AI trends – how AI can help small businesses
The earliest successful artificial intelligence (AI) program was written in 1951 so, whilst AI is not new, recent technological advances mean that AI is now a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes.
When businesses first adopted AI, it was often complex systems that could only be used by large organisations investing significant amounts of money.
Today, many AI-powered tools are easily accessible software for smaller companies.
There are thousands of AI solutions available to small and medium businesses, which can generate many benefits, including helping entrepreneurs better process data, make improved decisions, automate tasks, and create content to reach their target customers.
What is AI for smaller businesses?
Oxford Languages define artificial intelligence as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
For small and medium businesses, AI could bring benefits such as improved productivity, reduced costs, and boosted customer satisfaction.
Common AI technology that smaller businesses will likely encounter includes chatbots for responding to customer issues, tools to analyse data, and services to create content.
Adopting AI isn’t without its challenges for smaller businesses, so entrepreneurs should carefully research the tools available.
You should also consider how the business will use the technology, how it will be implemented, and what impact it will have.
Potential problems to consider include the following:
- data can sometimes be of poor quality, inaccurate, or out of date
- AI systems can be expensive, complicated, or time-consuming to implement
- costs can be high if businesses lack in-house skills and need to outsource
- ethical concerns over racial, gender, and other biases in AI data
- legal concerns over the collection of sensitive data by AI algorithms.
Read our guide on protecting customer data.
AI tools and technologies for smaller businesses
Case study: Jessica Potter, Co-Founder of Used and Loved
“AI is completely changing the way shopping technology works. At the moment, for example, with second-hand listings, when somebody lists a grey jumper, they might not have even put the word grey, they might have just written jumper or the title might even just say “free”.
"But with AI tagging different items, and visual search being able to identify different dimensions and things from an outfit, it means that we are now able to uncover all of the items that are listed on second-hand sites, whereas it would have never come up in someone's search results before. We can identify whether it's got a roll neck, or other features the seller wouldn’t have thought of adding before.
"These technology advancements are massively going to help our business. It means that we can use visual search for people to find things they found, new, online and then do a search of that image on Used and Loved and find the second-hand items to buy instead. So yeah, it's perfect timing for us. Because when we started coming up with the idea for the business four or five years ago, there was no tech like this, and the process of searching was too clunky for most people to want to commit the time to buy used. So now we can use AI to really deliver the best shopping experience to help people enjoy shopping second-hand.”
Case study: Farah Benis, Founder and Managing Director of FFA Security Group
“With the emergence of new tools that bring about data privacy and intellectual property concerns, I strongly recommend that individuals educate themselves.
"If you're a team leader, it's crucial to develop policies regarding the use of tools like Chat GPT and Mid Journey. Reading and understanding the licensing terms and conditions is critical to avoid legal complications, as you may not be able to copyright your images for example when using some AI tools. Using AI tools wisely is key in safeguarding your intellectual property."
Jessica and Farah were speaking at the Building Business Resilience webinar to celebrate the launch of the British Business Bank's Guide to Business Resilience.
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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or its subsidiaries the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.
Investing in technology
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With tips on everything from cloud-based services to Smart meters, our Guide to Building Business Resilience could help your business prepare for the future.