Resources

How Businesses Are Using AI

Unsupervised
November 10, 2021

AI adoption across businesses is ramping up

Key findings:

  • 50% of businesses said using AI has helped them during the labor shortage.
  • 20% of businesses said their AI implementation has increased their profitability.
  • Natural language processing is the most commonly used AI technology in business, with over 1 in 3 businesses using it. 

If data were a stock, it would be going to the moon. Due to advancements in technology, the rapid availability of valuable data to companies has increased exponentially, and more and more companies are figuring out how to monetize it. So just what are companies doing to utilize their data? In order to do some heavier lifting, companies are implementing artificial intelligence across various systems in their business. We surveyed 520 business owners and explored various AI reports to understand the AI landscape when it comes to business adoption, data strategies, roadblocks, and business outlook. Read on to find out what we’ve discovered about the sentiment and adoption of AI among businesses and to see how companies across various industries are tapping into its potential.

AI Adoption

Artificial Intelligence has been the subject of much speculation, from seemingly far-fetched sci-fi depictions in media to fears of automation affecting the labor market. But it’s here to stay, and it’s making a huge impact on a company’s data literacy. In fact, AI tech has skyrocketed in recent years, with 55% of companies reporting ramping up their AI efforts in the last year, according to the Harvard Business Review. So just how many business leaders are on board with adopting artificial intelligence and how well are they doing so? 


Nearly half of business leaders said they know how to utilize AI but have few people on staff who are capable of using it. “Seasoned adopters” have figured out how to build an AI system for their company as well as identified the best areas of their business to use these technologies with experts to guide them along the way. But these advanced AI adopters only account for 26% of the businesses surveyed.

Whether companies are in early or late stages of adopting AI technology, more companies are in need of employees who can help. The job market for AI skill sets is booming all over the country, especially in places like D.C., Virginia, and Massachusetts. As those markets grow, it signals a growing need for talented employees and experts who understand AI implementation and can help businesses become proficient in adopting new processes like Robotic Process Automation, natural language processing, and other commonly used AI functions. 

AI in Everyday Business

The prevalence of AI in the business world is still, relatively speaking, in its infancy, but many companies are already seasoned veterans at using this technology to benefit their businesses. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are among those trending the most with AI development strategies. So what kind of AI technology is most useful to businesses? The most commonly used AI technology among the business owners we surveyed was natural language processing, a popular and ubiquitous application that can turn human interaction from formats such as email and turn it into valuable data for your company. Consumers have probably experienced this if they’ve ever used a spell-checker or voice assistant function. 


It’s no surprise that businesses are optimizing their targeted marketing strategies with AI as well as their customer service offerings with tools like chatbots, as both of those strategies involve natural language processing. But beyond high-tech strategies to attract and service customers, AI is also helping business owners complete the mundane tasks of everyday work. Over a third of business owners surveyed were using AI for previously time-consuming tasks like inventory management. Time-consuming, and sometimes difficult, tasks like parsing company data were handled by AI for 20% of our respondents.

These everyday practical implementations of AI are not as flashy as technologies like physical robotics in the automotive industry—but they are being heavily utilized by telecom, tech, and financial services companies. Many businesses around the country struggling through the labor shortage have even found ways to use AI to help cover the workload, which may make business leaders more enthusiastic adopters of AI in the years to come.

Areas of Innovation

Every sector of the business world moves at its own pace of development. Some industries are successfully implementing AI developments that enhance products and drive sales, others may be focused on robotics to increase efficiency down the manufacturing assembly line.

Overall, businesses are mostly using AI across their product and service development practices as well as in their service operations strategies, according to data from the AI Index Report from Stanford University. Marketing and sales strategies are also getting a boost from AI technology, providing marketers with enhanced ways to capture leads, identify trends, and analyze customer sentiment.

The areas of business receiving these innovations vary by industry. The automotive industry has been a leading force in driving technology, so it’s not surprising that the industry’s manufacturing standards have been using the best that AI has to offer (see manufacturing robots). Many are even using this technology to program cars to drive themselves. In fact, the automotive industry is seeing steady growth due to key players like Toyota, GM, and Ford entering the AI market. Interestingly enough, the auto industry isn’t even considered a seasoned adopter of AI. That award goes to financial services, who are considered “mature adopters” with some seasoned experience using this technology in the service operations sector of their businesses. 

Roadblocks to Adoption

Figuring out how AI can serve a company can be daunting for a business owner to figure out, especially since it can require expertise across a variety of fields, from data science to business implementation. Even still, it may prove difficult for the average business owner to prove the value of high-end AI software or implementation. Business owners are tasked with identifying areas of potential implementation, figuring out how to set up within their business process, and then having to monitor its execution to ensure the tech’s success. This can be intimidating for anyone, but that’s what the 18% of business owners we surveyed seek to do in the future. 


While 1 in 5 business owners we surveyed said AI has increased their profitability, nearly half of those surveyed said it is too cost-prohibitive. Staffing could be one of the main problems standing in the way of businesses growing with AI, with 40% of business owners answering they were not adequately staffed to use such tech. A whopping 74% of business owners haven’t fully adopted AI, but it seems pretty clear that if companies can hire the talent they need and see the profits AI can help generate, the prevalence of AI in the business world will only increase. 

The Task of Tech

AI technology continues to trend upward as data becomes the new gold rush, so the future of business lies in each company’s ability to embrace their data and use it! While big tech, pharma, and automotive industries heavily invest in AI, the question is whether the rest of the business landscape will keep up? Moreover, how can companies maximize the data available to them when they don’t have the resources of huge, seasoned adopters of AI? The interesting answer is that artificial intelligence makes it easier than ever for businesses to spot patterns and trends in their own data, and what’s more is this technology can help businesses capitalize on these trends and transform cumbersome and complex data into revenue-generating opportunities. . This opportunity may be the biggest driver yet of AI adoption across the increasing number of companies seeking to keep up with the technological evolution of both business and consumers. 

Methodology and Limitations

We used several data sets to examine the use of AI among businesses and capture the current AI and business landscape. Those data sets were as follows: 2021 AI Index Report from Stanford University, International Data Corporation, Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, and CB Insights to explore AI startup funding. We also surveyed 520 business owners about their attitudes toward implementing AI in their business via Prolific. Around 38% of the business owners surveyed reported using AI technology in aspects of their business. 57% of business owners were women, 42% were men, and 1% identified as nonbinary. The ages of respondents ranged from 18 to 62. Owners surveyed were mostly small- to midsize-business owners. Respondents who reported using AI technology were asked to describe the specific uses of technology in their business, and both adopters and non-adopters were asked about what challenges or obstacles they faced implementing or using AI in their business.

Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We did not weight our data or test hypotheses for statistical significance. Parts of the project referencing our survey data were purely exploratory examinations of AI use among business owners. 

Fair Use Statement

Interested in sharing our report on AI’s adoption across the business landscape? Sharing is caring, but when you do so, please share for noncommercial purposes only and link back to this study to give us credit for our work. 

Careers

Ready for your work to have real impact? We’re hiring people that want to build the future of AI.
See open positions

Resources

Learn more about how Unsupervised works and how it helps you achieve your business goals.
Learn more

Contact

Interested in getting in touch with us? Send us a short message.
Get in touch