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Using AI to Grow Your Small Business Without Increasing Costs

By Chris Wayne, Managing Director Web Platforms for Verizon Small Business Essentials

The pandemic caused many businesses to quickly pivot online in order to survive the early days of the shutdown. As a result, it became critically important to engage the right technology solutions that would allow entrepreneurs to focus on growing their small businesses without increasing overhead. One of those key technologies is artificial intelligence (AI).

While AI cannot and should not completely replace people - who are the heart of small businesses - the technology can be leveraged in specific areas to increase efficiency and provide important business intelligence

Whether identifying trends in customer behavior, providing smart recommendations to consumers,  or automating front-line customer service functions, small business owners can leverage AI in multiple ways to help grow their business - without spending a fortune in overhead costs. Here are four ways to use AI to power your business in 2022.

Leverage predictive analytics to find patterns and make decisions

Predictive analytics are very important in identifying patterns and trends. When tracking expenses, small businesses need to be aware of what will accelerate earnings and where they need to cut costs. The right tools will deliver information on website activity, influence consumer engagement, and provide useful demographic information. Predictive analytics also identifies specific customers, where they are in the buyer's journey, and what drives their spending decisions. The benefits of this process cannot be overstated - the use of big data analytics accounted for 15% more in sales for the companies using this technology versus companies that do not, according to the Georgia Small Business Development Center.

Improve user experience and meet demand

Providing recommendations to consumers based on automated data analysis is a cost-effective way of marketing goods and services, determining where resources should be deployed, and directly impacting business supply and profitability. Stored order histories in food delivery apps, for example, allow quick and convenient purchasing, and proprietors can use this data to assess the popularity of menu choices and to predict and adjust inventory to meet future demand. 

Enhance cybersecurity

Running a small business - especially now that so much business is conducted online - creates a vast amount of data, which translates into an increased risk of cyberattacks and data breaches. This has been exacerbated further by the pandemic, when events are unfolding at a rate that has not been seen before. Our Data Breach Investigations Report found that last year, small businesses experienced 1,037 incidents, and 263 with confirmed data disclosure. To help prevent these breaches, small businesses need robust cybersecurity to keep their data safe. AI enhances cybersecurity because it can parse through large amounts of data and detect patterns, especially when it comes to customer behavior. Anything outside of a normal pattern - for example, if a customer clicks on an unfamiliar link in an email - will trigger the AI to react quickly and squash the cyberthreat. Entrepreneurs should consider cybersecurity solutions that are augmented by AI to help them protect their small business, and their customers.

Automate front-line customer service to reduce costs and grow business leads

Research estimates businesses will save at least $8 billion this year when chatbots are utilized in front-line customer service engagements. They are also great lead generation tools because online prospects can complete quick questionnaires to direct them to the appropriate party and voice-activated technology can route telephone callers, set expectations for wait times and call them back if requested. In sales scenarios, AI can also be programmed to send targeted messaging to consumers based on prior spending history.

Let AI take care of it

AI handles many of the mundane (but very necessary) tasks that are associated with running a small business - think sifting through mountains of data, tracking expenses, adjusting inventory, and detecting threats. Leveraging AI frees up small business owners and their employees, who can automate these boring administrative tasks - giving them the time to pursue more creative endeavors. So instead of the common fear of AI taking jobs away, the technology can help make people's work more meaningful.

Best of all, AI solutions are cost-effective. Entrepreneurs no longer need to hire a massive team to handle all these back-office tasks. Instead, they can rely on an AI solution to do the job for them. This liberates them and lets them focus on the tasks they are truly passionate about, and connects them back with the reason why they started their businesses in the first place. This puts them in a strong, positive position to grow and thrive as entrepreneurs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Wayne 

Chris Wayne is the Managing Director Web Platforms for Verizon Small Business Essentials. Prior to this, he was the company's Chief Technology Officer. Chris holds a Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree from the University of Southern California and is a certified Data Center Management Professional (CDCMP). Before joining Verizon Small Business Essentials, Chris was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. 

Published Thursday, February 03, 2022 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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