AI for Small Business- Benefits, Challenges, and Implementation
Did you know that 99.9% of all businesses in the US are of small scale? As such, when we hear that AI is adding trillions to the global GDP, it’s easy to deduce its magnificent effect on small businesses as well. AI indeed is among the trendiest technologies in the world, benefitting businesses from every sector and scale, but when it comes to small-scale businesses, both the benefits and challenges vary a lot from the big enterprise implementation. In this post, we’ll uncover all the major benefits and implementation challenges that AI presents for small business owners. We’ll also reveal a sophisticated approach for AI solutions for small businesses to overcome all the aforementioned challenges.
- AI is adding trillions to the global GDP, where above 99% of businesses are of small scale.
- AI is known for improving customer experience and productivity gains for small businesses.
- Costs related to implementation, and lack of infrastructure and data strategy are major challenges for small businesses trying to use AI.
- To successfully implement artificial intelligence in business operations, smaller companies should start small and then scale.
Table of Contents
Benefits of AI for Small Business
Let’s begin with how is AI used in business operating on a small scale and what benefits it offers to them.
Improved Customer Services
One difference that helps small businesses stand apart from bigger businesses is that their limited scope of operations allows them to interact with customers directly. This often results in a more personal and customized service, which mass-production and scaled services of big companies find hard to achieve. However, this level of personalization becomes hard to maintain even for smaller businesses as they begin to scale their services. However, with ai development services companies, they can continue adding personalization to their services. More than that, they can even predict customer demands by analyzing historic patterns among customers of a similar kind, therefore, improving the quality of services even more than before.
Also Read: How Can AI Help Improve Customer Experience?
AI is known for handling repetitive tasks at a speed and accuracy that surpasses the capabilities of even the most experienced humans. Plus, by eliminating human staff from repetitive tasks, the business can instead use them at places that require more problem-solving capacities of human intelligence. This helps them achieve more outputs in less time and with greater quality. This not only improves the productivity of the business but also enhances job satisfaction for employees, resulting in overall growth.
Business Model Expansion
As you deploy AI and data analytics into an organization, you open up new opportunities to grow and scale business operations. By simply automating the regular tasks, your staff will have more time to engage in newer complex processes. They can explore more areas where they can achieve cost-cuttings by incorporating various processes in-house. For example, if your business presently deals in selling customized t-shirts, you can automate order processing by making the entire process client-oriented and then scale your business to operate at a larger scale accepting orders from all over the world.
By simply adding AI, even in an already digitalized business, enterprises can improve the speed of their operations and achieve optimal efficiency. It does that by shortening the entire development cycle from planning and design to ultimate deployment and commercialization. Various custom applications of AI can be used to forecast market trends precisely, implement predictive maintenance, improve quality control, and minimize the impact of risky activities. AI can even help decision-makers reach the root cause of inefficiency in any department through data analytics, hence helping them eradicate slackness from across the organization.
Thanks to the inimitable processing capabilities of AI, it can analyze large volumes of data quickly, with a near real-time speed. For example, an enterprise with cameras and sensors installed near critical parts of machinery can catch the first signs of possible damage. The edge sensors can then alert the administration about the possible scenario of major damage so they can take timely action. Some AI monitoring system can also be implemented with the capacity to initiate a response as soon as they detect a specific kind of malfunction, saving crucial time and helping the enterprise save loads of repair money and downtime loss.
Better Accuracy and Quality in Results
Since AI is set to work on pre-set logic and model learning, the chances of any kind of inaccuracy in the process become negligible. This, when compared to the tasks that humans take care of, is always prone to errors, be it mere negligence, poor management, or insufficient training. AI eliminates all these limitations and improves not only the accuracy of the process but a stricter adherence to standards and regulations. What more? Once you have successfully implemented AI in any organizational process, it gives you the capability to scale its purview without hampering the quality of the output.
Implementation Challenges with AI for Small Businesses
Now, AI solutions for business do have multiple benefits for enterprises operating on smaller scales, but to earn those benefits, they have to overcome various challenges that come with AI implementation in small businesses.
Often small businesses have small budgets when it comes to investing in next-gen technologies like AI. In any case, AI is no small technology to develop; it will require some capital investments for seamless deployment and integration. This ultimately raises the question of ROI for stakeholders. And they’re not wrong in taking things in this light. Often decision-makers can get swayed by the trending buzz in the industry and would want to allocate resources to technological solutions which may not be right for them. As such, carefully calculating the development and implementation cost presents a major challenge for small businesses interested in artificial intelligence in business operations.
Implementing AI in a business of any scale requires an infrastructure of a very specific kind. You want the IT infrastructure of your business to have high internet speeds, integration with the cloud for parallel processing, huge data storage capabilities for analytical capabilities, and smart devices and sensors to deploy AI on locations. This becomes a huge issue for small businesses with old infrastructures, software, and devices. The entire sophistication of an AI-supported infrastructure can intimidate them into dropping the idea altogether.
