Artificial Intelligence
Small Business

Small Businesses Want AI in Challenging Economy, Survey Finds

Small businesses have a constant need to increase connectivity to meet business demands and are exploring the applications of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, as their technology dependence grows, looming concerns regarding cybersecurity persist. These and other findings are the result of Verizon Business’s fourth annual State of Small Business Survey, conducted by Morning Consult. The survey data was comprised of the responses from 681 small and midsize businesses across the country. 

“The fact that nearly half of small and midsize businesses are either using or are aware of the AI-specific use cases that can drive their companies forward highlights what we hear from our customers every day regarding their desire to stay ahead of the pace of change to drive their business forward,” said Aparna Khurjekar, chief revenue officer, business markets and SaaS, at Verizon Business.  

Key findings:

  • Using AI to address labor challenges and more. More than a third of small and midsize businesses (35%) believe AI can help offset pain points caused by labor shortages. Additionally, to enable small business owners to spend more time on their core business and with customers, 46% would find value or are using AI to drive order processing, and the same amount also see AI being utilized in inventory management and supply chain operations. 
  • Concerns about AI. Though more and more small and midsize businesses are exploring AI solutions, many are still leery of its implementation. Nearly half (45%) are concerned about integrating AI solutions, and 43% are worried AI tools will expose them to cybersecurity risks. 
  • Upgrading internet bandwidth. In 2020, more than a quarter (27%) of small and midsize companies upgraded their internet connection bandwidth. The economic shutdown drove much of that, as businesses had no choice but to operate digitally in order to reach customers. But even after the economy reopened, businesses continue to upgrade their bandwidth: 52% in 2021, 51% in 2022 and 53% in 2023. This continued desire for increased bandwidth highlights the growing digital dependency for businesses of all sizes. 
  • Cybersecurity lags behind digitalization. A good portion of small and midsize businesses are failing to invest in cybersecurity proportionately to their investment in internet bandwidth and other technology upgrades. Only one in three have implemented new systems of technology to ensure security, and almost half (45%) do not offer their employees any training on cybersecurity practices. 
  • Inflation remains a top concern. Eighty-one percent of respondents are concerned about the impact inflation will have on their business. Four out of five business owners have experienced increased costs in the last year. Additionally, 59% have either raised or planned to raise the prices of goods and services and a similar number (57%) have either reduced or plan to reduce their spending on non-essential items and activities. In spite of these concerns, most business owners (63%) are expecting an increase in demand this holiday season.

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