In a post-Covid-19 world, if SMEs are not moving away from legacy systems and technology, the failure to automate and innovate may well see them swept away by digital transformation. Although it is difficult to predict precisely where AI is taking us, the examples of Blockbuster and Kodak show that companies that seem unflappable can quickly face demise in a fast-changing world.
Every company cannot turn itself into an AI powerhouse overnight. However, there are plenty of practical ways to deploy AI in your business without breaking the bank or needing expert resources. This article looks at twenty innovative ways that any business can utilize AI in 2021.
The easiest place to start with AI is with conversational chatbots. Chatbots are no longer a novelty, but an indispensable business tool that can solve customer problems, reduce human administrative work, and improve satisfaction.
In a survey by Intercom, they found that companies can increase sales by 67% with the help of a chatbot. The primary reason for this is responding faster to customer queries and answering them more accurately 24/7.
Using a chatbot platform, you can have an agent online in as little as 15 minutes with very low upfront costs. Some of the platforms even offer free plans for smaller businesses with low volumes of traffic. Most are simple drag-and-drop style interfaces that require no programming or coding background.
A study by the University of Georgia found the males and females score differently depending on the style of learning they receive. The conclusion was that offering a different teaching style to individuals based on their profile would benefit each gender. Other factors like age, cultural background and experience may also play a factor.
AI-powered training programs allow learning to be adaptive. The modules are modified to suit the needs of each employee. For example, some may learn faster if training material is presented via video, while others may find text content more compelling. AI can adapt in real-time based on how the employee behaves and offer the most efficient training methods.
An AI teaching system works in three core phases.
Adaptemy uses AI to create training models for education. It works by finding relationships between concepts for each student, so it can continually adapt and work in their best interests.
According to the Sage “Practice of Now” report, 58% of accountants agree that AI will help improve their firm in the future. There are three key areas where AI is supporting the accounting sector.
For example, Ignite Spot Accounting Services uses Vic.AI to enhance their manual, labour-intensive accounts payable process. The platform sits on top of existing systems and automates the process of coding complex invoices. As a result, the firm can code over 250-line items to different cost amounts in a matter of minutes, rather than hours.
Expense management tools like Itemize can help businesses and staff quickly keep track of expenses. The automated AI solution operates from a picture of a receipt taken via a smartphone. The Itemize app stores the image, understands it and provides the information to accounts payable for logging and reimbursement if applicable.
AI-driven expense tools can eliminate any human error in the process and the need for time-consuming admin. Expenses are reviewed and approved in minutes as everything is already stored in a database.
Other applications include tax preparation, analysing purchase orders, and document review.
AI platforms such as Seamless.AI can help businesses scale by finding verified contact information automatically. The real-time people search engine builds a list of decision-makers, meaning you don’t have to rack up the hours scouring social media to find your target audience.
The tools can search channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to find contacts based on your set criteria. The lists can be segmented by industry, size of the company, and job title, feeding straight into your CRM and marketing campaign strategy.
Platforms like FocusVision can draw upon various internal data like employee reviews and exit interviews to help businesses understand employee morale. From the insight, it can enable a company to adjust practices and better engage with workers.
A study by Gallup shows that 85% of workers are not actively engaged at work. Tools like Vibe have algorithms that can evaluate the use of emojis and keywords that people use via channels such as Slack or MS Teams. The analysis will show if someone is stressed, happy, or angry during their working day through positive and negative word patterns.
ADP Compass, provide recruiters with data on worker morale and suggestions regarding how it can be boosted. They report that management effectiveness increases by around 40% using Compass technology.
Recruitment teams are not typically fast to adopt AI, as there is no apparent link to ROI. However, where employers need to recruit many people, it is crucial to streamline the process and avoid costly admin.
As an example, Unilever uses AI to recruit and train thousands of employees. With 1.8 million job applications each year, it takes a massive amount of time and resources to sift through them but finding the right person is pivotal to the brand’s success. Unilever can now assess potential employees from their own homes via a computer screen or mobile device using an AI recruitment platform.
Machine learning algorithms analyse a candidate’s suitability based on their responses, matching the profile to people who previously apply for similar roles. The algorithm can also interpret video interviews to analyse speech and body language, providing insight on who is likely to be a good fit for the business.
