Building a competitive edge with AI: lessons from successful startups

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In 2020, businesses had to pivot if they wanted to stay afloat. When entire workforces were either laid off, furloughed, or working from home, inevitable changes took place that the best companies scrambled to cater for. If you didn’t adapt, but waited it out instead, you took a short term hit that you never recouped. 2020 saw winners and losers, as for every business that didn’t survive there was one that thrived.

What’s the difference? Using the current state of play to build a competitive edge. Now isn’t quite as extreme as the first quarter of 2020. You could ignore AI completely and still be chugging along. You might not notice your margins slowly shrinking and your customers slinking away to replace your service with AI tools. But soon it’s going to hit you like a brick wall; you need to adapt. We all need to adapt. We need to reimagine. We need to do something differently.

How startups are using AI to build a competitive edge

Customer support with chatbots

If you’re hiring an entire support team to handle queries that a chatbot could handle, you’re wasting resources that could be better used elsewhere. Many startups have adopted AI-driven chatbots on their websites to engage with their audience. These chatbots can handle common customer queries 24/7, freeing up your humans for more complex issues. Not only might this improve response times and overall customer satisfaction, it will save you time and headaches.

Data-driven product development

If you’re not using the data you collect to make recommendations on how you operate, you’re missing a trick. Fortunately, data analysis is one of AI’s superpowers. Use AI tools on your site to assess what customers are doing, plug your stock count into ChatGPT’s code interpreter to find hidden potential, and get a second opinion on what every metric means. You might think you know what your customers want, but AI can trawl through data to really figure it out.

Personalized marketing campaigns

AI algorithms can analyse a user's behaviour on your websites or apps and tailor marketing messages or product recommendations to their exact needs. Use AI tools such as Hotjar to give your customers exactly what they want, exactly when they want it, and create content that will actually resonate. Do they respond better to pictures with individuals or groups? Offers of 50% off or buy one get one free? Keep understanding their responses to get better at predicting them, with your business growing as a byproduct. 

Inventory management

If your inventory management tool doesn’t incorporate AI, look for one that does. You should never be holding too much stock or running low on popular items. You don’t need a junior with a clipboard, you need a sophisticated system that can analyse your spreadsheets. Have it run on autopilot to make you wonder what you ever did without it.

Sales forecasts

You might think each month is different and completely random, but AI knows better. Using AI tools to make sales predictions means they inject past data to find those trends that happen every year, every month or even every Tuesday morning. Enable ChatGPT’s code interpreter and punch your numbers in, or search for a separate tool. They can spot the patterns you can’t, to make more accurate guesses about the future, helping you decide what to produce, when to increase your marketing efforts and how to allocate your budgets.  

Recruitment and hiring

How manual is your hiring? Successful startups are using ChatGPT to write job descriptions based on the key traits they want candidates to have. They are training models to go through submissions and ensure only the most suitable candidates are getting through to interview. Then, they are using AI to create interview questions, scoring in-person, and plugging the data back in to get recommendations. Speed up your hiring process with these few tweaks.

How successful startups are using AI in 2023

Even without detailed AI knowledge, startups are improving their operations with clever use of artificial intelligence. With examples including customer support, product development, marketing campaigns, inventory management, sales forecasts, recruitment and hiring, there’s no excuse not to dabble with the tools and see what you could achieve with them. Build your competitive edge in the market by integrating AI one process at a time.

Further reading:

Mid shot of Jodie Cook freelance journalist.
Jodie Cook - business journalist

Jodie Cook started her first business at 22, straight after completing a business management degree and one-year graduate scheme. As she built her social media agency over a ten year period, she started writing for Forbes on the topic of entrepreneurs. In 2021 Jodie sold the agency for seven figures. Since selling, Jodie has written a book, “Ten Year Career”, created courses for entrepreneurs, and mentored start up business owners on accelerator programs. In 2023 she founded Coachvox AI – a platform for creating AI coaches, where you can train an AI version of you to coach, mentor and answer questions just like you would.

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