Significance of AI for Small Businesses: Preparing for the New Normal

Sanam Malhotra | 8th July 2020

The world is witnessing a collapse of marketplaces caused by a silent foe. Bearing the strongest impact of COVID-19 is small and medium businesses that are either shutting operating or furloughing employees. Experts suggest that technology-driven action plans promise sustainability for businesses, preparing them for the new normal. From streamlining existing operations to creating new opportunities, AI  for small businesses is paving the way for sustainable growth.

In this edition, we, at Oodles, as an experiential AI Development Company, map why and how small businesses banking on AI can emerge as the winning players in the new normal.


The Plight of Small Businesses Amid Downturn

Though no business stands immune to the COVID-led crisis, small businesses, in particular, are struggling hard to pedal their way forward. A recent report by Facebook & Business Roundtable surveyed the sobering condition of over 86,000 small business owners in the US.

The State of Small Business Report reveals that more than 50% of the US small businesses have either halted operations or furloughed employees due to disruptions.

From food and educational services to wholesale trade and transportation, small businesses across industries are facing high financial risks and continuity threats.


AI for small businesses

Mckinsey Global Institute plots the vulnerability of small businesses in the light of financial risk and COVID-related downturn.

The road to recovery for small businesses is majorly dependent on how quickly they adapt to the new normal. Reluctant to buy offline, the new normal would witness customers more willing to buy goods and services online. Moreso, shifting consuming patterns make it essential for small brands to strengthen their digital presence while investing in technology-driven solutions.

The AI and machine learning experts at Oodles are constantly making efforts to reduce the fallout from COVID crises for businesses by using emerging technologies. Below, we elaborate on why AI and its underlying technologies are considered a propelling force behind the future’s smart business models.


Why is AI Essential for Small Business Revival?


benefits of AI for small business


A recent survey of CEOs from small and medium businesses conducted by Vistage found that almost 30% of leaders expect AI to impact their business significantly. For a majority of business leaders, AI is the key to increase operational efficiency and achieve economies of scale. Here’s how AI makes it possible-

1) Accelerating Routine Processes

Considering the limited scope of data reserves with small businesses, AI is best suited for automating routine tasks and improve processes. It requires basic rule-based AI approach for training models to perform routine tasks such as-

a) Recording and transferring data from emails to systems

b) Updating customer data such as addresses in the records

c) Extracting relevant data from voluminous files

d) Validating information across datasets with given benchmarks

These tasks consume much of an organization’s time and resources to hamper more complex tasks that require human comprehension. With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), small businesses can automate as much as 80% of their routine tasks without human intervention.


2) Lowering Operational Costs

With time-effective systems holding reign, small businesses can save massive costs that otherwise consumed the entire budget. IT spending together with human resources account for major cost burdens that compel small businesses to shut operations amid such emergencies.

With the ability to learn from data, AI can turn expensive business processes such as data processing and analytics into cost-effective functions.

For small businesses, machine learning can reduce the number of human resources for a single task, thus cutting corners efficiently.


3) Seamless Customer Services

When it comes to small businesses, establishing brand loyalty through quality services is the hardest nut to crack. It requires a constant brand presence across offline and online channels to demonstrate business availability and reliability.

While engaging customers, AI’s cognitive capabilities streamline business presence across channels to deliver instant services and responses.

For this reason, business chatbots and virtual assistants are gaining topmost attention from leaders to serve customers 24*7 while performing other tasks, such as-

a) Engaging customers

b) Expanding marketing efforts

c) Generating qualified leads

d) Resolving routine customer queries, and more.

The best part of embedding conversational AI for small businesses is they can self-improvise by learning from customer inferences and thereby optimize responses.

Also read: Keeping Businesses Afloat With AI During COVID-19 Crisis


Industry-oriented Applications of AI for Small Businesses

1) Digitization of Medical Data for Retail Pharmacy

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the grueling reality of healthcare infrastructures worldwide. From digital immaturity to tiring drug trials, the pharmacy industry is in dire need of a technology-led transformation. 

Slowly but steadily, Oodles AI is making efforts to digitize medical and pharmaceutical functions with its AI and machine learning expertise.

Our team has built a machine learning-based OCR (Optical Character Recognition) system for digitizing and extracting relevant information from voluminous healthcare documents. In an attempt to test the model, we have trained the AI-OCR system to extract data from identity cards, such as Adhaar Card, Passports, et al. Here’s a screengrab of the AI-infused OCR model in action-


AI-OCR for small businesses

While achieving over 95% accuracy, our AI-OCR model is able to digitize and manage large volumes of healthcare data including invoices, patient records, and lab reports. The model can not only accelerate workflows but also channelize accurate data to strengthen medical services, patient care, and diagnosis.

Read more: Building AI-OCR for Digitizing Healthcare Records and Lab Reports


2) Accurate Quality Assurance for Food Services

Another industry facing the extreme brunt of COVID crises is the food and beverage industry. With losses mounting over 22%, the food industry struggles to retain customers and assure quality services.

By investing in data-driven AI solutions, small restaurants and catering companies can maximize safety and assure quality to customers.

AI’s underlying machine learning algorithms can perform quality control checks on prepared dishes and raw material with over 90% accuracy. In addition, predictive analytics can anticipate the shelf life of food products to assist workers in planning timely refills and avoid mismanagement.


AI quality control for restaurants

Dominos Pizza outlets in Australia have taken a bold initiative to install AI-powered robotic systems that perform quality checks on every pizza served, reports Daily Mail.

Read more: Bracing Shopping Centers with Facial Recognition for Post-COVID World


3) Personalized Experience for eCommerce Startups

The most apparent shift in the post COVID world is witnessed in consumer buying channels from offline to online. It is the reason why more than 30% of retailers switched to digital mode of trade to capture demand and open new revenue streams.

AI can become a retailer’s ideal acquaintance in moving business online. By personalizing services and recommendations, AI can boost upselling and cross-selling efforts for small businesses significantly.

As a well-established Chatbot Development Company, Oodles AI has built dynamic conversational AI interfaces for diverse businesses. From healthcare to eCommerce, our chatbot team empowers businesses to improve customer service operations and increase ROI with intelligent interactions.


AI shopping chatbot for small retailers

Powered by machine learning algorithms, Oodles’ shopping bot can understand user preferences ad match them with suitable items automatically. These virtual shopping assistants can be integrated into websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms to augment business outreach exponentially.

Read more: How Machine Learning in Retail is Driving Sales Post COVID


Harnessing the Potential of AI for Small Businesses with Oodles

In these uncertain times, it is exceedingly essential to cover small businesses as they constitute the biggest share in any economy. We, at Oodles, are empowering such small and medium businesses to deploy cost and time-effective AI solutions across the organization. Our expertise in handling unstructured and complex data to drive value enables us to harness AI for small businesses by offering-

a) Robotic Process Automation for routine tasks

b) Intelligent virtual assistants for lead generation

c) AI-OCR for digitizing and extracting value from physical docs

d) Predictive analytics for healthcare, BI, and other purposes.

Join forces with our AI development team to know more about our AI capabilities and how we channelize AI for small businesses.

About Author

Sanam Malhotra

Sanam is a technical writer at Oodles who is currently covering Artificial Intelligence and its underlying disruptive technologies. Fascinated by the transformative potential of AI, Sanam explores how global businesses can harness AI-powered growth. Her writings aim at contributing the multidimensional values of AI, IoT, and machine learning to the digital landscape.

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