Three Ways AI and Machine Learning Can Improve Your Bottom Line
Why artificial intelligence is a friend to franchising.
By Gustavo “Gus” Guimarães, Qubo Technologies and Systems, LLC
Emerging technologies around artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and cognitive computing have the capacity to help your business tremendously, not harm it. There are so many stories about how AI could one day bring chaos upon humanity after an “awakening.” While that has spawned some great movies, the fear of self-aware robots taking over the planet is — at best — science fiction. A much more accurate view of artificial intelligence and machine learning can be found in the docile and helpful products that we already use today. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and other personal assistants are shaping the perception that AI is a tool for positive change, and not a threat to society.
Even if you aren’t fully aware of it, AI is already a big part of your daily life. In addition to the more well-known uses of AI in smartphones and chatbots offering product recommendations from the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Pinterest, machine learning is expanding into areas such as mobile banking, fraud prevention, navigation, self-driving cars, video games and smart home devices.
AI is leading to advancements across several fields, including digital marketing, data science, research, government and the legal and teaching professions. It is also impacting call centers, logistics and information hubs.
AI has the power to create better, higher-paying jobs. Viewing automation as a negative to employment growth overlooks its potential to create innovation that spurs new job growth. The situation is similar to the Internet, which at first was viewed as a threat to workers. Instead, the Internet has spawned millions of new jobs and reinvigorated the technology industry. This phenomenon also occurred with the early release of smartphones — why would anyone want to carry around a device that tracks your data for big brother? Fast forward to now, and the smartphone has become an indispensable tool for both business and personal health. AI has the similar capacity to transform the landscape of job creation.
If you haven’t already, why should you take advantage of AI for your franchise business? First, remember that AI won’t hurt you or work against you. It is a business tool that can transform seemingly unrelated data points into meaningful insights that improve operations, drive profitability and steer growth. The only thing you should be afraid of regarding AI is what your competitors are doing with it. How can it help your franchise? With streamlined data management, deep-level business insights and more effective marketing and customer support functions, you'll have higher profits and operational efficiencies.
1. Data Management
With AI, you can gain a competitive advantage by turning the complex processes of collecting, sorting and analyzing data into a simplified dashboard that compares apples-to-apples information. This allows you to ask the questions instead of chase after answers. Pull data from across your network of locations and help your franchise owners manage analytics, cloud, infrastructure and data governance with AI.
Knowing where your revenue streams are growing and where they could shrink is valuable information. Through machine learning, you can view revenue projections, profit and loss statements and various “what if” scenarios to make better decisions about where to spend and invest. You can even look ahead to identify any potential weak spots or roadblocks in the way, both expected and unexpected. Having this information in front of you will lead to higher ROI, cost savings, revenues and lower expenditures, among other top and bottom-line improvements in your budget. Franchise owners can also access this data and manage their operations to create a more transparent and effective communications structure across the network.
2. Business Insights
If you don’t already have a top-notch CFO and business operations manager — and even if you do — artificial intelligence can help track financial metrics and business KPIs to free up time for your financial and accounting staff to perform high-level cognitive tasks. The same is true for the rest of your management team and franchise owners throughout your network. Give your hardworking people the ability to focus on the most important things, instead of getting bogged down in day-to-day busywork.
3. Marketing and Customer Support
AI and digital marketing are a natural match. Manual analysis of marketing efforts is time-consuming, and AI can turn tasks that would normally take hours or days into minutes. Using artificial intelligence, you can track better data and understand data in ways you never thought possible. AI is already being used by several companies in digital marketing campaigns, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and other applications, including personalization and custom content.
AI can also give you insights on the future. For example, using AI, a large franchisor with several locations in Houston could see the impact of a 20 percent increase in digital marketing spend at all its locations across the Houston metro area over the coming year, before making any spending decisions. Or, the franchisor could view profit and revenue projections for the next six months and help decide whether to spend more in Houston on improving conversion rates, digital marketing or both. This is one example, but the applications are limitless when you can see the path ahead.
Bring the future to your franchise. Embrace artificial intelligence as an indispensable business tool. Give your franchise owners the tools they need to outperform, and you will experience higher revenue, wider profit margins and a more seamless communications and support operation throughout your network.
Gustavo “Gus” Guimarães is Global CEO of Qubo Technologies, which formally launched the AI-powered Qbot data assistant for franchising at IFA’s MITcon in October. Find out more on Qubo here.