In an era increasingly driven by technology, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are increasingly interested in using artificial intelligence (AI) as a catalyst for growth and innovation. A comprehensive survey conducted by SMB Group highlights this trend, revealing the attitudes and adoption rates of AI among 744 SMBs.
SMB Interest in and Adoption of AI
The overwhelming majority of SMB survey respondents are personally interested in AI. 84% of respondents are very interested or somewhat interested in how AI will impact their businesses, and 55% are already exploring generative AI platforms, such as ChatGPT.
In addition, 27% of SMBs are already utilizing AI for concrete business tasks, and another 21% are using AI in an experimental capacity.
These numbers may not seem staggering at first glance, but signify a growing confidence in AI technologies among smaller enterprises, traditionally viewed as cautious adopters of new tech.
As important, among those who are using AI, 71% report they are satisfied or very satisfied with AI’s performance, and two-thirds say it’s important for vendors to provide AI capabilities in their solutions.
Yet, there’s a catch. Many SMBs confess to a lack of understanding of how AI works. Among respondents currently using AI for business tasks, those using AI in an experimental way, and those considering AI, a sizable percentage say they don’t fully understand how AI works in the applications, or whether the applications they use include AI capabilities or not.
Examples of AI Solutions for SMBs
Tech vendors are recognizing this upward trend and are tailoring their AI solutions to SMB needs. Here are just a few examples:
- CRM: Vendors are integrating AI into customer relationship management (CRM) systems, enabling SMBs to analyze customer data and predict trends, personalize customer interactions, and enhance sales forecasting.
- AI-powered analytics: These tools help SMBs interpret complex data, recognize patterns, and make informed decisions without the need for data scientists, making advanced data analysis accessible to businesses with limited resources.
- Customer service: AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming prevalent, offering SMBs a way to provide 24/7 customer service with fewer staff.
- Financial forecasting: AI-driven forecasting solutions can help SMBs to predict cash flow, manage budgets, and make informed financial decisions, faster and with better accuracy.
- Marketing automation: AI can be used to personalize marketing campaigns, analyze customer behavior, and optimize ad spending, making sophisticated marketing tactics more accessible for SMBs.
- Supply chain management. Vendors are using AI to help customers optimize inventory levels, predict supply chain disruptions, and suggest corrective actions.
Implications and Guidance for SMBs
As AI becomes more accessible and understandable, SMBs can apply it to compete more effectively with larger corporations. The key for most SMBs is to start small with AI, prioritize areas with the highest potential impact, and scale their use as comfort and understanding grow.
Many vendors are embedding AI capabilities in their offerings. SMBs should check out what capabilities the technology solutions they already use offer, and start incorporating them into their workflows. When it comes to evaluating AI functionality in new solutions, some of the key areas to evaluate include:
- Are the AI capabilities easy to access and use, and do they integrate with existing workflows?
- Do the AI features address specific business challenges and offer practical benefits?
- Does the vendor offer options to customize and/or override AI functions as best suited to business needs?
- What policies and practices has the vendor put in place to ensure data protection and privacy, and adherence to any relevant regulatory requirements?
- What types of analytics capabilities are available to provide better insights for decision-making?
Understanding the vendor’s approach, and how AI capabilities map to business requirements will make it easier for SMBs to implement and benefit from AI.
AI is not just for big businesses With a strategic approach and the right partnerships, SMBs can harness AI to transform their operations, enhance customer experiences, and carve out new competitive advantages. As AI becomes a business norm, SMBs that embrace this technology will find themselves ahead of the curve and better prepared to meet future challenges head-on.
© SMB Group, 2023