At this point, every business expert has recommended AI, but that doesn’t narrow down how your company should use it this year. 

Every business is different, and as a small business owner, the challenges and roadblocks you face are different from those of large- and medium-sized firms. You can’t copy their strategies, for instance, because you likely don’t have the same resources they do. Instead, you need real, proven ways you can use AI to make your small business more productive and efficient. 

That’s why we’ve surveyed over 500 small business owners and asked how they use AI. We’ve compiled the findings into this report and summarized some key takeaways below. You can download the report via the form below.

Read on to learn how SMBs use AI, according to real business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Small Business AI Report

Trends, Challenges & Opportunities

 

What AI tools are small businesses using? 

There are so many free AI tools that it’s hard just to say, “Use AI.” That’s why we had small business owners tell us exactly which tools they’re using, so you know which ones to try for yourself.

The key takeaways are: 

  • Most small business owners use generative AI, such as ChatGPT or Google Gemini. Generative AI answers questions, recalls information, and provides solutions based on the user’s prompt. 
  • Small business owners also use image generators like DALL·E and Midjourney. These tools produce AI-generated images based on a user’s prompt. 

Now that you know which tools to try, let’s talk about how small business owners use them to improve their companies.

How are Small Business Owners Using AI? 

Here’s how small business owners are using AI, according to Thryv’s AI and Small Businesses Topline Report.

1. They’re saving money.

Our research found that 57% of AI users save between $500 and $2,000 a month as a result of using AI. That savings is added to the company’s profit, inventory, or upcoming marketing campaigns.   

So, why is that happening? Basically, AI lets business owners do more with less. Chatbots are a great example. They answer first-line customer questions for you, so you don’t have to respond to each one, unless something needs to be escalated to you. It’s like having a virtual assistant for your business, and many social media platforms provide them for free. 

Example: Rossano Ferretti 

Here’s an example of an AI chatbot that a luxury haircare brand uses. The purpose of the bot was to encourage customers to take a personalized haircare quiz. The bot would then recommend products based on those results.  

The creators of the bot reported that it tripled conversion rates for users who completed the quiz. Not only was it helping customers navigate the site, but it was also creating a personalized shopping experience that led to more sales.

ai tools for small business example

2. They’re offloading repetitive or tedious tasks.

Most small business owners use AI to offload tedious back-office tasks that distract them from core operations. In fact, 69% of SMB owners leverage AI to automate back-office and customer management processes. Additionally, 73% of respondents agreed that AI would effectively “offload repetitive tasks,” like scheduling appointments and sending out surveys for their business. 

ai tools for small business - data

AI is great at automating routine tasks, so it’s no surprise that small business owners are taking advantage of that benefit. With all the work you already have to keep your customers happy, backend tasks like cleaning up your contact list or CRM can quickly pile up on you. 

Example: Jarvis Electric 

Jarvis Electric is a home and commercial electrical services company located in Illinois. They started using tools like automatic scheduling reminders to improve customer relations at their business. This technology saved employees time from writing emails and making phone calls. It reduced the number of tasks employees had to complete and fostered a stronger relationship with customers because they had a more reliable communication process.  

Watch how this company used AI and other technology to organize and grow its business. 

3. They’re increasing production with fewer resources.

97% of business owners who use AI believe it makes their business more efficient, and 91% believe it gives them the advantage of operating like a larger business.  

Here’s where AI can really help small business owners. You may be a team of one, so you might not have time to do everything you want with your business. AI can increase your production so you can do more with fewer resources. Sure, it won’t actually add more hours to your day, but it will improve your efficiency – use it helps complete more tasks in the same amount of time by automating them.  

ai small business data

Example: ING Wholesale Banking 

Canobie Lake Veterinarian Hospital uses advanced scheduling software to book appointments with their doctors. Website visitors simply click on the calendar button then provide basic information like the type of pet they own and if they are a new visitor or returning client. From there, the AI system identifies the best doctor to meet with the customer and the next available opening for scheduling.  

This feature reduces the number of phone calls the clinic receives each day. Rather than having to answer and schedule each appointment, one by one, the AI provides a self-service option that lets the customer do this work for the business. Not only is this faster, but it’s a better experience for both the customer and the clinic.

ai tools example

4. They’re improving content marketing.

Content creation is one of the most common use cases for AI tools like ChatGPT. In fact, 94% of AI users say this technology has improved their company’s content marketing campaigns. 

It’s no surprise that small business owners are using AI to produce content. Tools like ChatGPT can create website copy in minutes and you can use it to write compelling social media posts, too. If you pair ChatGPT with an image generator like DALL-E, you have everything you need to craft powerful content campaigns at the push of a button.  

Pro Tip: Be sure to edit your content to sound like it came from a human being. Search engines like Google will penalize you if you try to pass off AI-generated content as human. And, while it may seem obvious, don’t try to pass off AI-generated content as your own, please. 

Example: Ed’s Fitness Den 

Alright, Ed’s Fitness Den isn’t real. But we really like the ideas in this video from our content expert, Ed Balusek. Try out a few if you haven’t already with your (real) business.  

5. They’re managing relationships with customers.

While some business owners were concerned about how customers would view AI, others found this technology improved customer experience. 91% of small business owners said it enhanced their relationships with customers, and 88% use AI to respond to customer reviews.

As a small business owner, reviews can make or break your business. It’s important to update your local listings and respond to both positive and negative customer reviews.  

But that’s easier said than done when you’re juggling back-office tasks, employee communications, and the actual work you do for  customers. AI comes to the rescue by providing an automated way to streamline communication and improve the business experience for both you and your customers.  

Example: Ely Heating & Cooling 

Ely Heating & Cooling is a commercial and residential HVAC company located in Pennsylvania. They use payment software that can schedule meetings with customers and create invoices immediately for different projects. These aren’t the flashy AI tools you read about on the news, but they are effective in improving your company’s infrastructure and creating a better customer experience. 

6. Some are still figuring out how they want to use AI.

There are plenty of small businesses that are dubious of AI. Over half — 54% — say they simply do not use it. 

If you’re scratching your head, you should be. This is a big opportunity to get ahead as a small business owner. We’ve just read about AI’s benefits, and these insights are gathered from real people who are seeing lucrative results from this technology. Why not explore AI now before your competitors beat you to the market? It’s the perfect time to get ahead and set the trend for your industry. 

Example: Thryv Customers

Our report also surveyed business owners who don’t use AI but plan to this year. The chart below shows how they plan to use this technology to enhance their operations.  

ai tools for business

Using AI at Your Small Business 

There’s a lot going on with AI right now, and as a business owner, you have every right to be skeptical about the impact. But that’s why we put together our AI report: to give you the information you need to download the right tools for your business. Take a closer look at the data, and use the tips in this post to get a jumpstart on AI at your company. 

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