Although small businesses might not operate on such a large scale as Unilever, there are benefits to ensuring the4 right people are hired during a recruitment campaign. You can read more about how it works here.
AI algorithms can help marketing teams create an ideal email campaign for every customer. According to Campaign Monitor, emails with a personalized subject line are 26% more likely to be opened and deliver six times higher transaction rates. Predictive analytics can use complex algorithms that predict future behaviour based on historical trends, using that to build dynamic content and make recommendations suitable for the customer.
Starbucks uses data from 90 million weekly transactions to inform business decisions about where to open new stores and the types of products they should be offering customers.
Chase Bank uses AI to differentiate marketing creatives. For example, the platform adjusted the human written subject line of “Access cash from equity in your home” to “It’s true – you can unlock cash from the equity in your home.” The seemingly minor amendment performed far better with customers.
Platforms such as Persado combine copywriting with data to run experiments on thousands of different creatives to build the one that performs best every time.
There is a common misconception with AI in that to use it, you need to build it yourself. The majority of businesses do not have in-house expertise or budgets to do so. Many of the global technology companies have open-source AI that you can leverage and save considerable time and money.
For example, TensorFlow by Google is one of the most-used frameworks for developing machine learning applications. It offers availability to almost all major programming languages like C++, Python, and Java, as well as having third-party packages available for others.
Leveraging these platforms will allow you to develop AI at a pace without the worry of scalability, storage, and speed.
As many as 33% of marketing leads are not followed up by sales teams. This means that many potential leads are falling through the cracks, where they could be a great source of additional revenue. AI can be used to enhance the customer shopping experience.
For example, imagine a customer who visits your website and spends much time looking at a product without purchasing it. The data suggests an interest in the product, but something in their decision-making cycle means they do not proceed to the checkout.
AI can anticipate special offers based on what the customer does with their device. Social media retargeting like that which Facebook offers can find people who visit your website and use the data to match it against Facebook profiles. Advertising campaigns can then target those people with offers relevant to them and redirect them back to hopefully make a purchase. Facebook Ad Manager has algorithms that run all of this for you.
57% of shoppers now anticipate a personalized offer within a day of looking at a product, making it an essential marketing strategy to increase sales.
AI technology can equip businesses with the right intelligence to solve the business challenge of lead generation. For example, Predictive Insights provides AI solutions for marketing teams to use within sales and CRM systems.
Users can get deep insights into the ideal customer profile for their products across several use cases. There is also the ability to discover your true total available market, including known and not-new accounts to create granular go-to-market plans. Marketing teams can build and optimize pipelines by finding individuals that show intent and predict their propensity to purchase.
In one case study of a global tech company, AI-driven intelligence from Predictive Insights built a model for accounts that fit into their high-value customer segment. Intelligent segmentation using AI helped them to continue their growth trajectory without the need for an additional marketing budget.
Amazon leads the way where it comes to product recommendations for customers. A McKinsey report attributes 35% of Amazon revenue to recommendations. Putting that into context, 35% of sales are for products that customers did not intend to purchase when visiting Amazon initially.
Platforms like Pure Clarity can help small businesses boost conversion by automatically placing the right recommendation to each visitor at the right time. The AI framework operates without any intervention and adapts based on the visitor’s current and previous behaviours, meaning there is no product duplication.
HotDrinks Ltd uses Pure Clarity to recommend the right products to each customer visiting their website. As a result, they saw an increase of 27.3% in conversion, 11% in average order value, and 2% of total revenue directly attributed to recommendations. All of that was in the first two months of using recommendations.
The coronavirus pandemic shows us the remote collaboration is vital in the future of work. AI can help cut down on the admin involved before, during, and after meetings. Google Duplex is a new project from Google that allows users to schedule appointments like restaurant reservations using voice assistants.
The Voicea EVA assistant combines AI and automated voice recognition to capture highlights in meetings and share them to create accessible summaries for participants. By using EVA in conference calls, you can focus on the conversation, knowing that the AI will take care of any actions from the meeting. Voice commands will create reminders and tasks and answer questions with simple controls.
Using AI, generative design software allows engineers to create thousands of design options by defining parameters and options. A project in the MaRS Innovation District of Toronto uses generative design to create a floor plan that factors in employees’ needs and wants to create the perfect environment.
