Even the smallest of businesses have long had access to a wealth of information about their clients and consumers. Having access to data, however, does not help turn it into actionable information.
Humans have also long feared that technology would one day take their jobs. Instead, technology is taking on more and more tasks that don’t actually require human ingenuity to accomplish, freeing up humans to do more of what only humans are uniquely suited to do. In turn, this is helping businesses grow by leaps and bounds.
Here are 5 ways businesses are using AI and machine learning to grow their businesses.
1. Learn more about their customers and their needs
Many a business has been built or catapulted into global success by accurately predicting the needs of the market or offering a product long before their competitors. While surveys can go a long way towards helping businesses understand what consumers think they want, the truth is humans are pretty notorious for not really knowing what they want.
AI, on the other hand, can actually analyze the habits, patterns, and trends of consumers that they themselves are most often completely unaware of to help predict the kinds of products or services they may actually want. This, in turn, can help businesses offer products their consumers don’t yet even know they want – but will as soon as they see it.
2. Automate tasks to free up employees to innovate
Businesses always have to split their time between managing their business and growing their business. Managing your business generally involves performing routine tasks you’ve done a million times while growing your business generally involves innovation. Machines are not capable of innovation, but they are capable of performing a wide variety of routine tasks.
The more tasks a business can automate, the more time they free up for their employees to innovate. A robot can now put together a car or even make coffee, but it can’t invent seat belts, ABS, or GPS navigation systems. Robots may one day make your morning Starbucks, but it’s unlikely they will be able to invent the next Post-It notes.
3. Offers small businesses big business advantages
Small businesses have traditionally suffered from not being able to offer the same services as bigger or more established businesses. Generally, when a startup is trying to create a market for a new product, they don’t typically have the budget to provide 24/7 customer support to the customers who have already purchased the product. A solopreneur may also not have the budget to hire a full-time receptionist, which means important calls may be missed.
Service 4.0, however, may provide a solution for them both. Whether it is a chatbot on their website or a “live” voice answering their phone, AI is becoming more and more adept at meeting customer needs without customers ever knowing they aren’t actually speaking to a live person
Annoying phone trees may soon be a thing of the past as all customers may soon be immediately greeted by a “live” voice to help them with their specific and individual problem.
4. Visual search
When someone sees someone else wearing a great pair of shoes bearing the iconic Nike swoosh, they have no difficulty finding that item for themselves thanks to branding. In the same way that some consumers love showing off brand name products, however, there are just as many that resent being turned into unwilling brand ambassadors. Some consumers actually avoid blatantly branded products. This presents a challenge for businesses.
If businesses choose to create products without blatant branding, they risk losing potential customers when they see someone else wearing or using the product and want to purchase it themselves.
Next-gen AI can change all this. Visual searches will allow consumers to use their smartphones to find almost any product imaginable regardless of branding. All you have to do is put a picture of the product on your website, and visual search engines will do the rest.
5. Advanced analytics and inventory management
In mid-2017, Coca-Cola unveiled its new inventory management tech in partnership with IBM’s Watson. Theoretically, Watson is able to assess current product inventory in a cooler via a simple screenshot of the cooler. There is no doubt that at the time the tech was more proof-of-concept than an actual functional product, but the potential it offers for remote inventory management is almost limitless.
Not only can analytics help you determine where inventory is needed, but it also has the potential to help you better manage supply and demand. Let’s say you run a bakery and suddenly start running out of pies every Saturday. If you buy more supplies to make more pies and the demand suddenly drops off, you lose money. If the demand increases and you don’t increase production to keep up with it, you lose business.
Advanced analytics can help you determine why there is a sudden increase in demand, which can help you better manage it.
While some of these applications are still in the development stages, there is no doubt that AI and machine learning are poised to transform all types of business. AI is not just helping businesses offer better products and services either. AI is also helping to transform the consumer experience into a far easier and smoother one.