Original article was published by Sumit Chakrabarti on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
How AI and Robotics Can Help Small Business Owners Get Back on Their Feet
Right now, there is uncertainty, fear, and confusion in the world, though a bit subsided.
The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has rattled us, disconnected us, and also stirred up our survival instinct.
After remaining shut down for months amid mayhem all around and lockdowns, life is slowly getting back to normalcy. Even many small businesses are reopening with cautious optimism.
For the future ahead, micro or small businesses may be able to stay afloat in the post-COVID era by embracing advanced technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence to streamline their operations and save costs.
The Survey Findings of the MetLife & US Chamber of Commerce on Small Businesses
The latest poll by MetLife & US Chamber of Commerce on small businesses regarding the impact of COVID-19 reveals the following findings:
- Many small business owners (69 percent) said they had to close their businesses temporarily are likely to reopen compared to late May (43 percent).
- As of Sept.2020, a large percentage of small businesses (86 percent) said that they have started full-fledged operations (52 percent) or partially (34 percent) operational.
- A majority of small businesses (70 percent) are still worried about the financial impact because of extended closures.
- Nearly 58 percent of small business owners are still concerned about the permanent closure of their business.
- In Sept.2020, more than half small business owners (56 percent) said they are worried about the lack of guidance on how to reopen their business.
The survey result reveals that despite the optimism among small business owners, there is still a lot of concern about reopening and sustaining their business.
In the current scenario of capital crunch and lack of human resources, small business owners can embrace robotics and AI to automate certain tasks.
Since the integrated technology has a specific job, it is not likely to make any errors. They can align one person to periodically check and maintain the robotics.
Insights into Robotics and AI for Small Business Owners
Integration of robotics and AI will free up your time, provide you with crucial business data in real-time, do your administrative tasks, and more. However, these technologies are much more than voice assistants and chatbots.
When we think of robotics/AI, we think about Google or Tesla’s driverless cars, Apple’s Siri, or IBM’s Watson technology.
Now, even the small fashion boutique or café down the road can also run and transform their small business using these technologies and achieve their financial goals.
Robotics and AI are now one of the fastest-growing technologies with industrial capabilities. According to the Entrepreneur website, the global AI industry is likely to be worth more than $390 billion by 2025.
Well, the year 2025 is still a long haul. Robotics and AI will start gaining momentum from 2021 itself.
A report by Gartner shows that by 2021, 70 percent of companies will boost their employees’ productivity by integrating AI in their workplace.
The same report further says that in 2021, AI integration will globally create $2.9 trillion of business value, along with 6.2 billion hours of employee productivity.
Before we delve further into how exactly robotics and AI can help small business owners streamline their business, let us get a little insight into the basics of these technologies.
Robotics and AI artificially create human-like intelligence that is capable of learning, planning, reasoning, perceiving, or processing natural language.
For instance, computers are performing various tasks these days, including fast and accurate calculations. Such tasks usually fall in the following categories:
- Intelligence to make decisions: Ability to solve problems and make decisions.
- Intelligence in language: Ability to understand and translate different languages.
- Intelligence in speech: Understanding the aspects of human speech.
- Visual intelligence: Ability to understand images and has spatial awareness.
Small businesses usually do not have the capital to invest in new technologies like large corporations. However, as robotics and AI get more affordable, the integration of these technologies will be easier.
How Robotics and AI Can Help Small Business Owners
The integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses is enabling them to deal with their crunch for skilled resources.
A common notion is that advanced technologies like AI will take jobs away from the workforce.
However, the main purpose of AI is to make jobs more efficient by automating certain tasks and overhauling old processes.
It allows employees to be more efficient through the execution of smaller tasks or improves their ability to carry out complex activities.
Studies show that 54 percent of executives have agreed that that AI has helped increase operational efficiency and productivity.
AI can particularly help various functional areas with automation, such as accounting, financial management, and risk mitigation.
Increases Customer Satisfaction
The age-old saying “Customer is the King” now holds more significance in the current scenario.
It is more critical for small businesses to find and maintain a long-term business association with the right customers.
Recently, a survey by the MIT Technology Review Insights shows that more than 1,000 business leaders have found that 87 percent of participants have started implementing AI in their business. Most of these initiatives relate to improving customer service.
It is true that small businesses like a photo studio or a customized jewelry store do not have the capital to keep up with large corporations. However, they can be equally or more effective when it comes to customer relations.
Personalized customer service goes a long way towards developing a mutually beneficial bonding.
Nearly 96 percent of marketers are of the opinion that personalizing business transactions or experience help in creating stronger customer relationship.
Smaller businesses, especially startups can apply robotics and AI to personalize their services by using their existing data to establish a deeper connection with customers.
Collect Customer Data for Personalization
It is difficult for small businesses to do large-scale data mining like major corporations. However, they can still effectively use the available data, be it a rising startup or a long-time brick and mortar store.
Small businesses can use a process like predictive modeling to analyze data on their customer relationship management (CRM) tool to find various customer behavioral patterns.
All this data will get them insights into customers’ buying intent and help to develop innovative strategies to win new customers and retain the existing ones.
Despite large corporations hogging the limelight, small businesses are still the backbone of the world’s largest economies.
A report by the Small Business Administration shows that there are nearly 30.7 million small businesses in the US, which accounts for almost 47.3 percent of the workforce.
In the post-pandemic era, small businesses need to identify the business areas where AI can help automate certain processes and also generate leads.
According to the Harvard Business Review, pairing up AI with sales can increase business leads by 50 percent.
Forecasts show that AI has the potential to increase average revenue by 38 percent and it can boost the economy by generating $14 trillion by 2035.
Before We Go
If you are a small business owner and looking to streamline your business operations and generate more revenues, integration of robotics and AI is a good idea.
Machine learning can facilitate this transformation by providing you with the right solution to your specific business needs.
With the help of robotics, data analytics, and business intelligence solutions, you can drive your small business for full-fledged digital transformation.