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Why Small Businesses Are Investing in AI This Year

Small businesses are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) software and services to keep up with the fast-developing technology.

Experts say that AI can pay off as an investment. In fact, PYMNTS reporting shows that AI is assisting small businesses with daily operations. 

“AI can help integrate data from across spreadsheets, PDFs, and business units, unlocking insights that can improve operations and progress toward business goals,” IBM’s Head of Sustainability Software Christina Shim told PYMNTS in an interview.

“Often, businesses already have the data they need, but it remains buried across disparate databases, spreadsheets, systems, business units, and even third parties. The challenge is consolidating that data in a controlled manner, which is where AI comes in. The tools to consolidate data already exist, but AI has the potential to supercharge how useful they are and optimize business operations to an unprecedented level.”

Resource Use

In an interview with PYMNTS, business consultant Ayanna Carrington explained that using AI simplifies numerous back-end processes, which would otherwise require double the time for one person to accomplish.

“Investing in AI allows you to free up resources and budget to focus talent and time in other places,” she added. “Now, as a business owner, you can focus on the big-ticket items such as meeting with investors, spending more time with clients, and building up your actual dream team.” 

AI is part of Carrington’s day-to-day life as a small business owner. One of the first AI tools that she used was Calendly, which can help schedule meetings. 

“We have tools like Otter and Meetgeek that can attend meetings with us and take high-level notes that we can refer back to; now, there isn’t necessarily a need to have an extra person there just to do that particular job, and you can refocus your person/human support on another task,” she added.

Grammarly is another great tool for those of us who still struggle with writing, and we see more development that helps us in areas such as business development, marketing and design.”

AI plays a big role in the retail sector, Ilya Smirnov, head of the AI department at the software firm Usetech, told PYMNTS in an interview. Traditionally, AI, particularly in machine learning, is leveraged for tasks such as sales forecasting, devising promotional strategies, comprehending customer preferences, and enhancing overall customer experiences. 

“For example, a company producing children’s toys brands customer cards with pictures generated using LLMs [large language models],” he added. “Also, stores are adding chatbots to their applications, especially for the first line of support, which reduces the load on the person in support by 60-70 percent.”

New AI Tools

There has been a recent surge in new AI tools designed for small businesses.

Salesforce has launched Einstein Copilot, an AI assistant that aims to enhance customer experiences by automating tasks, analyzing data, and increasing productivity. Einstein is described as deeply connected to a company’s data and metadata, allowing it to understand the business and its customers well. This enables it to handle complex conversations, answer questions accurately, and generate new content.

GoDaddy’s new AI tool, GoDaddy Airo, is meant to help small businesses build websites. It offers assistance with domain selection, logo creation, website content drafting, and setting up payment systems. Airo saves time and provides customization options to match each brand’s identity. It also handles business email setup, social media integration and product descriptions, making it a valuable time-saver for users.

When choosing AI software, small businesses should expect technology providers to see AI as a means for crafting better, more effective solutions rather than as the end product itself, Aaron Harris, the CTO of Sage, an AI accounting solutions provider for SMBs, told PYMNTS in an interview. Businesses shouldn’t feel pressured to hire developers, AI engineers, or data scientists just to use AI. 

“However, small businesses should understand the risks,” he added. “AI is imperfect, and AI may introduce compliance, data privacy and security risks if not properly implemented.

“When evaluating AI solutions, small businesses should consider factors like security, support and integration with existing systems, and they should understand the principles and values that guide the AI provider’s development practices.”