Mired in repetitive tasks, swimming in data, and spending to build a larger team just to keep up? Here’s why now is the time to upgrade to AI tech for your small business marketing and customer service.

There’s two ways to win over customers. Either give them what they want and need, or simply make them happy.

If you can do both consistently you’ll see more acquisition from increased referrals, growth in customer retention, and a lift in customer lifetime value. Making customers happy is relatively easy. The hard part for many business owners is identifying exactly what customers want.

Artificial intelligence is now giving small business owners a leg up. AI tech simplifies tasks that once took a great deal of time (read: costly overhead and time-consuming manual processes.)

The Key Benefits of AI Tech

Artificial intelligence continues to evolve, and it’s used in various capacities (vehicle automation, programming, video game development, research, etc.) But, there are two ways AI tech can most benefit a small business: task handling and data analysis.

Handling tasks efficiently is critical because your small businesses has a limited budget. Time-consuming tasks will pile up as your business grows. These tasks will eat more of your time or force you to hire more people in order to handle them. Brands and startups now use AI to tackle a lot of those menial processes, including direct customer interaction. That frees up resources, so you can focus on growing your business instead.

AI tech eliminates the long-running problem of spending hours (or days) pouring over customer and sales trends in order to make a decision. In many cases, the data ages out and you’ve missed an opportunity. Automated data analysis pulls together everything you know about your business, and your customers, at an inhuman rate so you can make decisions quickly.

Rapid analysis and easy segmentation of expansive data also allows AI to paint a clear picture about what your customers love. This makes it easier to quickly develop a customer-centric approach to your operations.

Let’s look at an example. Dole used artificial intelligence to analyze vast data sets and improve campaigns by a significant amount. The company was struggling to grow market share for one of its food categories. So, they used previous customer data to develop and execute campaigns based on user insights and ongoing campaign results. By using AI to analyze results, they quickly discovered that videos drove more engagement. They also found that mobile was producing significantly more views, and hyper-focused geographic targeting was key.

After the first 60 days of its campaign, which they created using AI tech, Dole had:

  • 60,000 new page likes
  • A reach nearing 6 million
  • 12x the normal social engagement
  • Increased sales by 87% in the targeted region

While Dole may be a significantly larger brand, this case is proof that AI can bring results, especially when you consider how long it would have taken the brand to manually analyze all their customer data.

Here’s how your small business can take advantage of AI:

Using AI to Create Targeted Marketing Campaigns

How AI Tech is Changing Small Business Marketing — Targeted Marketing Campaigns

Image via Zapp2Photo.

Traditionally, marketers struggled with return on ad spend (ROAS). That was because they created ads based on broad-themed selling propositions that often targeted demographics. It takes time-consuming and costly A/B testing to refine campaigns enough to make them productive.

When you know what customers want and where to find them, you can create hyper-focused campaigns using messaging guaranteed to capture more attention. That’s where AI comes in.

Artificial intelligence platforms can analyze massive amounts of customer data on a personal level. It can make predictions about how to format campaigns, what messaging to use, when to engage them, where, and more.

According to Markus Lippus, chief technology officer at MindTitan, a company focused on developing AI-powered solutions, “AI-powered systems can help advertisers test out more ad platforms and optimize targeting. That’s exactly what Facebook is doing with their ad delivery optimization. However, this approach could also be applied to omnichannel PPC campaign data (held by a single company) by using third-party or in-house AI tools.”

Personalize the Customer Experience with AI

When I’m browsing Netflix, the suggestions based on what I’ve watched tend to be pretty spot-on. Netflix uses machine-based learning and AI to make those suggestions. It’s personalizes my experience, making it easier for me to find new shows that suck me in while deadlines loom ever closer.

Customers have grown accustomed to that kind of personalization and it’s becoming a critical part of small business marketing. According to Epsilon Research, 80% of customers are more likely to shop with a brand that offers personalized experiences.

In one consumer survey, Segment found the majority of consumers where less than impressed with the lack of personalization. Segment also found that customers are willing to spend more money on companies who deliver personalized experiences.

Personalization using AI can come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Product recommendations based on behavior
  • Promotions and offers based on demographics and location
  • Push notifications customized to individual users
  • Support, content recommendations, and automated outreach based on behavior

With personalization in place you’ll see more impulse purchases. You’ll also find increased revenue, fewer returns, and a lift in customer loyalty.

AI-Powered Customer Insights

How AI Tech is Changing Small Business Marketing — Customer Insights

Image via Stanislaw Mikulski.

There’s a lot you don’t know about your customers. Unfortunately it would take ages to pour over customer insights in order to pool and segment data,  and that’s only if you know what you’re looking for.

Where it would take a human weeks on end of crunching numbers to develop actionable insights, AI tech can do it in seconds. Imagine the ROAS of your small business marketing if you could instantly create customer personas using endless data points you never considered like:

  • Geo-specific events
  • In-store interactions vs online interactions
  • Referral sources
  • Psychographic factors
  • Behaviors (both with and without a purchase)
  • Past and present communication and engagement

For example, a travel agency may want to segment customer insights revealing the total percentage of female travelers, the typical accommodations they book during what season at what age, and the window gap between booking and travel.

At the same time, that agency could also see what percentage of male vs female travelers booked luxury trips, and at what age, what time of year, and more in order to develop laser-focused marketing campaigns.

When you can better match customers to the products they are more likely to use and keep you’ll improve customer satisfaction, reduce returns, limit buyer’s remorse, and improve revenue.

eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce offer a variety of customer insight reports for online stores. Brick and mortar SMBs can use platforms like Salesforce, IBM Watson for insights at the customer level. Another platform, Crayon, provides marketing and competitive AI tools. Those tools help SMBs track, analyze, and act on insights.

Improve Customer Service with AI Tech

Your customer service team will be busy with email, inbound calls, follow ups, and live chat. On top of all that they’ll be monitoring and responding across all the social channels your customers use.

Artificial intelligence simplifies customer service by getting help to customers faster at every point where they make contact with your brand. Brands are paying attention. After all, a Tata consultancy services survey reveals that almost 31.7% of brands are now using AI tech in customer service.

Here a few ways your small business can use AI to improve support and customer satisfaction:

  • Automated chat bots that field inbound customer inquiries via social media and on-site live chat
  • Rapidly triage customer inquiries to get them to the right person, thus reducing wait times, by using tools like Zendesk
  • Serve customers with custom content using conversational process automation with a platform like DigitalGenius. Answer basic questions rapidly that normally tie up your support team
  • Analyze common customer concerns with tools like Zendesk to populate a knowledge base and FAQs with content that reduce inbound customer inquiries
  • AI-infused contact centers operating 24/7 with a skeleton crew (or even no agents at all)

All of those free up resources required for more complex customer interactions. Ultimately, this improves customer satisfaction, productivity, and reduces support costs.

Oracle in its study of AI as a customer service tool says nearly 8 of 10 businesses have adopted or will adopt AI customer care solutions by 2020. So, now is the time to get in ahead of your competitors and start building a better customer experience.

You can use artificial intelligence in you customer service and marketing to connect you with your target audience and keep them happy. But, AI tech isn’t a magic bullet. It’s unrealistic to think a canned AI application or platform can be plugged neatly into any business. In many cases, AI integrates with systems you already have in place where data is stored. This can be anything from a CRM holding your customer data, to your sales insights and campaign data held in various channels online. Once you tailor the platform to your business processes you’ll begin to reap the rewards of artificial intelligence, so you can get back to focus on growing your business.

Top image via Thomas Andreas.

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