The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about the world as we know it. And for many, the best way to survive is to adapt to the new normal. One of the changes that small business owners had to adapt to is to use innovative measures.
This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes into the picture.
A June 23, 2020 research published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that almost 43 percent of 416 small businesses with 500 or fewer employees were finding ways to stay in business. Some of the ways they do this is through the following:
- Making use of contactless deliveries
- Giving employees a chance to learn new skills needed for supporting new business changes
- Adopting new revenue streams
- Adopting new technology processes
The pandemic has also given small business owners a chance to explore new avenues for their continuous business growth, such as offering live streams instead of traveling to meet business contacts.
And in most cases, technology has played a significant role in helping keep these companies afloat during such a difficult time.
How Small Business Owners Can Use AI
1. Prevent Cash Flow Problems
Even with the help of the federal recovery funds, it still isn’t a guarantee for businesses to survive the pandemic.
As a matter of fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reported in June 2020 that the number of active business owners in the U.S. fell by 3.3 million or 22 percent between the months of February and April 2020.
Almost a third of business owners in the country experienced problems with their cash flow that they have been unable to pay loans, vendors, or even their own employees. With the help of data-driven forecasts from AI, however, this can be prevented.
Using AI in your business can allow you to prepare ahead for cash flow issues before they happen. This is because you have access to the right information at the right time.
Thanks to AI, business owners can take proactive measures to make sure their business stays stable in the long-term; even with a pandemic and the new normal to worry about.
2. Streamline Your Check Out Process
Another way AI can help small businesses is by streamlining your check-out process, especially if you are running an e-commerce site. You can do this by pre-qualifying your prospects and leads.
As someone who has an e-business, you have to remember that not every site visitor will become a paying customer. Even if you are getting a lot of traffic, you still need to remember that sales are your end goal.
And some of the reasons why you are generating low-quality leads is because you’re targeting the wrong audience or promoting on the wrong social media platforms. You could also have a poor content marketing strategy or an ineffective call to action.
These are some of the reasons why 80% of your new leads do not convert into sales. Thankfully, AI can help rectify these mistakes.
With the help of chatbots and other AI tools, you can extract relevant data so you can learn more about your target audience. There are tools that you can use to provide you predictive analytics on their buying behavior.
By using these tools, you’ll be able to know which leads are worth pursuing, where you can find them, and how you can engage with them effectively.
3. Find Vulnerabilities in Your Security
You can also use AI to locate vulnerabilities in your security, especially if you have allowed your employees to work from home.
In fact, the number of cybercrime complaints jumped to 300% since the pandemic started.
This is an alarming number that should be taken seriously. As a business owner, you have to tighten up your security to make sure your customers’ data is safe.
As a small business, having an IT and Cybersecurity team working with you may not be the most feasible option. But there are affordable tools that you can use to help secure your data and reduce your chances of getting hacked.
4. Keep Your Messages On Brand
It’s also important to keep your message on brand across your social media channels. Thankfully, there are now several apps that small business owners can use to create content faster and error-free.
You need to make sure that your voice remains consistent across the strategies you use to get more clients, whether you’re doing it on press releases, email lists, a landing page, or your social media.
With the help of AI, you can identify the gaps and fix these. At the same time, the performance of your content marketing campaign can be evaluated right away. You can see which strategies are working and which ones you need to improve on.
5. Effectively Analyze Marketing Campaign Performance
Social media can be a great tool to use to reach existing and acquire customers. But posting relevant content is not as simple as you’d like to think it is. In fact, there is a science to it.
AI can help small business by letting you stay on top of the latest trends and attract the right people to your page. Thanks to these tools, you can focus on growing your business instead of taking a long time curating content.
The good thing about using these tools is that they often include analytics tracking. This is a great way you can analyze how effective your marketing campaign has performed. And if necessary, make the right changes to it.
6. Keep Track of Brand Mentions
Artificial Intelligence can also help you keep track of brand mentions. Called social listening, this is the process of analyzing trends, conversations, and buzz surrounding your brand across various social media platforms.
With the right tools, you can monitor and keep track of any social media mentions of your brand, products, hashtags, and even your competitors. You get to see how your customers feel about your product and use that information to acquire customers.
And although this can be done by humans, there are some instances where they might miss out on an important mention. This is where AI steps in. With the right tools, these tedious tasks can be fully automated.
With this data, you will get to determine who your audience is, what their sentiments are, as well as their shopping behavior. You can then use this data to better connect with them and even transform prospects into paying customers.
7. Improve Your Customer Service and Support
And finally, AI can be used to help improve the way you handle customer service and support queries. Through customer service, you have a chance to upsell to your clients and even acquire customers.
One way you can use AI to improve your rapport with your customers is by using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. There are plenty of these tools available online that help tracks the interactions you make with your customers.
You can use the tool to send out a friendly email or give them a call to check in on them. This is the only way you can determine whether they are happy or not with your service. And if they are dissatisfied, you can use the tool to figure out why.
Best Practices When Using AI Technology
1. Get Everyone in Your Business Onboard
Change is scary. And it’s quite normal for your employees to feel threatened whenever you introduce them to a new technology that could potentially take over their jobs. Your job as a business owner is to make your employees feel valued.
Instead of focusing on a performance-based culture, change your focus to a growth-oriented culture. This has been evidenced in a study released by Harvard. By practicing this, your employees will welcome change and be on board with the technologies you implement.
You need to make sure that your employees don’t feel threatened by the technology you are using. Encourage transparency within your organization so that your employees will be more dedicated to their jobs.
It’s also important that you value their mental health by checking in on them, especially with the new normal of working remotely. As a matter of fact, a 2020 State Remote Work report revealed that remote workers struggle with loneliness the most.
By regularly checking in on your employees and offering them incentives, you get to boost their mental health and help them be more productive.
2. Keep Your Website Safe and Secure
You also need to invest in the right tools to keep your website safe and secure. One way you can do that is by choosing the right web hosting provider to make sure your readers don’t deal with slow loading times and heavy traffic.
It’s also important to invest in the right data privacy and protection tools, especially if your team is working remotely. It is more important now to be aware of how your data gets shared across websites.
Without the right protection tools, you might end up with data that gets compromised all the time. And if you’re in an e-commerce business, this can be disastrous for your customers’ data.
3. Choose Your AI Tools Wisely
No business is alike. And as a business owner, it’s up to you to know which AI technology works for you. Know the DNA of your business.
At the same time, know when to eliminate tools that are inefficient for your business. You might end up wasting time and resources on a tool that is not meant for your line of work. The right data will tell you these things as long as you pay attention to them.
As a business owner, it’s still important to have good business sense. But it really doesn’t hurt to have Artificial Intelligence come in and help you streamline some of the processes that it can handle.
Even with all the right information, AI should not be left to make the decision for your business. Sure, the insights will help and make your life a lot easier. But when it comes to making the final decision, you’re still the boss.