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Make AI Your Secret Weapon Against Big Business

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AI is here to stay. Big companies have been using AI for years to gain a competitive edge. With more readily accessible AI tools now on the market, the playing field is levelling off and SMEs are getting into the game. Find out how you can, too, right here.

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AI is no longer a buzzword reserved for big companies with deep pockets. The Amazons, IBMs and Ubers of the world have been leveraging the power of artificial intelligence for years to gain a competitive advantage. Now it’s the SMEs’ turn.

AI used to be very difficult for businesses to implement because it took special knowledge to understand and manage. But not anymore, the popularity of AI is making it easier to use—the playing field is being levelled by the growth in AI systems. Now, more than before, SMEs can join the game.

So, what is AI anyway?

The granddaddy of business magazines, Forbes, declared that the global AI market could reach $15.7 trillion by 2030. And the international consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, says that businesses can increase their cash flow by up to 20 per cent by using AI.

But what exactly is AI and how can SMEs use it?

First, let’s tackle what AI is. Artificial intelligence can mean many things to different people, but at its core, AI is a computer-based system that can learn patterns and analyze mountains of data faster than people can. AI uses Algorithms, which are a list of instructions in a computer program that makes either hardware or software take step-by-step actions.

There are basically two types of AI: machine learning and deep learning. Machine learning needs to be programmed and deep learning can teach itself.


The difference between machine learning and deep learning.


There are many differences between the two types of AI, but in a nutshell, machine learning is based on algorithms that are rule-based or pattern-based and need labelled data to make predictions.

And deep learning is a more advanced computer program that’s based on the way the human brain works, needs super computers, and can teach itself without human intervention.

Join the AI revolution

Scientists have been hard at work in computer labs coming up with models inspired by how the human brain works since the 1940s. Yes, that long! Artificial intelligence is not an overnight sensation. But AI recently made a giant leap that has everyone talking.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard about the newest AI kid on the block — the all-purpose artificial intelligence, ChatGPT. It’s a high powered, text-based computer program that answers questions. It uses deep-learning algorithms to analyze anything on the Internet, like websites, books and articles.

The new kid on the block can even pass exams for law and medical courses. College students are thrilled—professors, not so much.

If you haven’t already thought of using artificial intelligence to boost your business performance and gain an advantage over your competition, the launch of ChatGPT shows us that AI is revolutionizing digital information.

AI is here to stay

We’ve been through tech revolutions before, and it’s sometimes hard to notice a transformation is happening when you’re in the middle of one.

Revolutionary technology is often called “fringe” at first because people can’t see the practical use of it. The first generation of cell phones were so big and clunky that people laughed at them. But we’d be lost without our cell phones today.

Social media and the Internet just kind of sputtered along until companies figured out how to monetize them and, suddenly, we couldn’t live without them. People who jump on the latest and greatest technology are called early adopters, so it may be time to consider adopting AI for your business.

We’ve moved from the world of “AI is coming” to “AI is here.” SMEs should get in on the ground floor and capitalize on AI in step with its growing power.

How big business uses AI

So, how do you use artificial intelligence? Well, it can give you insights, information and even predict the future behaviour of people and machines based on the data it analyzes.

AI can also automate routine tasks like creating and sending invoices and scheduling a whack of social media posts for a campaign all at once.

You could already be using some level of automation at your SME and may not know that it’s based on artificial intelligence.

Here are some of the ways big business uses AI:

Automating day-to-day tasks

Companies like HSBC are automating repetitive tasks like data entry, freeing up employees to focus on higher-level tasks that depend on human intelligence and creativity.

Predicting trends

AI helps business leaders make timely decisions by crunching huge amounts of data to identify trends, predict outcomes and provide insight via customized decision support systems. For example, Procter & Gamble uses AI to predict consumer purchasing trends.

Increasing sales

Businesses have been using AI as a customer service management and marketing tool for years. Amazon pioneered the popups that suggest more purchases to make before clicking on your shopping cart. Those suggestions have a track record of increasing sales.

Personalizing service

Netflix uses AI to give you content recommendations based on how you interact with their service, from what you watch and preview to how you rate movies or TV shows.

Collecting data

Online marketplaces like Wayfair use AI-powered chatbots to offer customer support, gather customer information, and promote products.

Managing risk

Insurance companies, like Desjardins, offer clients customized car insurance premiums based on AI-powered data analytics about their driving patterns and distances.


Popular AI business platforms


How SMEs can get in on AI

There are many AI systems out there and many ways to use them. It’s no wonder SME owners can feel overwhelmed by where to begin.

