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The very fair question levelled by businesses towards discussion of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is often as simple as: ‘what’s in it for me?’

You can learn more about what AI and machine learning are in our dummies guide, but eventually, as with most things, the question turns to not what something is, but what it can do, where it can take you and if there is a clear path to ROI on any investment required.

If the above post is the dummies guide to what the two concepts are then this is the dummies guide to where they can take you.

If you’re a wholesale or distribution business: how exactly will machine learning and AI shape what you do, impact your bottom line and improve overall business performance?

More data

What this means for you: increased business insight into what’s happening in your company.

Put simply; as the machine learns, it gathers more data. Machine learning and AI are founded on the principle of acquiring more data points on more items. Your business probably already has a lot of data and the main problem may be getting to that data, but with solutions that use AI and machine learning you’re about to have even more of it. Used correctly, you can end up with all of the data you could ever need to understand exactly what’s happening in your business.

Action on data

What this means for you: react more quickly (automatically even) to the increased data you collect.

So more data is good, but more action on that data is even better. As we said, modern businesses don’t tend to struggle too much to get data, but they can struggle to get the right data and act appropriately on that data. AI can spot important data points, suggest actions you might want to take and even take those actions for you. Let’s say you’re about to run out of stock on your best selling item. AI, used appropriately, could spot this and place the order with the producer for an appropriate restock, meaning you never lose the opportunity to supply your own clients.

Removing manual process

What this means for you: redeploy personnel to value-add activities, rather than menial manual tasks.

As we highlighted above, AI can pick up manual tasks, like restocking items, and handle them automatically. To appreciate the potential in this usage, consider anything in your business which needs data to be inputted by someone, despite the fact that that very data exists somewhere already. In all likelihood any process that matches that description has the potential to be automated by AI, giving you the chance to redeploy manpower to activities that add value to your business.

A next level of personalisation

What this means for you: increased sales.

Machine learning will collect data on the behaviour of your customers when they interact with your online store. You’ll be able to see common searches, items they always order and items they always pair with another item. This gives you the ability to increase the amount of personalisation present in your store and your marketing. Common items the customer orders can be present on the homepage of your store, with easy ‘add to basket’ links. Your marketing can focus on complementary products to those which you customers regularly order. Again, in theory, all of this can be automated based on the machine learning that has taken place into customer behaviour. The end result: more revenue.

Automatic optimisation of marketing and sales

What this means for you: increased marketing ROI, increased sales.

In the above example we’re selling to individuals, but machine learning and AI can also help you to sell more broadly. If you have slow-moving stock, for example, then an AI could alert you that it might be time to run a promotion, or suggest a price point that would see more sales generated. Simple applications, such as looking for abandoned digital baskets and providing checkout incentives are also possible. Again, the net result is that more marketing activity happens automatically, without the overheads. The result can be increased marketing ROI, as well as the ultimate benefit from machine learning and AI: increased business revenue.

If you'd like to find out more about Machine Learning and AI and how it can help your B2B business get in touch with the team here.