6 ways to leverage AI for business growth and innovation

Artificial intelligence (or AI, for short) once seemed like the stuff of science fiction. But as it has become more accessible and affordable, using AI in your small business may be easier than you think.

There are many potential benefits of AI to your small business. AI tools could help you cut down on costly mistakes, increase sales, save time, and plenty more! It all depends on how you use AI in your business.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence is a machine’s ability to think and act like a human. Old-school computer systems were great at crunching numbers and organising information. But AI-assisted programs can add more insight to data, like suggesting new products to a customer or helping anticipate a particular client’s questions.

Machine learning, another type of AI, gets smarter over time. As the program gets more data, its performance gets better. There’s also robotic process automation (RPA) that automates mundane and repetitive tasks.

The Rewards and Risks of AI

AI has many benefits, but like any tool, it also comes with risks. You should carefully weigh the pros and cons of incorporating AI into your operations before jumping on the AI trend.

AI benefits

  • Time-saving – AI can be a useful way to save time and work more efficiently. For example, an AI program may be able to complete time-consuming tasks in minutes that might take you hours or even days to finish.
  • Timely insights – Many AI programs constantly work in the background, pulling real-time data as it’s received. This can help the program improve over time and provide better insights that can fuel business growth.
  • Improving customer service – Timely insights can help improve customer satisfaction, but AI can also help you respond faster to simple customer enquiries. It can also ‘work’ beyond your typical business hours.
  • Reduces human error – AI can help you avoid costly mistakes when undertaking certain tasks, such as inputting data or making complex calculations.

AI challenges

  • Your insurance may not cover you – Professional Indemnity policies typically have exclusions for claims arriving out of product defects, such as AI software. You may need to consider the likelihood and severity of potential claims caused by AI tools before using them in your business.
  • Only as good as the data it works with – AI can be limited by the data it has to work with. If it’s being fed poor-quality information, the insights and calculations it provides will unlikely be of use.
  • Learning curves and setup time – Depending on the program, AI can take a long time to set up and prove its use. You may also need extensive training to use some AI tools properly and receive good results.
  • Customer privacy and ethical concerns – The boom in AI tools has created discussion around privacy and other ethical issues of incorporating it into so many aspects of life. You, your staff, and your customers may hold some of these same concerns.

How to use AI in your small business

Keen to put AI to use in your business? Here are six ways that you might incorporate it into your day-to-day operations.

1. Analytics programs

AI tools can help you make sense of data to create a more personalised customer experience. For example, you can use tools that monitor your customers’ past purchases to suggest other items you sell that they might enjoy. This can be implemented on your website, like a ‘recommended for you’ section on item pages or in email marketing.

2. Chatbots

Promptly responding to customer enquiries is essential, but it can be hard to keep up with every question. For many small businesses, chatbots are the answer. Adding a chatbot can help you manage simple and repetitive enquiries 24/7, freeing up your time for more complex customer issues or other essential tasks.

3. Writing assistance

Writing is a challenge for many small business owners. It also may be a bigger part of running a business than you realise—from customer service emails and marketing copy to professional correspondence and business plans. Online AI tools, like ChatGPT, can provide inspiration and templates for a wide range of business writing.

4. Data management

Inputting data can be tedious and time-consuming. Data management can also be prone to human error, especially if you start working on autopilot. This is one area where AI can truly shine. Automating repetitive tasks can save you time and result in fewer errors thanks to AI’s efficiency. It also frees you up to focus on more important parts of running your business.

5. Inventory management

Managing inventory is important for many small businesses, whether you’re a retail shop getting ready for your busiest trading period, a café monitoring food and ingredients, or a tradie needing to keep basic materials on hand. AI tools can help you manage your inventory by detecting shortages and automatically reordering stock or supplies. They can also help predict likely best-sellers so you can stay ahead of trends and your customers’ needs.

6. Virtual assistants

Need a bit of help planning your day? AI assistants, such as the voice-activated programs built into many smartphones and tablets, can help you quickly add items to your calendar and detect double bookings. They can also automatically pull driving directions and traffic updates to help you stay on schedule.

Choosing AI tools for your small business

The market for AI tools is growing. Small business owners have more options by the day, and it can be a challenge to know which tools may best fit your needs. When choosing AI tools for your business, you may want to consider factors such as:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it compatible with my IT and other systems?
  • How much does it cost, including setup and cancellation fees?
  • What are the contract terms?
  • How responsive is their customer support team?
  • Does it include security and fraud protection features?

Not every tool will fit your business needs. It may take research and a bit of trial and error to find the right AI tools for your small business.

Building a Better Business

AI tools have the potential to help your small business grow and thrive. They can be valuable time savers, reduce human error, plan your day, or become a helping hand to you and your staff. However, it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks before incorporating them into your daily operations.

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This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording.
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