of these platforms required a team of data analysts with advanced degrees in computer science and statistics.
These requirements often left many small and medium-sized businesses on the outside looking in as larger enterprises could afford to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into business intelligence and reap all the benefits.
AI is changing all of this. Natural language processing and machine learning are making advanced data mining methods accessible to people without degrees related to data science. Not only are these AI methods being added to popular and affordable BI tools like Power BI and Tableu, but now you can even find solutions that offer “no-code” insights.
Obviously AI is a BI/Predictive analytics tool that I believe exemplifies the standard of BI in a few years.
With tools like Obviously AI, you still have license fees, but you won’t need to hire dedicated data scientists to get insights out of your raw data.
Consider this your last warning before these technologies become the norm! AI offers a lot of opportunity for the companies willing to take the risks. But in 2020, the risk is smaller as much of the trail has already been blazed by the first adopters! Now, is the time for the small and medium business to adopt the new tools and bring in a smarter 2020 with the help of AI!
Do you still think AI is an enterprise-only tool, or have I convinced you otherwise? Let me know what’s holding you back in the comments below, along with a prediction for where AI will take us this decade!
Jeremy McCourt is an content producer in the enterprise software industry that focuses on NetSuite and related cloud-based software solutions.
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