It’s difficult to underestimate not only the current impact that AI is having on businesses around the globe, but the anticipation of what that impact will be in the future. According to Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends report, only 15% of businesses were using AI last year, but 31% of businesses planned to start using AI within just 12 months. That’s a significant single year jump.
But it’s not particularly surprising. AI doesn’t just cost less over the long term than their warm-blooded counterparts (us), they also do a wonderful job of making businesses more efficient — whether it’s by solving customer problems faster or by organizing massive amounts of data seamlessly. And it’s hard to ignore how well those AI-based benefits line up with two primary interests of startup entrepreneurs everywhere — to increase business agility and decrease overhead costs. In fact, here are 4 specific ways that startup entrepreneurs can use AI to do those two things.
AI in Marketing and Personalization
Perhaps the most prominent place that AI rears its profitable head is in the personalization and marketing space. No matter how savvy the person, marketers don’t have the ability to speak to thousands or millions of people personally. Thus marketers have always had the unique challenge of gauging the fears, pains, and desires of the majority, and then speaking to that majority, being forced to ignore the still profitable minority of their prospects.
With AI bots, though, that’s changing. Take Shopify Messenger, for instance, an ecommerce shopping app which supports Shopify’s merchants. The app allows consumers to browse catalogues, receive product recommendations, make payments, and receive order and shipping confirmation. With a tool like that, startup entrepreneurs could increase conversion rates, improve customer experience, and even save on overhead costs by paying bots to do the personalization for them. In fact, Dynamic Yield’s research reveals that 96% of marketers believe in the value of personalization, but only 5% “masterfully use their data to find personalization opportunities.”
It’s not surprising, then, that according to Adobe’s research, personalization is the second most-cited use for AI in business. With a high impact on conversion rate and customer retention, but a practical process that’s too demanding on any marketer’s time, personalization is the perfect task to delegate to the robots.
AI in Customer Support
Startup entrepreneurs set out to build a remarkable product — one that changes the market, supports a thriving business, and pleases its customers. They don’t set out to help customers with problems that their product will unintentionally and unavoidably create. Still, customer service is an inevitability. Just like you must market and advertise your product to find customers, you also must provide support to keep those customers happy.
According to Drip’s 2017 Entrepreneurship Report, nearly 20% of entrepreneurs claim that lack of time was the biggest barrier to growing their business, and another near 20% said budget. It just so happens that customer service is naturally one of the biggest time consumers or overhead costs for startup entrepreneurs (depending on if they delegate or not). And with artificial general intelligence like Agatha — created by Forethought to streamline customer support, lower internal cost, and even enhance customer experience and response time — startup entrepreneurs will be able to go back to doing what they love: growing their businesses without worrying about time left or money spent.
AI in Accounting
For most startup entrepreneurs, business accounting is an afterthought: an unfortunate and much-too-complicated necessity for growing their business and making ends meet. The majority of entrepreneurs would rather spend their time polishing processes, iterating products, or optimizing marketing materials. Still, business is numbers. And with too few dollars coming in and too many dollars going out, business won’t last long. Someone (or something) has got to keep tabs on the financial health of a successful and thriving business.
And while delegating accounting tasks to a high-ticket professional down the road might make sense (once things are too complicated for the bots — if that’s even possible in a few years), delegating the accounting part of your business to AI can save you loads of time and money. Already, tools like Botkeeper automate accounting and can make running a business a whole lot less stressful, expensive, or time consuming.
AI in Sales
When trying to grow a new business in a new market, there’s no getting around it: sales is absolutely vital. Whether it’s cold calling people on the phone, following up with pre-qualified leads, or managing email sequences and segmentations, the success of every business depends on the success of that same business’ salespeople. But, of course, salespeople are expensive and their time is valuable.
Fortunately for low-budget entrepreneurs, AI can be used to send behaviorally triggered emails, identify which prospects are most likely to close (so you don’t waste your time on tire-kickers), and maybe even one day, handle sales phone calls — just consider how Google’s voice assistant is capable of interacting on the phone.
In other words, AI is making building and managing a startup less time consuming, more affordable, and more accessible for ambitious people all around the world. Some people believed that AI would take their jobs. Turns out, AI is creating the space for entrepreneurs everywhere to build businesses on a budget, in less time, and with more flexibility.