The AI Touch: Email Is The Task Most Likely To Be Automated By SMBs

Small businesses may not be automating their accounts receivable and customer-service functions. But they are sure doing so with their email marketing, according to Automation in Small Business, a study by Skynova. 

Of the SMB owners polled, 44% have automated their email-marketing campaigns and 27% plan to do so in the future.  

In contrast, only 17% have automated accounts receivable, 14% accounts payable and 12% customer management. Just 7% have automated other marketing, and only 17% plan to. 

While 60% of owners overall plan to automate at least one function of their business in the near future, 38% believe automation is unattainable. 

The respondents say these processes are too complex to automate: 

  • Customer service—41% 
  • HR—33%
  • Product assembly—29%
  • Project management—28%
  • Customer management—28%



Also, 37% have automated their social-media marketing and 23% are planning to. Data analysis has been automated by 31%, and 20% will do that going forward. And social media management has been given the AI treatment by 24%, with 19% planning to.

Email, the most AI-driven function, is also rates more highly when it comes to ethics.

Only 9% say email marketing should be performed by a human, based on ethical concerns and 9% for philosophical or mission-based reasons. Other forms of marketing are even further down this list, at 6% and 8%, respectively. 

But 56% believe ethical issues require customer service be performed by a human. And 46% say the same due philosophical or mission issues. 

In addition, 36% feel customer management should not be automated due to ethical issues, and 29% for philosophical or mission concerns. 

Ethics aside, the top reasons for not automating more business functions are: 

  • Lack of interest—43% 
  • Too expensive—38%
  • Fear of AI making severe mistakes—30%
  • Insufficient time to consider it—19%
  • Automation products aren’t available—18%
  • Difficulty in learning a new system—13%

And the biggest negative impacts of automation? They are seen as:

  • Requires excessive technical support—29%
  • Difficulty of integrating with existing partners—27%
  • Employees or team members resisted change—27%

Presumably, these effects are outweighed by the positive impacts:  

  • Productivity—69%
  • Customer satisfaction—38% 
  • Profits—34%
  • Costs—31%
  • Employee satisfaction—25%

Skynova surveyed 288 U.S. business owners with at least one employee. Of these respondents, 58% were men, 41% were women, and 1% identified as nonbinary or noncomforming. 



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