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How Startups Can Use AI-Powered Tools to Scale Up With limited budget and resources, startups turn to AI to increase productivity.

By Michael Georgiou Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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What comes to your mind when you think of "artificial intelligence?" Many of us would picture robots performing manual tasks, self-driving cars or voice-controlled devices. And you are right, sort of. AI is capable of doing all those things, plus it's capable of revolutionizing the business landscape.

"For many people, artificial intelligence, or AI, is a mere concept, something that will happen in the future. But, in reality, AI has already become a part of mainstream businesses", says Michael Georgio, CMO of Imaginovation, a Raleigh, N.C.-based AI development company.

From startups to large-scale companies, businesses of all shapes and sizes are now investing in AI technologies. But above all, AI is turning out to be a godsend for startups. Many startups are leveraging AI tools to gain a competitive edge and scale up the business.

If you're a startup and wondering how AI can help you boost your business, keep reading. In this article, we'll be discussing how to use AI-powered tools for your startup success.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use AI to Grow Your Business Right Now

1. Use AI to improve customer experience.

According to a report published by American Express, more than 40 percent of consumers want companies to focus on providing quick customer service. And that's obvious too. Customer is a king, and the success of your business will largely depend on how you treat your customers. Companies that provide quick and convenient customer support are poised to have a competitive advantage over others.

AI-powered tools can help you provide efficient customer service. According to an Accenture report, 80 percent of customer support communication will be handled by bots by 2020.

Many startups are using AI-powered applications like chatbots that can quickly respond to common customer queries. Apart from offering a quick response, you can use these customer-facing messenger chatbots to:

  • Identify common customer issues
  • Collect more information about customers, like age and location, for analysis
  • Determine customer preferences
  • Prompt customized offers and discounts
  • Guide them through your blogs and FAQ pages for real-time solutions

Chatbots are trained, and they keep learning based on the data you feed. When a customer engages with a chatbot, it maps the customer query with every potential reply and then responds accordingly.

With a powerful chatbot on the front line, your team can effectively address the issues that really matter to your business growth.

Pro tip: You can even deploy chatbots at specific touchpoints in the sales funnel to upsell and improve conversion rates.

Spotify, a digital music service, uses Facebook chatbots to help customers quickly search, listen and share the music. The bot suggests music based on your mood, what you're doing and what specific genre you want.

Another great example is Pizza Hut. The company uses Facebook Messenger and Twitter to allow customers to order pizza online. You can reorder your favorite pizza, ask for current deals and discounts, or even ask questions to the chatbot.

2. AI-based analysis to make data-driven decisions.

AI in business analytics can play a very crucial role in the overall success of your startup organization.

Advanced computing tools, machine learning, predictive analysis and AI have fueled the growth of new-age business intelligence tools. Companies can now get insights into customer behavior and real-time information about market trends to make data-driven decisions.

Startups shouldn't just rely on a bunch of static reports generated by business intelligence software. You need to get actionable insights that can help you make intelligent decisions.

Related: 3 Ways AI Can Help Businesses Improve Customer Relations

AI empowers modern decision making.

Before the introduction of AI, business leaders and entrepreneurs had to make decisions based on inconsistent and incomplete data. AI can process a massive amount of data and provide actionable insights to aid the decision-making process in your organization. For example, AI-powered tools can give you insights into ever-changing customer needs so that you can better align your products and services accordingly.

Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, uses artificial intelligence for efficient business analysis. The company owns more than 500 soft drink brands and has a customer base spanning over 200 countries. Every day, more than 2 billion Coca-Cola products are sold across the world.

A business operating at this scale generates a massive amount of data. Coca-Cola uses AI and big data technologies to put this data into practice to develop new products. In 2017, Coca-Cola launched a new flavor, Cherry Sprite, based on the data collected by the self-service drink machines that let customer's mix drinks of their choice.

Besides, AI makes big data insights and business analytics understandable to the average user. You don't have to be a data scientist to access the data provided by the AI tool.

AI enables efficient business forecasting.

Forecasting is predicting the future based on past data analysis. Whether you want to project future sales or estimate market trends, AI can help you efficiently make the forecasting. Recent developments in neural networks are taking forecasting capabilities to a whole new level. Business leaders can now get actual answers, making the business prediction thing even more accurate.

