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AI and analytics for SMEs in uncertain times

Tue 19 May 2020 | Dr Elaine Garcia

During these unprecedented times, almost all businesses are facing uncertainty about the future and whether life will be the same once we are through this crisis

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to ensure that business owners and managers are doing all they can to understand how their business may recover, and perhaps change, in the future. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is through the use of technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and business analytics.

When most people think about AI, they tend to think of robots and science labs in which scientists develop AI for large companies. In reality, it’s possible for small and medium-sized businesses to take advantage of AI in order to develop analytics, which results in a better understanding of their market and to model potential future scenarios.

AI enables this due to the manner in which big data sets can be taken and analysed quickly, in order to make informed predictions about what may happen in the future in a range of different situations. This can allow a business owner to look, not only at previous experience, but also at what may change in the future and the impact this may have.

Whilst the benefits of being able to get answers to these questions is clear to see, it’s important to remember that it’s necessary for any AI system to be fed with data in order to provide any analysis.

For some businesses, the idea of introducing AI analytics will seem to be a difficult and maybe impossible task. However, it may be possible for businesses to utilise AI analytics that have been built within systems which they are already using. For example, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications are used by many businesses and may have built in capabilities to provide AI analytics and predictions based on the data they collect.

For those businesses that might not yet be in a position to consider AI analytics, there are still ways AI can be used in order to start moving towards the collection and organisation of data for future. For example, AI can be used to automate tasks and to collect data about business activities.

Businesses can also use AI to collect data from customers regarding appointments or setting up new accounts. AI can also be used to answer frequently asked customer questions through chatbots or virtual assistants. The benefit of using AI for such purposes will free up staff so they can undertake other activities and enables the business to capture customer data – this is vital, especially over this time, as it will allow businesses to better understand customer issues as well as purchasing patterns.

For those businesses which may not be able to operate at the moment, there are still ways in which analytics can be used to provide indications of how the business might change in the future. Whilst some businesses are closed, social media and websites can still be used by customers in order to explore potential future purchases. The manner in which customers are visiting business websites, even when a business is closed, can provide a range of information about which products may be of interest, as well as where customers may be visiting from.

Reviewing analytics over time will also allow a business to see what may become more or less popular, as well as whether any promotional efforts are resulting in increased interest.

In a similar fashion, social media can also be used to collect information about consumer interests as analytics are built within social media sites. Other elements of AI within social media includes the ability to automatically respond to customers and provide appointments.

From the above, we can see that there are a number of ways in which AI and analytics can help small and medium-sized businesses to help navigate these uncertain times. Even if a business currently has no experience of using analytics or AI, we have seen that there are some small and fairly simple ways in which it can start to introduce some elements of this and discover analytics through current systems it already makes use of.

Overall, AI and analytics can provide several ways in which to better understand the future of your business may  – invaluable information during these times of uncertainty.

Experts featured:

Dr Elaine Garcia

Senior Programme Leade
London School of Business and Finance (LSBF)

Tags:

Coronavirus data analytics
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