Salesforce report: Fifty-six percent of SMBs say they’re not ready for AI

Salesforce released its Small & Medium Business Trends Report and revealed some of the challenges that companies face as they look to embrace AI solutions.

By collecting responses from nearly 500 SMBs, the report looks at the differences between growing businesses and their stagnant/declining counterparts. It also provides comparisons between small businesses with two to 49 employees and medium-sized businesses with 50 to 199 employees.

According to the report, SMBs are depending on technology to fuel growth, but they are finding it difficult to purchase, implement, or scale it. The data suggests that leaders of these businesses don’t have the time or expertise to address long-term needs.

“Even though technology is an important driver of growth, many SMBs aren’t in a position to devote large budgets to it.”

“They report many challenges in finding, winning, and keeping customers, especially as their businesses grow. While tracking customer information is essential, many still rely on email or spreadsheets. When we look at SMBs in the category of ‘growing businesses,'” said Marie Rosecrans, SVP of SMB Marketing. “There are more than a few common characteristics; they’re more likely to prioritize CRM in their budgets, to use helpdesk software, and to focus on providing consistent and personalized customer experiences.”

The report, which includes case studies of Canadian small businesses that reported growth as a result of automation through AI, reveals that 56 percent of SMBs are not ready for AI technology. Forty percent of these businesses find AI to be too complex for their needs, and 37 percent don’t know enough about how AI can help their business.

“AI may seem daunting, but in reality, it can help with a wide range of administrative tasks that are a drain on resources by removing the need for sticky notes and excel sheets, automating processes and providing customer insights like purchase histories, product preferences and interactions on email and social media,” the report said.

She continued, “We also discovered that while many SMBs are automating processes, on the whole they are spending too much time inputting data manually. Growing businesses are more likely to be using or investigating AI, and connecting the apps that power their businesses.”

When it comes to where Canada stands on technology, 96 percent of SMBs consider ‘ease of use’ as an important factor when evaluating new technology. The report lists specific challenges Canadian SMBs face today, including insufficient time, finding the right technology, and scaling technology for growth.

“Even though technology is an important driver of growth, many SMBs aren’t in a position to devote large budgets to it. In fact, only 22 percent spend more than one quarter of their annual budgets on tech,” the report said. “Medium-sized businesses dig deeper, with 39 percent spending more than one quarter of their annual budgets on technology.”

The full report is available here.

Aeman Ansari

Aeman Ansari

Aeman Ansari is a freelance writer who has been published in many Toronto-based publications, including Hazlitt and Torontoist. When she’s not re-watching Hitchcock movies, she’s working on her collection of short fiction inspired by stories from her grandmother, one of the few women in India to receive post-secondary education in English literature at the time.