GE Power, the American energy techniques company whose power plants generate 33 percent of the world's electricity, is using AI, machine learning, big data and IoT to boost the energy supply chain. GE aims to capitalize on the predictive nature of machine learning to improve the supply chain and business operations.

3. Automate your marketing efforts with AI tools.

AI can transform marketing from the roots. You can use AI-powered tools to improve different aspects of marketing (including content generation), manage digital campaigns and automate email marketing.

Scale-up content generation.

There are numerous AI tools available that can help you discover content ideas plus write and optimize your content to different audiences. Tools like Curata use AI to help marketers save time on these tasks. MarketMuse is another content optimization tool that compares your content with top-ranking content and gives recommendations.

Manage digital ad campaigns.

Startups can use programmatic advertising to reach a broader audience base and improve overall marketing efforts.

You can use AI tools to manage your digital ad campaigns. All you have to do is create the ads. Leave the rest to the machines. Albert AI is one such platform that claims to be a self-learning digital marketing ally. The tool handles all the digital marketing stuff, including media buying, audience segment creation, cross-channel execution, testing, optimization and analysis.

Related: What is AI, and Will It Take Over Your Service-Based Business Job?

Optimize email marketing campaigns.

You can also optimize your email marketing campaigns with AI. Since AI can understand and make predictions based on customer behavior, you can use this feature to get the best subscriber response. Sending personalized emails is a smart marketing move.

According to a Statista report, personalized emails have an open rate of more than 18.1 percent, whereas the non-personalized ones have a 13.1 percent open rate.

AI can be a powerful tool to send personalized emails and promotions that are relevant to customer needs. It not only increases the open rate, but also increases the conversion rate. You can also set tailored subject lines to different segments to make your campaigns more effective.

4. Improve the hiring process.

Talent acquisition plays a vital role in building a strong team. AI can automate and streamline the talent acquisition workflow, especially the mundane and time-consuming tasks.

According to a survey, more than 50 percent of the talent acquisition leaders believe that finding the right candidate from a large pool of applicants is one of the hardest parts of recruitment.

Manually sifting through several applications to find the best suitable candidate can take up a lot of time. Recruiters often need to whittle down a big chunk of irrelevant applications to find the right talent for a specific role. Many times, the best applicants are lost in the crowd. With the help of AI, recruiters can conduct automated screening to filter out the applicants that are not suitable for the role.

Tools like PredictiveHire can help you quickly evaluate a large number of applications and narrow down the list to those that are highly suitable for the job.

Related: 5 Ways AI Has Made a Difference in the HR Industry

Hiring managers can leverage proven performance data to engage with the candidates having soft skills that are essential for success. Recruiters can feed the AI tool with the company's performance data that also includes the traits of high performing employees.

The AI tool will then create a survey to be completed by the applicants. This would help recruiters screen for the desired traits without face-to-face interviews.

5. Enhanced data security.

There has been a significant increase in cyberattacks in the past few years. Not only these online attacks have risen in numbers, but they've also become more sophisticated than ever.

It takes over 196 days for an organization to recover from a security attack. A report published on the Norton website estimates the cost of recovering from a data breach of 3.86 million. Even though the threats are increasing at an alarming level, many startups and businesses still use the same old threat detection methods.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can provide a reliable alternative to traditional data security solutions. AI can spot suspicious behavior of the users on your website. Take, for example, a Google search update that took place in 2016 which blacklisted 20,000 malware-infected websites and 50,000 phishing websites every week.

Developers can use similar AI programs to identify users that have bad intentions. AI-powered tools can process the past data and predict the attack before it takes place.

The takeaway.

Being a startup, deploying innovative AI solutions will help you reach your true potential. If you want to scale up your startup with AI, make sure you:

  • Deploy consumer-facing chatbots for a quick response
  • Use AI-powered business analytics tools to make data-driven decisions
  • Let AI manage your digital marketing campaigns and save your time
  • Leverage AI for efficient screening of applicants
  • Deploy AI-enabled security tools to secure critical business data

At the end of the day, every business wants to increase its revenue and profit margins. Even if there are a few negative claims about AI, in reality, it is revolutionizing businesses around the world.

Michael Georgiou

Co-Founder and CMO of Imaginovation

Michael Georgiou is the the co-founder and CMO of Imaginovation, a full-service digital agency based out of Raleigh, N.C.

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