To give you a head start, here are five ways SMEs can use AI to gain a competitive advantage.

1. Content creation

Fresh content can help boost your website rankings in Internet queries because search engines like Google tend to rank newly published, re-written, and updated content as more authoritative and accurate.

SMEs that don’t have a large marketing budget may not have the time to create fresh content regularly. AI can also help create logos and other branding images. There are many AI-based tools out there, so even a little research can pay off big time for a small player.

A small marketing department can stay in the game and produce more content with less overhead by leaning on AI for ideas and inspiration and doing the job in-house. Full disclosure here: this article was written by a human writer!

2. Fraud detection

It seems we can’t read a news feed without reading about the latest cyber hack or business hit with ransomware. Cybercrime is a real problem facing both multinationals and SMEs.

Machine learning can spot potential cyber-threats, highlight suspicious emails and keep up with the ever-changing tactics used by criminals. This is where AI gets even more interesting—it can adapt over time and teach itself to develop a more secure infrastructure based on your own data analytics.

Cyber security is vital if you sell goods or services directly through your website. Did you know Mastercard AI technology can pinpoint a transaction that’s probably fraudulent in less than 50 milliseconds? Moreover, Mastercard had three times less fraud when it switched to an AI model that used deep learning.

3. Customer relationship management 

Customers are the heartbeat of your business. Competition for them is tough. To build stronger relationships with loyal customers, you need to anticipate their needs.

Artificial intelligence systems can be automated to reach out to customers by email, social media, online ads and whatever other criteria you set up.

For example, an SME sales team can be flooded with too many leads to follow up individually. AI lead scoring can help SME managers better figure out which leads are hot and which are not. This way, sales teams don’t waste their time and can become more efficient.

4. Big data analytics

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that's great at processing enormous amounts of data quickly. The idea put simply: the more data you feed it, the better it gets at making predictions and identifying patterns.

Businesses are generating more and more data with the growing use of connected devices and the Internet of Things. It's becoming more of a challenge for people to digest all that information.

Here is where AI can really help. Machine learning algorithms can analyze data in real time and catch things that might not be immediately obvious to you. For example, AI can detect if a machine in a manufacturing plant is slowing down and raise the flag before the machine stops all together.

5. Sustainable growth

People are more conscious than ever that our actions today will affect future generations, so demonstrating your interest in protecting the environment could play an important role in creating goodwill and a positive public image.

There are many ways AI can help SMEs with sustainable growth. For example, AI can give you real-time energy data from building HVAC systems.

By crunching all that data and using its ability to predict machine and human behaviour, AI can ultimately design tools to optimize energy consumption.


Four things SMEs can do right now to get into AI


The possible downsides of AI

Yes, AI can bring many benefits to your business, but it's important consider some of AI’s possible downsides as well.

Baked-in prejudice

First of all, AI can be biased. That's right, just like humans, AI algorithms can develop biases based on the information you provide.

This can create a problem in areas like hiring, where AI algorithms might discriminate against certain groups of people.

Job loss

Another possible downside: as AI becomes more advanced, it may be able to automate more and more tasks usually done by people.

On one hand, an AI workforce could lead to greater productivity. On the other hand, it could also cause job losses, so it's important to weigh the impact on your workforce before bringing AI online.

Fraudulent activity

AI can also be used for fraudulent activities like generating fake reviews and phishing scams.

Like with any technology, you should be aware of the potential risks, so you can protect your business and your customers.


Quick takeaways

The growth in artificial intelligence can be a game changer for SMEs. Here are some ways AI can give you a competitive edge:

  • AI can help SMEs automate routine tasks, make strategic decisions, interact with customers and manage the risks of fraud (the same way big companies have already been doing for years).

  • By doing your research, starting small and training your employees, you can take advantage of what AI offers and set your business up for success.

  • Content is king and the power of AI tools can help you stay relevant by creating fresh online content, ranging from websites and blogs to logos and new branding.

  • Machine-learning programs can learn from your data over time to develop new ways to make your computer system more secure to fend off hackers, ransomware and phishing emails.

  • Artificial intelligence can help you manage your customer relationships by analyzing data about your customers, like what they buy, how long they stay on your website, what pages they visit, and suggest items for them to buy.

  • There’s so much information out there, so it’s becoming a challenge to digest all that data. Machine-learning algorithms can analyze your business data in real time and pick up on trends that you might not notice right away.

  • AI can help you grow sustainably by analyzing the way you do business and highlighting ways you can reduce waste and improve your overall efficiency.



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