What Does AI mean for Small Businesses?

May 10, 2019 | Strategy

What Does AI Mean for Small Businesses?

The use of machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) are on the rise, especially in consumer-related industries. Some trendsetters, such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, are quickly integrating these as a way of improving the customer experience. These technological advancements provide a more efficient way of getting things done.

Although the big companies have already embraced machine learning and deep learning, most small businesses are yet to join them. While these technologies seem complicated, there are already numerous software-as-a-service solutions available that make harnessing the power of your company’s data simple. Before making these tools an essential part of your business processes, it’s crucial to gain an understanding of how they work and what’s behind them.


What Is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is simply an application of artificial intelligence. It is a combination of statistics and computer science concepts. It is concerned with developing computer programs that access data and use it to learn by themselves. Simply put, machine learning gives systems the ability to work with increasing accuracy and effectiveness without being manually programmed based on past data.


How Does Machine Learning Work?

Machine learning uses computational methods to identify any patterns in the input data and make predictions on future outcomes. The process begins with providing input data for the system. This could be through observation, instruction or direct experience. The machine learning algorithms then learn from this data and make decisions based on the patterns they have learned from the data.


There are two major types of techniques that machine-learning algorithms use:

Supervised Learning

Supervised machine learning focuses on training a model to predict future outcomes by using a known set of input data and their known output. The model makes the predictions based on the given past evidence.


Unsupervised Learning

Unsupervised machine learning is a more complicated process which is currently used less than supervised learning but accounts for much of the excitement surrounding AI. Unsupervised Learning is utilized for datasets that contain the input data without the response, or result, already being known.


How Can Small Businesses Benefit From Machine Learning?

Many small businesses will disregard the use of machine learning. Although it may appear a bit complex, machine learning can be incredibly powerful when it comes to boosting productivity in many areas of your organization. Here are some of the ways that small firms can incorporate the use of machine learning to improve customer experience.


Service Personalization

Providing excellent customer service is a goal for many businesses. However, this may not be possible as customers have different needs. By using machine learning, you can enhance your business’ customer care. One solution for this is Adobe’s Experience Cloud, which claims “You can rely on data science to analyze user behavior, preferences, feedback, and characteristics to predict behavior and deliver unique, personalized experiences. This helps you increase engagement and offer dynamic, one-to-one touchpoints with ease.”

Additionally, the integration of natural language processing and historical data on customer care, machine learning algorithms can learn from business interactions and provide any answers that a customer may need right away. From automated livechats to online customer knowledge portals, companies are exploring new ways to make the experience easier for their customers. With this system in place and operating effectively, customer care representatives are needed only in extreme cases.


Detecting Fraud

Companies, both small and large, lose a lot of money through fraudulent activities. By using machine learning, small businesses can prevent business disasters through fraud. The machine-learning model studies the historical data on transactions and social network information and can spot any anomalies. One solution for Ecommerce Business Owners is Fraugster, a fraud-detection product that claims “you will never pay for a chargeback again.”


System Maintenance

Most equipment nowadays uses built-in sensors based on IoT. The machine-learning program analyzes data on fuel gauges and tires. They can also be used to predict future outcomes based on temperature and humidity.


What Is Deep Learning?

Although both machine learning and deep learning can be classified as AI, deep learning is one of the many techniques used in machine learning. Like the latter, deep learning is used to make predictions of the future outcomes based on the input data provided. However, deep learning is more accurate.


How Does Deep Learning Work?

Deep learning models are usually trained by using a large set of data mainly from images, text or voice. The models also use artificial neural network architectures. From these, the models learn how to perform classification tasks with utmost accuracy that may at times exceed human performance.

The neural network architectures usually contain a large number of hidden layers. ‘Deep’ is used to refer to these layers that can be as many as 150 while traditional neural networks can only have a maximum of 3 layers.

Many deep learning techniques often get rid of the need for manual feature extraction, meaning that the models can extract features directly from 2D images without requiring you to identify the said features. This makes deep learning more accurate than machine learning; hence, it is more suitable for complex computer problems such as computer vision and natural language processing.


How Can Deep Learning Help Small Businesses?

As is the case with machine learning, the use of deep learning in small businesses can help improve productivity. Here’s how.



Cyber Security

While the most severe data breaches often affect large companies, small companies are still at risk of numerous online threats. Despite even the best security systems, ultimately your network is only as secure as your least computer-savvy employee. Fortunately, solutions exist to help business owners to protect themselves from cyber threats. Darktrace, one of the leading AI cybersecurity firms, uses unsupervised learning to determine the normal behavior for each of your employees, allowing them to identify any event that is out of the ordinary. Deep learning can spot any suspicious behavior or dangerous URL. It isolates any threats that may put valuable data at risk. Many other companies are already utilizing AI for cybersecurity, including Fortinet, Sophos, Symantec, and Cynet.



Small business can use machine learning to increase their productivity by using automation. Machine learning programs are used for repetitive tasks such as scheduling, day-to-day organization, and other paperwork. This helps to save on time and increase overall productivity and can enhance your employee experience.

Many small businesses can benefit from AI in their accounting processes by automating tasks like auditing of expense submissions, risk assessment, and analytic calculations. Solutions like Pegg, for the Sage accounting platform, make this simple. Many of the most popular accounting solutions already utilize some form of artificial intelligence: Quickbooks uses machine learning to automate tasks like invoice categorization and mileage tracking.



For any business, marketing is a crucial strategy. Deep learning programs can help small business owners improve their marketing. By predicting the future outcomes of different marketing activities, the algorithms can help managers know what marketing approach to use. Many marketing solutions are already using machine learning in their core tools to deliver more personalized experiences to consumers, such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Additionally, Salesforce and Hubspot, two of the most widely-used CRM’s, both make use of AI in their marketing tools.



Wrapping it Up 

Deep learning is one of the subsets of machine learning. This means that all deep learning is machine learning, but the converse is not true. The significant difference between deep learning and machine learning is that the former computes prediction with more accuracy. Sometimes, results are above human capacity. Both are great AI techniques that small businesses can use to boost their production.


Are you looking for More Artificial Intelligence Powered Tools for Small Businesses? Check out this list from toprankblog.com.

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