When most people think of artificial intelligence, they probably think of the machines in the Terminator movies or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, if that’s your idea of artificial intelligence then it’s just a sci-fi terror tactic. In reality though, artificial intelligence isn’t something only found in sci-fi movies because forms of it already exist today, and while it may not cause a judgement day type apocalypse if you don’t take advantage of the benefits it offers, it could be the first misstep that leads to the end of your business.
Gazelle Sports is a small tennis shoe and sporting equipment store with 5 retail locations spread around Michigan. The company was born and raised in Michigan and is still run by people from Michigan. They not only make a great product but are known for great customer service and community outreach through public training programs and clinics. Despite their excellent relationship with the community, nothing could stop their customers from being lured to Amazon as it rose to power. Sales declined and no matter how much money to company pumped into search engine optimization and other marketing tactics they couldn’t recover because their customers were simply going to Amazon to search for products instead of even using a search engine like Google. Gazelle Sports had no choice but to become a third-party seller on Amazon and share their profits and customer data with the ecommerce giant.
So how could artificial intelligence have helped Gazelle Sports compete with Amazon? It couldn’t have, at least not directly. The tools and security artificial intelligence provides wouldn’t jump start Gazelle Sports into an ecommerce giant, but they could have made it realistic for them to stay independent.
Have you ever done a google search for a product and then have a panel ad for that product or other products like it show up in your web browser a few days later? If you have then you’ve experienced machine learning. Before machine learning, we could tell a computer to find pictures of dogs and it would be able to because we’ve told it what a dog looks like. With machine learning though, a computer can take the data we feed it, and predict what type of dogs we would like based on the data. This is exactly what happens when you see ads based on your past search history.
The main difference is that instead of relying on the data we feed it to make a decision, through machine learning a computer with artificial intelligence can make predications and learn from mistakes without being fed more data.
As machine learning and artificial intelligence advances and becomes more accessible, it will become possible for small businesses to have their online customer service completely handled by computers with a basic kind of artificial intelligence. There are already products like Digital Genius that already do this.
Or, a small business could use a service that uses artificial intelligence to keep track of their competitor’s online actions. A regular service would be able to track price changes and word changes in blog posts or sales listings, but a service like Crayon could do that as well as record and predict a competitor’s strategy adjustments and help keep the business ahead of their competition.
And that’s only scratching the surface of what is possible.
You’ve probably heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s the collective name for all those devices from our phones to our smart thermostats that fill our lives and record our actions through our uses of them. For a business, this data is as good as gold since it gives insight into customer habits like never before. Of course, all of that data is not only hard to process but it’s hard to protect as well. A mix of Blockchain technology and artificial intelligence could change that though.
Blockchain data is heavily encrypted, decentralized, and unalterable making it one of the most promising ways to protect data possible. So, if a small business sold smart toasters that recorded when and how their customers uses their toasters, that data could safely be shared with the company without putting the customer’s privacy in danger. Still, if the company is successful they would have a ton of data to sort through and analyze before they could even use it in their marketing efforts. An artificial intelligence supported service could record their data, recognize patterns, and predict the customer’s future use of the toaster and how to appeal to them.
Will artificial intelligence make your small business the next Amazon? No. Will it help you compete with your competitors and make every dollar you spend on marketing more valuable? If used properly then absolutely. Don’t get left behind. Learn about the latest tools and services available to you and your business.