Monday, July 22, 2024

More SMEs than not will use AI by 2026

Amid the rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, new figures have revealed 60 per cent of all Australian businesses are already using, or planning to integrate, AI into their operations over the next two years.

The figures were revealed in an independent survey commissioned by business loan comparison platform Small Business Loans Australia. The survey questioned 205 directors and decision-makers across micro (1-10 employees), small (11-50 employees) and medium-sized businesses (51-200 employees) to gauge their rate of AI adoption and which tools they rely on.

The survey revealed 1 in 4 (25%) of Aussie businesses have already embraced the swelling tech trend and adopted AI tools throughout their day-to-day operations.

An eyewatering 90 per cent of medium-sized businesses (51-200 employees) will be using AI by 2026. Specifically, the data shows over a third (37%) have adopted AI, with an additional 53 per cent planning to integrate it into their businesses by 2026.

Mirco businesses (less than 10 employees) are the most likely to resist the evolving digital landscape, with just 18 per cent saying they’re already using AI and an additional 23 per cent planning to use it by 2026.

AI uses

The survey shows AI-powered reporting and chat boxes with email replies are the most embraced AI tools among SMEs. More than a quarter (27%) of all SMEs use or plan to use AI-powered customer or data analysis tools. AI-powered reporting was the second most favoured tool with a quarter (25%) either harnessing it or planning to over the next two years. Chat boxes and customer email replies rank third for all SMEs at 24 per cent.

AI productivity tools are also favoured among SMEs, with 23 per cent using it or preparing to integrate it into day-to-day operations. When it comes to genuine customer engagement – or even copy editing – Aussie businesses are less likely to use AI, with only 15 per cent saying they use or will use AI-powered copy generators and only one in 10 (11%) confessing they use or plan to use a customer relationship manager bot.

When it comes to business sizes, AI tool trends vary, with half (50%) of all medium-sized operations embracing AI productivity tools and 53 per cent of small businesses leaning on AI chat boxes and email replies. Half (49%) of small businesses rely or will rely on AI-powered reporting.

The larger the business, the more likely they are to give creative work to the bots, with 20 per cent of medium-sized businesses admitting to using or planning to use AI copy generators and editors and image generation, and almost a third (27%) cent confessing to using AI for customer relationship management.

Importance of AI

Alon Rajic, Founder and Managing Director of Small Business Loans Australia, says the figures show that AI is being heartily embraced in areas where human error can be costly, and manpower can be time consuming.

“Australian businesses are increasingly seeing the value in utilising AI for those arduous, laborious and menial tasks that don’t require a human touch, creativity or finesse,” he said.

“This is a trend we’re seeing internationally too with a colossal rise of companies using financial reporting AI clocked over the past year.”

Mr Rajic says the rapid rise of AI usage down under was made all the more remarkable given ChatGPT only launched in 2022, but given the economic strain of many businesses and particularly smaller operators it was surprising that more micro businesses weren’t embracing the trend.

“This tells us that customer relationships and a considered, human touch are paramount to Australia’s smallest businesses, but as AI offerings continue to expand and more knowledge about their cost and time saving benefits emerge, we expect this trend to change. With an extraordinary 90 per cent of medium-sized businesses expecting to harness AI by 2026, it stands to reason that smaller SMEs will follow suit.”

The full survey results, including breakdowns across the major states and business sizes, can be found here.

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