Tuesday, 14 Jul 2020

SMALL BUSINESS PLUS TECHNOLOGY EQUALS BIG BENEFITS

There is, understandably, a perception among small business owners or operators that as the business is small, there is little need to upgrade by adopting technology or even investing in technology, given the initial costs of newly-developed technology. While this is a fair assumption, the reality is that there are many reasons why small businesses stand to benefit in a big way from technology.  
 


The Challenges Are The Same, Regardless of Size 

Owning or running a small business does not mean that business heads do not suffer anxiety over the business challenges facing large companies with deeper pockets. All companies, firms and corporations face the same challenges: the creation of value, the monetisation of that value, sustaining both the value and the monetisation while staying ahead of closest competitors and fulfilling consumer demand, while maintaining costs or preferably, increasing output while lowering costs, and delivering greater value in a shorter time frame. All these objectives remain the same regardless of whether you employ 10, 100 or 1,000 employees. 
 
Unfortunately, systems become outdated, processes evolve to show up inefficiencies and lags, while teams develop stasis and innovation is stopped dead in its tracks. It becomes costlier to hire skilled teams; tried-and-tested marketing methods no longer reach lucrative segments, and it takes more time and money to produce the same amount of output or yield. 

What can a business owner do to help the business? 

Technology presents multiple solutions. The ubiquity of technology, from automated mass email marketing to autonomous machines and virtual assistants, benefit many in varying ways. One of the key technologies is artificial intelligence. 
 

Artificial Intelligence, Real World Solutions 

Artificial intelligence (AI) -- also known as machine learning, deep learning or even cognitive computing-- is not confined to self-driving vehicles and robots. The most simple definition of AI is ‘the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour’. Machines and computers can be programmed to carry out tasks with the same breadth and depth of human intelligence.  



AI At Work 

The first area in which AI benefits small business is smarter email marketing. While this is considered a mature technology, it is lauded for its high returns on relatively low investment. AI works in the background by getting in touch with your customers by sending emails such as “We haven’t seen you in a while”. These are generated by algorithms based on data collected.  
 
Smarter email marketing employing AI is a way of fine-tuning your outdated email marketing strategy, for example, asking customers to drop their name cards at the point-of-sale desk. For online retailers, however, email marketing takes the game to a new level. There is opportunity for segmentation and customisation. 
 
Secondly, AI works by automating. Emails or messages can be triggered by a customer’s activity, inactivity or an anniversary of their first purchase. It does not require you as a business owner to hire a person to sift through mountains of data to decide when to send a special message to a new or loyal customer. 
 
Thirdly, AI allows machine learning to take care of repetitive, mundane tasks. This is especially helpful if your business has a dedicated sales team. Tools that use machine learning exist on the market to assist your sales team in the sales process. For example, if you are looking to eliminate the back-and-forth process of scheduling meetings with multiple potential and existing clients.  
 
That’s where an AI-based personal (virtual) assistant becomes a helpful tool,  freeing up the sales teams’ time and energy, while allowing for greater sharing of information among team members to avoid overlap, miscommunication and double work. 
 
Machine learning tools come in other forms beyond personal or virtual assistants -- an assessment of your business needs will determine where you can benefit from AI the most. Additionally, AI enhances the communications aspect of your business. This can be illustrated in two ways. 
 
Firstly, an AI solution can be integrated into your phone system to analyse telephone conversations between company employees and customers. If we think of insurance sales teams or bank workers, we have an idea of how important telephone conversations can be. Using AI to analyse hundreds of these conversations over the telephone can help with the assessment of the 
effectiveness of sales tactics or customer fulfilment strategies, and even help you redefine KPIs for better business decisions. 
 
The second way in which AI can help with business communication is in the deployment of a chatbot. This is a popular tool for many online businesses that are light on workforce but face a large volume of interactions and transactions with customers online. Utilising a chatbot is an especially good decision if your business does not have the resources to employ a full, dedicated sales team, as chatbots can also take the form of pop-up windows when a person lands on your business’ website or landing page. 
 
It is also an engagement tool, allowing the capture of valuable data. This is the kind of data that can inform many business decisions. 

Deep-dives into data and the benefits 

The most important benefit of AI technology for a small business is the mountainous amount of data generated from AI-based solutions relative to the technologies invested in. 


The data generated by AI technologies gives you deeper insight into customer behaviour as well as patterns -- which product is selling best, when and where -- the data then helps you figure out the ‘why’, which in turn can help you formulate your next strategic move. AI tools provide the analytical help you need but which you may not have the resources to dedicate to.  
 
For instance, the ability to track your customers’ journey and their behaviour as they navigate your business website can subsequently help your marketing team to formulate customised or customisable experiences, which can include customised content at touchpoints.  While the benefits of customised marketing is a separate conversation, it is undeniably an essential business survival tool. 
 
The deployment of AI tools also presents a less-obvious benefit but an important one, nevertheless, in that it revolutionises the workforce selection and screening process as well as streamlining your resources. AI is able to screen hundreds of job applications in less time, garnering an outcome that is more pronounced than if your business utilised human employees to sift through piles of job applications. 
 
In short, AI tools help you achieve certain business objectives in shorter time frames, often with greater accuracy, fewer errors and less downtime. This has positive ramifications when you are facing challenges and critical business decisions. 
 
A business partner and solutions provider such as Celcom has the resources to advise you on technology solutions to suit your small business’ unique needs and be a partner in your technological journey.  
 
Talk to Celcom to find out more, and get ready to invest in the upgrade of your business for its long-term sustainability.