Using employee data about their working styles, the AI takes into account the teams that need to be located near each option, with the software producing 10,000 options. Human designers sort through the options and make the necessary trade-offs before settling on the best approach. Such a process would take years with humans alone.
Airbus uses generative design to reimagine an interior partition for aircraft, shaving 45% off the weight. The weight decrease leads to a massive reduction in jet fuel consumed and carbon dioxide emissions.
There is a range of AI-driven content tools available to businesses of all sizes. Alibaba, the e-commerce leader, has created a tool called AI-CopyWriter that can generate over 20,000 lines of copy in only one second. Powerful deep learning mechanisms run through millions of backend data samples to reduce repetitive copywriting tasks for advertising and marketing teams. There is no technical knowledge required to use the tool. Someone just needs to add the URL of a product page, and the engine will return results containing several innovative ideas for copy.
Companies are using AI-powered robots (cobots) to make processes more efficient and alleviate human workers from taking on monotonous tasks. The Sawyer robot is used by the US furniture company Moduform to carry out time-consuming and tedious functions for employees. Prior to deploying cobots, the company struggled with employee turnover as they could not find workers willing to pick up parts and put them together all day long.
The Swayer bot leverages AI to carry out routine functions, while humans can work on jobs requiring more complex cognitive reasoning.
Cobots are trained by algorithms that take them through the necessary steps. Optical sensors allow them to move around warehouses or other locations and interact with the environment without human intervention.
AI is helping the manufacturing and transportation industries by predicting equipment maintenance schedules. For example, in the airline industry, predictive analytics and AI interpret and organize data from sensors into alerts and proactively send potential inspection failures. Airbus uses the technology to create proper repair timelines that avoid any downtime with their aircraft.
In manufacturing, General Electric (GE) uses the Predix platform, which uses AI to optimize and scale industrial applications. The Predix platform provides a solution for industrial monitoring and event management with no development required.
Maximo Asset Health uses data from IBM Watson and sensors to determine when a piece of machinery needs maintenance. The software can take into account the age of the machine and its maintenance history.
Businesses can spend much time analysing data to find potential fraudulent transactions. The process relies a lot on pattern recognition, and it the perfect use case for machine learning. The same applies to cybersecurity threats, which are also a matter of detecting anomalies in behaviour. Companies such as deepsense.ai use machine learning to create solutions that help companies detect fraud.
Non-AI based systems tend to have a lot of false positives. For example, flagging fraudulent transactions that, after analysis, turns out not to be malicious. AI can eradicate the time-consuming processes associated with the fraud investigation. Tools like ClearSale present this to users in a comprehensive dashboard.
AI can help gather insight into your competitors. Market research can be a challenging and time-consuming task as you look to collect many data points from multiple competitors. AI platforms can scan competitor content at rapid speeds, allowing you to analyse their strategy and performance. Applications like natural language processing (NLP) let you investigate unstructured data like social media comments or documents that wouldn’t usually be possible through human workers.
Brandwatch Audiences can let you look at the people who are following your competitors on social media. Users can analyse the following, understand their influences, and the type of content they tend to share.
You can even understand the perception audiences have of your brand versus that of your competitors, and benchmark how customers talk about you.
AI can play a role in identifying transport and logistic disruptions due to weather. For example, if algorithms ingest weather data and spot that rough seas will lead to a port being closed, insight can be provided to retailers allowing them to look for alternative routes. Such models are crucial in perishable goods markets. A delay to a shipment of vegetables arriving may lead to shorter shelf life and mean they could perish before even arriving at the store. Mitigating logistical problems aids efficiency and cuts waste, allowing retailers to maximize profit margins.
Panasonic purchased AirDat in 2013, a company that makes specialty weather sensors for aircrafts. Combining public data with that which it gets from thousands of flights per day, the company says it has the world’s most advanced global weather forecasting platform. Better weather forecasting means airlines can adjust routes and reduce fuel use to improve safety and improve arrival times.
AI augments human roles by reducing manual work and enhancing productivity. Utilizing AI in some of the scenarios discussed in this article is becoming necessary as small businesses strive to keep up with the competition. Realistically, any business area that involves data and information has scope to benefit from artificial intelligence. As AI technology continues to become more affordable, businesses of all sizes should seize upon the AI opportunity.
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The co-author of this text, Robin Trehan, has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s in international business and finance, and an MBA in electronic business. Mr. Trehan is a Senior VP at Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.
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