In the midst of a pandemic, a new complexity arrived in the business world. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is getting tons of press these days, promising to transform the world we live in and do business. It is promising, to be sure, but so was the development of desktop publishing in the 1980s when “experts” predicted that it would have the power to turn everyone into a top-notch designer.
It didn’t. AI, for all the hype, is just another tool to put in your toolbox. It is still in its relative infancy, so you have plenty of time to play with it and learn how it will fit into your business model. Some capabilities, like writing code for custom programs or analyzing your financial records to project cash flow and potential market growth areas, are pretty exciting. The idea of handing off much of your customer service to AI is another promising advance, freeing up valuable staff time to focus on other business tasks central to your success.
ChatGPT is just one example of the power of artificial intelligence. If you’re in the mood to take it for a test drive, ask it to create a marketing plan for your business. Add some sentences about your business, what it does, and what you want the business plan to cover and target. That’s it. Within moments, you have the template for a marketing plan, and you can then build out the details.
The market itself is already using AI to streamline operations. 1-800-FLOWERS, for instance, incorporates AI-powered chatbots on their sites to improve customer sales and increase sales. These bots will sense that you’re looking at something on their site and appear out of nowhere to ask if you have a question or need assistance. You may think there’s a person at the other end of the line, but it’s actually a bot.
This is one of the easiest AI strategies to adopt for your own website. Some plug-ins can handle chatbot duties and learn from the interactions with your customers, handling all sorts of routine interactions with them while reducing response times and improving customer satisfaction.
AI can also identify new market trends and gauge changing customer demands, which can lead to new product or service innovations that meet emerging customer needs. Netflix uses algorithms to analyze user preferences and viewing patterns, allowing them to personalize your experience based on your usage and tastes. Analyzing customer patterns on a larger scale will enable them to identify original content ideas that may be the next blockbuster. Artificial intelligence can’t replace (yet) the person who can read the data and greenlight a production that costs millions. But, it can provide the analysis that makes it less risky to do original motion pictures that will reach a known audience.
Stitch Fix does something similar with the AI algorithms. They analyze customer preferences and style profiles to curate personalized clothing selections for each individual. This level of personalization creates customer satisfaction and leads to increased sales and revenue.
These are just two examples of the power and potential of AI in business. Learning more about your customers and anticipating their needs reduces the guesswork of what products or services will be in demand next and improves internal operations by automating tasks that, until now, were labor-intensive.
Getting your feet wet with AI
First, this is not the time to sit back and wait while your competition figures out how to run circles around you because they have mastered AI for their business. It’s rare to be able to get in on the ground floor of something that can have such a significant impact on the working world.
Here are some initial steps you can take to gain familiarity with AI and how it can fill needs in your business.
Conduct a survey
Let’s start with a fundamental activity: finding out what your customers need and want. An AI-powered survey tool such as Typeform can create an appealing survey that can take customers through a personalized survey using smart logic. The questions are changed on the fly as the customer answers the one before it. On the back side, the software will give you advanced reporting and analytics that will provide the answers you need to improve the overall customer experience.
AI-powered market research
Market research can be expensive and intimidating. But new AI tools like Brandwatch can help you by learning to analyze social media channels, online reviews, and customer feedback, providing you with organized reporting that can help you understand your customers, identify trends, assess brand performance and support decision-making.
AI can be a big help here. Mastering cash flow and making revenue projections can be complicated unless you’re some kind of savant CPA. Artificial intelligence can help you understand the numbers, including projected revenue for a new product or service you’re thinking of launching. You can also use AI to predict the lifecycle of a particular product and assess options such as pre-orders to generate funds to perform product development on a new idea.
Before you ever get to the factory floor, you can use AI to test a concept with current customers and use these predictions to gauge market response at scale. Nothing’s worse than guessing whether a product will sell like hotcakes on the open market. AI can help remove that fear of the unknown by analyzing what the market demand is and what changes to your product should be made to address customer feedback.
Writing is a big stumbling block for many business owners, especially those for whom English is not their first language. A tool like ChatGPT can come in handy here. Enter a few sentences describing your business, product or service, tell the AI how many words you want it to be and the tone of voice and let ChatGPT crank out a first draft for you. Yes, you’ll need to tweak it here and there because it can sometimes come up with some strange choices. But overall, it is a perfectly acceptable tool for many purposes.
If you’re using a theme like Divi, AI can allow you to automate a lot of the work. It can learn your style and voice and create content on the fly, whether it’s for a new product description, a text box with a button for more information or an entire page of text. Speaking of pages, new versions will be able to create a customized version of pages for you with just a few prompts. Don’t like what it wrote? Ask for a couple of different versions. Too short? Ask it to make it longer. You can even change the tone from professional to humorous in real-time. It can also modify existing photos or do a little AI magic to create a new one in just about any style you can imagine, from abstract and watercolor to anime. You can even have it remove specific items in a photo, such as a bouquet of flowers a young girl is holding and ask it to substitute them for a kitten.
One thing is certain. Artificial intelligence as a business strategy and toolset will not go away. It will only become more sophisticated and powerful as developers find new ways to use it in business, from robotics on the factory floor to virtual customer service agents. Staying abreast of these advances will help you stay one step ahead of your competitors and create new revenue-generating opportunities for your business.