Over the past decade, the field of artificial intelligence has made massive leaps forward. Today, those advancements are helping businesses differentiate themselves from the competition.
Companies like Netflix and Amazon wouldn't be the same without their AI-based recommendation engines. Others use AI to improve everything from customer service operations to digital marketing. Up until recently though, the best AI solutions were only accessible to big, well-funded corporations.
Now, that's no longer the case. As AI has gone mainstream, it has filtered down into countless products and services that are accessible to small businesses, and it can be a game-changer for those who take advantage of it.
Inna Tokarev-Sela, who recently completed a two-year stint as the AI research lead at Sisense, has written a great deal about the growing opportunities for startups to leverage AI-powered solutions to drive them forward. She has witnessed firsthand how many companies, including her own, began offering AI-enabled tools to help companies derive insights and act on their data.
Here are five ways that startups can take advantage of AI in 2021 and beyond.
Startups can stand out by offering exceptional customer service, however, it takes resources to offer high quality support.
Today, AI solutions can offer a cost-effective solution to offer great support through chatbots and other customer-facing service options. Moreover, customers are more and more accepting of such solutions. Recent surveys indicate that 50% of users are open to talking to chatbots when initially engaging with a brand.
According to data compiled by Salesforce, customer service agents benefit too. They found that 64% of agents working with AI chatbots were able to spend most of their time solving complex problems, rather than responding to run-of-the-mill inquiries.
This is an area where Tokarev-Sela champions the benefits of AI for businesses. She explains, "Usually, we have to spend more money to achieve a better customer experience, but AI simultaneously delivers greater accuracy and focus and reduces human capital cost."
In other words, AI allows businesses to do more with less.
Data is the key to reach and identify potential customers in an ever evolving communications landscape, and AI tools can be indispensable to help startups do this.
Take, for example, IBM's Watson Personality Insights platform. It can scan a startup's social channels, along with its competition, to create detailed target customer personality profiles. Those profiles can help a startup to communicate with potential customers in ways they're most likely to respond to. They can also help to identify influencers or members of customers' peer groups who might make effective messaging partners for a targeted marketing campaign.
Companies like TradeDesk use AI that allow you to target your specific audience. Their technology analyzes over 11 million advertising opportunities, and allows businesses to find, bid, and advertise to their target audience.
AI developers have started to produce tools-as-a-service that businesses can embed right into their own offerings. This means that startups can offer new innovative products and service experience for their customers.
Tokarev-Sela points to Sisense's embedded analytics tools as an example, which allows product teams to incorporate natural language queries so that users can have conversations with their data. This makes it possible for startups to create services that bring new forms of interactivity and utility to users.
With new AI tools which derive insights from your data, you can offer experiences that were once limited to bigger players. Ecommerce companies, for example, using AI plugins, can introduce powerful recommendation engines similar to Netflix and Amazon.
In any competitive market, startups must contend with long-established rivals and other upstarts in a fight for market share. Therefore, it’s critical to track competitors to see where opportunities lie.
Solutions like Crayon can ingest hundreds of data streams to provide real-time insights into competitors' movements. If competitors lower a product's price, kick off a new marketing campaign, get a negative online review, anything that might yield an actionable insight, it'll find it and report on it.
In this area, Tokarev-Sela believes that AI isn't just helpful, but essential. She says that in today's business environment, human analysis can't keep up, because "The world changes at a speed that's hard to fathom, so decision-making needs to be adjusted based on insights coming from data, accompanied by recommended actions. 'Survival of the fastest' is the rule today."
As any experienced entrepreneur can tell you, a startup will only go as far as its team will carry it. For that reason, it pays to do whatever it takes to recruit the best and keep them engaged.
However, the average startup won't have a HR department on day one, let alone a dedicated HR leader, to help you find the best and brightest.
With AI though, startups can increase their odds of identifying and attracting the best talent in their field. There are now dozens of AI-enabled HR and recruiting platforms available for startups to help you identify the right hires among a large pool.
Once hired, AI tools can help detect employee engagement, at risk employees, or how productive your developers are, enabling you to build a highly functioning company.
Today, AI is more accessible than ever, and applications for it in any business are manifold. If you haven’t started thinking about how AI can improve your product or your internal operations, it’s time to start. It can give you a much needed leg up to beat your competition.