Turning small business into big business with AI

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By Billy Collins, Senior Manager in Business Consulting Services at Wipfli LLP

AI is revolutionizing marketing.

Before, only big businesses had the funds and capability needed to automate tasks and create personalized experiences for their customers. Now, with AI, even startups and mom-and-pop shops can create sophisticated marketing campaigns.

AI-powered tech provides easier access to advanced capabilities, helping small businesses change the game by:

1. Personalizing marketing

Tools and analytics powered by AI are making it easier to turn potential customers into active ones by increasing customer awareness.

AI solutions can use information such as demographics and purchasing or browsing histories to offer relevant coupon codes or cross-selling opportunities, effectively tailoring a customer’s shopping experience. They can even provide follow-up based on specific actions, such as a customer browsing an item without purchasing it.

Financial institutions are already using similar tech to generate preapproved loan offers in real time — all of which is personalized to a potential client’s financial needs. They’re not only streamlining the process for browsers and loaning agencies, but they’re also increasing the likelihood of seeing client conversions.

2. Enhancing customer service

In the digital marketplace, easily accessible communication has become a defining feature of quality customer service.

Customers expect to be able to connect with a business on their schedule — even if that time is outside of regular operating hours. And businesses that can’t provide that level of convenient service risk losing customers to businesses that can.

AI-powered chatbots are quickly becoming the go-to solution for offering 24/7 service. They can provide automated responses to frequently asked questions and even perform basic tasks, such as changing delivery information or registering accounts.

Having that additional support also frees up customer service representatives to focus their attention on more challenging tickets, helping create a more efficient approach to customer service.

3. Optimizing operations

AI tools can also be used to help back-office and other operations run effectively. By using data about processes and performance, it can help identify issues such as inefficiencies, bottlenecks and waste.

For example, with inventory management, AI can help optimize a warehouse layout or predict trends in demand to optimize purchasing. Similarly, AI can support supply chain logistics by helping plan out optimal delivery routes for trucks and predicting potential disruptions.

AI can also be used to help overburdened and understaffed departments by automating tasks and improving efficiencies.

4. Driving growth

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT help small businesses drive growth with effective content marketing.

AI drastically reduces the time needed for staff to create content such as blogs and social media posts, making it easier to maintain a consistent presence on social platforms and websites. It also enhances SEO by identifying keywords and generating content based on best practices to help increase in-person and online sales and traffic.

For example, a bookstore could use AI to identify keywords about the hottest new book releases, and then create targeted content to drive in-person traffic to stores.

How you can get started

It’s easy to feel like you have to take an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to adopting AI. But you don’t need to prepare for a total overhaul of all your operations to incorporate AI tech. In fact, undergoing too much change at once is an easy way to overwhelm your people and have an ineffective implementation.

Instead, start small. Focus on one specific pain point and integrate the solution that will help you solve it. Maybe you need an AI chatbot to help fill staffing gaps in your customer service department, or maybe you want to explore how AI marketing can help you increase conversions.

Start by making that one integration a success, and then move on to the next.

The worst thing you can do is nothing. AI technology is here to stay, especially as free, open-source options and other tools continue to lower the cost of entry. And as usage increases, AI is going to become the standard for doing business.

If you don’t want to risk being obsolete, it’s time to start your AI adoption.

Want to know more?

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