Artificial intelligence is the bold new frontier in business and entrepreneurship, and all signs point to an even bolder future for the burgeoning technology. Applications for AI in business are nearly boundless, and new uses emerge on a weekly basis. Leveraging artificial intelligence in your company’s marketing, management and long-term strategy can give you an edge over the competition.
The state of artificial intelligence
Despite widespread use, AI is still an emerging technology. Breakthroughs in computing power have enabled the development of increasingly effective machine learning algorithms. AI isn’t approaching self-awareness anytime soon, but AI-powered neural networks are rapidly improving in areas like voice and image recognition, pattern recognition, process management and problem solving.
Plus, artificial intelligence technology isn’t reserved for Fortune 500 tech companies anymore, as a rapidly growing number of small businesses and entrepreneurs are breaking into the AI market.
The research firm Spiceworks predicts that 30 percent of businesses will have incorporated AI by the end of 2018, up from just 13 percent last year.
Rapid mainstreaming of these technologies drives development in nearly every sector. As you move forward, learn the basics of AI and make sure your business has the resources to incorporate these five applications.
Machine learning algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. The ability to analyze data to increase sales is one of the most lucrative applications for artificial intelligence. AI algorithms can sift through volumes of user data for patterns and trends, which could open doors to more effective marketing and help inform your content strategy.
For example, a report from Harvard shows sifting through chat logs for words and phrases that correlate with successful sales can improve success rates by as much as 54 percent.
Social media activity provides AI algorithms like Amazon’s recommendation system with enough data to pinpoint purchasing trends for individual users. Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer, uses behavior-tracking AI in place of traditional memory-based marketing algorithms. AI can also be used in price determination—an algorithm can track market trends, determining the ideal price for optimizing profit margins.
- Task-driven applications
AI algorithms can replace human workers on a variety of tasks, freeing up time, money and resources for other uses. While doomsayers might see this as the start of a robot takeover and the inevitable loss of jobs, most entrepreneurs tend toward a more practical view.
An AI is the perfect complement to a human worker. The technology makes short work of administrative tasks, allowing humans to focus on more engaging and creative work in more essential areas. “Whenever possible, companies must empower their people to make on-the-spot decisions and think on their feet,” Richard Branson advised. Freeing your employees from simple tasks can help them put their efforts and talents to better use.
- Sentiment analysis and emotion gauging
The complexity of human emotion might seem like a barrier to AI, but the technology has surprising applications for something called “sentiment analysis.” Using surveys, social media, image recognition software and a host of other techniques, algorithms dedicated to sentiment analysis can generalize about human perspectives on specific topics with surprising reliability.
Sentiment analysis can help businesses predict behavior. The technology has been around for some time and was even used in President Obama’s 2012 election campaign to gauge public opinion on specific policy announcements. Using AI, entrepreneurs can pivot in real time as market trends change.
- Business process efficiency
Improving daily operations can help your business grow faster, and machine learning algorithms are ready to do the heavy lifting. An AI can analyze systems like supply chains and workflows to identify areas for improvement. With a streamlined workflow, resources are used more effectively and costs associated with lost time, maintenance and redundancy are minimized.
The manufacturing sector stands to benefit substantially with the integration of AI. Forbes magazine reports a potential 20 percent increase in production capacity and a 4 percent drop in materials for manufacturing operations that integrate AI into their business process management (BPM).
- The AI toolbox
Before investing in AI applications, make sure you have all of the tools that you’ll need to make it work. Calculate the internet speed you’ll need, decide what specialists you might need to hire, and plan ahead for additional costs that might come up in the future.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to hire a data scientist to integrate AI into your business. Hundreds of companies are designing user-friendly AI tools for entrepreneurs and small businesses. For example, an AI-powered application like Grammarly can help ensure consistent, high-quality writing across your brand, while tools from Legal Robot aid the development of clear and compliant contracts and legal documents.
Many companies are now utilizing predesigned chatbots for customer service. AI-powered chatbots are rapidly improving at natural language processing, giving them greater utility for customers and reducing wait times for human service agents.
While the full potential of AI has yet to be seen, the early adoption of AI tools points to a clear trend for entrepreneurs and businesses. With nearly limitless applications for AI, entrepreneurs have plenty of opportunity to innovate and stand apart from the competition.