Artificial intelligence (AI) has not just evolved technically. It has also become more accessible to non-tech users such as business people. AI is providing deep insights like never before, and is helping many business processes to become more efficient.
In fact, 86% of CEOs mentioned that AI plays an important role in their businesses, not in the form of robots and complex machinery, but software to run their day-to-day operations. From predicting customer behaviour to handling communication, AI in business is becoming indispensable in ways never seen before.
AI applications have significantly evolved over the past few years and have found their application in almost every business sector. Whether a small or large business, there are many AI tools that can improve business operations and productivity, save time by automating tasks, improve customer experiences, generate new ideas and boost the bottom line.
Let us look at some of the applications of AI.
AI and operations
The use of AI in business operations is an important part of the digital transformation of a business. One popular area of use is Inventory Management where Machine Learning, a subset of AI, is employed for image recognition to increase efficiency and productivity across a wide variety of processes. The image data of a product is uploaded to an AI tool that detects defects, or categorise and label the images.
Since manual tagging slows down onboarding, it is even possible to connect these apps to existing tools or an online shop to assign the labels automatically. A tool such as Levity could easily be used to automatically keep track of inventory and update the online store.
AI in marketing
For years marketers have struggled to find the balance between operational efficiency and customer experience. AI provides a solution to optimise both.
One way of doing this is to ensure that market research includes customer feedback and that the responses are analysed. AI automates the tagging and provides specific insights.
AI also assists with competitor analysis by categorising the topic or themes in competitors' tweets. Once analysed, the AI notifies the user of the trends, thus saving hours of scrolling through competitor tweets.
Due to the ability of computer vision, computers can infer meaning from digital images, videos, and other visual inputs and then act accordingly or make recommendations. Marketers can use this image recognition ability to analyse the numerous pictures published daily to social media sites to gain insight into how and where products or services are being used. This will enable marketers to determine market penetration and brand awareness.
One last example of the use of AI in marketing is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In the optimisation of websites for search engines, it is important to determine the search volume or number of people searching for specific terms and phrases while looking for items or services. Machine Learning (ML) algorithms make it possible to sift through large quantities of data to get a better grasp of the intent behind search term usage, as well as the substance of searches. AI can also be used to analyse competitor SEO tactics in order to identify any gaps and to take advantage of keywords that competitors aren’t using, to create SEO-friendly marketing material for their own website.
Some popular AI tools for marketing include Kartra that uses AI to automate and optimise marketing campaigns across channels, including social media and email. Acquisio that uses AI to optimise the ad spend and improve the ROI across multiple advertising platforms.
AI in sales
Automation through AI is already affecting sales in a big way and will continue to do so. A recent study by Harvard Business Review found that companies using AI for sales can increase their leads by more than 50%, reduce call time by 60-70%, and have cost reductions of 40-60%. From these numbers, it is evident that businesses that want to improve their bottom line should consider employing AI.
Outbound email campaigns have proven themselves to be successful. However, sending out thousands of mails and tracking the responses can be an arduous task. This is where AI solutions can assist by monitoring email responses, categorise, and file them.
Demand forecasting is complex, but can also be automated through AI by enabling the creation of automated and accurate sales projections based on client interactions and historical sales results.
AI further aids in lead scoring and prioritisation. These specific AI tools help sales professionals to prioritise customers based on their probability to convert. The AI algorithm can rank the opportunities or leads in the pipeline based on their chances of closing successfully by compiling historical information about a client and social media postings, and the salesperson's customer interaction history.
One all-in-one sales engagement platform is reply.io, automating tasks while keeping every touchpoint personal. It helps in finding the next customer, automate communication, start meaningful communications, and schedule meetings.
Another example is Jason AI, a personal assistant powered by ChatGPT to set up outreach sequences, handle prospect responses, and book meetings. The platform enables the application of filters to target the prospects most likely to buy certain products or services. Jason AI not only creates emails, follow it up, but can also suggest alternative channels to reach out to prospects.
AI business tools are a smart step toward business success. They are complex operational, marketing and sales assistant tools that are built specifically to boost business performance.
It is clear that AI tools are changing the game by revolutionising the way we do business and has opened up endless new opportunities for every size business across the globe. By staying informed and embracing new technologies, businesses can position themselves for long-term success and create a truly future-proof business.
Professor Louis CH Fourie is an Extraordinary Professor in Information Systems University of the Western Cape