The future has arrived and it’s changing the way we do business with a range of smart technologies. Smart tech is becoming increasingly available for small-to-medium sized businesses. As a result, marketing, finance, and customer service functions are becoming faster and more cost-effective.
AI and machine learning has enabled machines to complete University exams in record times, create their own languages to expedite negotiations, and even outwit Grandmasters at the ancient Chinese game of Go.
While it makes for interesting reading, what does it mean for businesses? Statista predicts the global AI market is already worth USD$2.42 billion and will grow to over $59 billion by 2025 with the largest proportion of revenue generated by AI for enterprise applications. The global worth of enterprise AI alone was estimated at $360 million in 2016. Technology developments are set to affect almost every part of business starting in 2018.
AI and Machine Learning for Marketing
AI is expected to make a huge difference in various areas of marketing, one of which is nurturing leads to guide them through the sales funnel. Personalized, real time content targeting is currently a manual process that takes hours and is rarely in real-time. However, this method has been shown to produce 20% more sales opportunities.
AI is expected to be developed along with behavioural targeting methods which will enable it to monitor social media channels and identify opportunities for personalizing a buyer’s journey. It can learn specific buyer’s web browsing habits, which platforms they check into and when, and then suggest or creating targeted posts that are of interest on the days and times that the target individual will see them. Chatbot tools have already proven this is possible, with their conversational approach to AI marketing that collects data to improve the customer’s experience each time they communicate with the platform.
To be able to use this heightened marketing assistance technology, buyer personas will need to be clearly illustrated and sales channels (emails, phone calls and social media communications) analyzed for inspired insights about the best methods for feeding differing leads. For example, a CEO may best respond to white papers and published research results while an advertiser may prefer video case studies.
Ad targeting and fraud protection
Machine learning already enables your social media feed to present you with ads for items you have been browsing online. Through analyzing data based on a user’s purchasing or online shopping history, advertising content will be better targeted, and the time and dates on which they are presented will become more defined.
Do you have a habit of web browsing vacation packages on Thursday afternoons and a penchant for sunny beaches? Machine learning systems will come to know this and present you with a range of ads for coastal holidays in warm climates each Thursday afternoon.
When you decide to book the trip, machine learning will be applied to reduce the risk of card fraud for you and the agent you book your holiday through. Again, this is done through pattern recognition and machine understanding of historical datasets.
Automating Accounting, Payroll, and other HR functions
Data entry can’t be avoided in accounting departments: spreadsheets reign supreme, and information has to be entered to enable analysis and processing. Xero suggests that developments in technology will make automation of bank feeds, rules-based categorization, and integrated payments commonplace by 2020 with better analytical tools enabling finance departments to add further value to business models around the world.
Cloud based automation will also impact payroll and HR functions in 2018. The submission of forms for the IRS, ensuring compliance with both state and federal employment laws, or employee health benefits are in accordance with the new Affordable Care Act rules will largely become automated thanks to cloud software advances like Zenefits.
Rise of the Chatbot
Chatbots have already entered consumer consciousness and are set to play a key role in customer interactions in 2018 and beyond. The advances in natural language recognition make the reality of chatbots handling the majority of customer enquiries and interactions evermore real.
Through speedy access of customer histories and the ability to recognise human emotion (anger, confusion, fear and joy) from conversations, chatbots have become the ideal customer service provider’s partner. 24/7 customer service functions are now a reality at a fraction of the cost of human operators, the need to put customers on hold or queue calls is negated, and personal service is made easier through the faster access to customer histories and preferences.
AI, machine learning, and Cloud-based technologies are set to change business interactions with customers and employees along with B2B interactions this year. To be a part of this exciting age of tech, business owners should start looking at their operations and identifying the best areas to assimilate these trends.