Data Storage and Security
As mentioned above, an AI infrastructure needs to have huge data repositories. This is because most commercial AI use cases rely on the availability of large amounts of data to train the machines. This means companies have to invest in reliable data sources to store and process all available data and data that gets generated post every business operation. And it’s not just about storage; when you collect data of this magnitude, its security also becomes your primary responsibility. This is why small businesses need to implement the best data management environment, both for processing and storage, that allows the AI application to perform in a completely secure manner.
Lack of Data Strategy
Facilitating data storage and security is just one part of the data strategy which every business, regardless of its scale, has to implement. They need to understand how data is stored in various siloes, how it can be organized in practical data models, and which aspects of a business can use them to achieve optimal efficiency. Now, most small businesses lack both expertise and exposure to understand such intricacies of data science to implement effective AI solutions for business. Usually, they don’t even possess ample information to understand how they can hire a data professional to further explore such growth opportunities.
Resistance to Change
Thanks to many science fictions, AI is among the most misunderstood technologies today. Especially in cultures set by small businesses, which are often limited by lack of exposure and short-term goals, AI is still considered a technology that is stealing jobs, is extremely expensive, and ceaselessly difficult to implement in traditional business settings. As a result, often, when it comes to implementing even the most tailored AI solutions for small businesses, the attempts remain half-hearted and ineffective. This leads to slow and costly AI transformation, further adding to the misunderstanding related to AI implementation.
Most humans, including the engineers and developers building AI applications, have their own set of prejudices and biases. Now it becomes extremely difficult not to let those biases affect the AI algorithms. Many instances have proven that AI applications that use Machine Learning models can lead to an increase in overall biases. This is why a black box approach should always be avoided when creating custom AI solutions for small businesses. To further ensure no biases affect the AI algorithms, regulatory compliances and standards can go a long way.
How to Successfully Implement Artificial Intelligence in Small Business Operations
Indeed, there are many challenges, especially for small businesses, when it comes to implementing AI solutions. However, there is no such challenge that cannot be overcome through a sophisticated and well-thought approach to AI implementation.
Understand your Business Problems and Opportunities
While AI can benefit small businesses the most, many existing problems in a small business may have simpler solutions. For example, if your support services are currently unable to handle your growing customer base but most queries you get are of the same kind, you need not implement an AI-based chatbot. A simple chatbot with an FAQ menu will do the job. However, if your problems have efficient solutions with artificial, it’s worth considering AI development services for them.
See those Problems through the Lens of AI
Understanding these problems from your business viewpoint will only help you decide the monetary loss through them. You may even come up with other solutions which may cost you more resources and time than a solution powered with next-gen technologies. This is why, in this stage, you are recommended to explore various AI applications available in the market and then make an attempt to see your business problems through them. See which of the existing AI solutions can help you resolve your business problems. For example, if you’re facing quality issues with your supply chain, you can look up AI solutions for the supply chain and see how you can implement audit sensors at various touchpoints or automatically check the QR codes of the packages to streamline QA processes with improved accuracy.
Take Expert Consultation for AI Solutions for Small Businesses
Once you’ve done all the research on your part, it would be wise to let someone with experience and expertise give their two cents about your situation. Today, despite the wide popularity of AI, many people are still not clear about its functioning. As a result, your ideas may lose out on some opportunities specific to your small that can be achieved through simple AI applications. And in any case, if you really want to begin investing in AI solutions for small businesses, you cannot do that without an experienced professional in development and deployment. Therefore, it’s ideal that before you begin the development project, you book a consultation call with the AI development company of your choice.
Most small businesses only have a limited budget and innovate with their process and models. And even today, AI is not among the cheapest technologies. So, to begin with, you should always start with one of the smallest AI projects for your business. For example, you can commence with something as small as a chatbot to answer your customers’ queries or autofill capabilities for POS. Here the idea is to check the feasibility of your entire digitalization plan and optimize the use of capital. Starting small will also help you cross the doubts of all the stakeholders. You will have some results to prove the effectiveness of the technology before investing in bigger solutions.
Artificial intelligence in business operations applications are most beneficial when they are functioning in a network. After all, automation is one of the most popular use cases of AI. As such, once you have deployed and tested your pilot program with AI, you should readily get prepared to work on the next opportunity. The more aspects of your small business get embedded with AI, the more will be the speed of its digital transformation. Eventually, you will be at a stage where you will get data from every known source to implement solutions like predictive maintenance and process optimization, to fully realize all the potential of your business idea.
Indeed, there is no dearth of transformative advantages of AI, even for small businesses. However, the limited budget and expertise can create major roadblocks for them to eventually realize all the benefits. By using a well-planned approach, a business can overcome most of these challenges, but without a trusted partner, it’s hard to achieve as well. This is why, when it comes to implementing AI for small businesses, it is ideal to begin by taking consultation services from an AI machine learning development company. Matellio is one such company from where you can get this consultation completely free of cost. All you need to do is fill up this form with your requirements, and that’s it. Our experts will evaluate your requirements and their feasibility and then discuss the development plan over a free consultation call.
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