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New Study Finds Small Business Leaders Eager to Add Artificial Intelligence Tools to Their Digital Tool-Kits

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2024) – A new study from the Connected Commerce Council (3C) found that small and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders are rapidly adopting artificial intelligence (AI) tools to ensure their businesses’ productivity and growth. The study also found that SMB leaders regard privacy, trust, and safety as top priorities when it comes to AI tools.

3C commissioned the RXN Group to survey 2,000 SMB leaders across the U.S. The survey found impressive AI adoption rates among SMBs. Almost half (48%) of SMBs already use AI tools, with AI usage higher among minorities (58%) and veterans (64%). AI tools include virtual assistant technologies like Siri and Alexa, generative AI tools like ChatGPT, and digital writing assistant Grammarly.

Significantly, the study found that SMB leaders who use AI tools find them highly beneficial. Eighty-two percent of SMB leaders using AI tools say the tools have positively impacted their business, with 81% saying AI will be critical to their business’s success over the next two years. Sixty-three percent of all SMB leaders say AI helps level the playing field for small businesses competing against larger companies.

The study also showed that in recent years, a significant majority of SMB leaders adopted free and low-cost digital tools to help save time and money, increase employee productivity, and market and sell goods and services, and many regard adopting AI-based tools as the next step in ensuring their businesses’ ongoing resilience and competitiveness.

“Small businesses are already embracing AI as a key element of their business strategies,” said Rob Retzlaff, 3C’s Executive Director. “SMB leaders recognize the immense potential of AI tools to create value and are eager to leverage them to help grow and protect their businesses.”

Although SMBs see significant opportunities to succeed using AI tools, the vast majority agree that AI tools in the workplace must be safe, secure, and trustworthy. Seventy-two percent of all SMB leaders say privacy, trust, and safety are top priorities when it comes to AI tools, with 84% of those already using AI tools in their business agreeing.

“New technology means new opportunities–but small business leaders are saying they want to be responsible with those new opportunities,” said Dr. Mark Drapeau of the RXN Group. “Small business leaders understand that privacy and security are paramount when dealing with customers, and that it’s important to balance the clear benefits of AI tools with sensible policies that ensure AI is being used responsibly.”

SMBs also reported concerns about the threat of bad actors hacking into their systems. Sixty-three percent of SMB leaders fear being targeted by a cyber attack; for those already using AI tools, that figure rises to 78%. Only 38% of all SMB leaders say their business has a cybersecurity plan in place–but 85% say having a cybersecurity plan would make them more comfortable using digital tools during the next two years.

MethodologyThe RXN Group conducted an online survey of 2,000 SMB leaders (owners and senior decision-makers) across the U.S. from November 27 – December 4, 2023. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.2%; the margins of error are larger for subgroups. The final data were weighted to known variables, including Census data. The full results of our survey can be found here.

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