AI and SMBs: An Analysis of Their Adoption and Impact

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has proven its potential to drive growth and success. We have witnessed how its adoption aids businesses in their processes and allows for greater productivity and efficiency among employees. And this potential can be leveraged by companies of any size.

To understand the use, impact, and adoption of AI in SMBs, we conducted our annual survey of SMBs “AI in SMBs: trends, challenges, and opportunities,” where business decision-makers from micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico were surveyed. These businesses operate in various industries such as retail, food and beverages, construction, and technology and telecommunications.

Here are some of the most important findings.

How do SMBs invest in AI?

For the surveyed companies, investment in AI is among their top four priorities, as in 2023, 33% of them have invested in this technology (in Brazil, 47% of companies have done so, followed by 37% in Canada and 29% in Argentina and Colombia) and 71% will continue with their investment or will start investing in AI in the next period. Meanwhile, 35% of the surveyed companies have allocated a portion of their investment to AI and plan to increase it in the coming months.

In terms of the technology budget allocated to AI, Mexico leads with 30%, followed by Brazil and Colombia with 29%, and then Argentina and Puerto Rico with 26%.

Regarding the type of investment made, 54% of the companies focus on improving customer service satisfaction (led by Brazil with 61%), followed by business efficiency with 51% (led by Canada with 63%), and avoiding falling behind the competition with 44% (where Costa Rica stands out with 64%). In this section, companies in Canada stand out for their notable investment in AI to boost efficiency or creativity, with 63%.

How do SMBs use AI?

According to our survey, we have seen that companies have a positive attitude towards AI, with optimistic expectations about its impact on business. Thanks to this approach, we see that 78% of SMBs in the surveyed countries are currently looking to adopt AI (in Brazil with a percentage of 90% of companies), and 73% of these invite their employees to use it.

Overall, 45% of the companies have made significant progress in adopting AI, and this is reflected in how they use it. A total of 57% of SMBs primarily use it in the form of virtual customer service assistants, followed by its use to save time at work (47%) and in generating images and content (36%). A point to highlight is how the main use, virtual customer service assistants, is related to the type of investment made, which in the first place is to improve customer service satisfaction.

What benefits do SMBs receive from using AI?

The benefits identified in the adoption of AI focus on improving efficiency and customer service. 68% of SMBs in the region comment that it has improved efficiency (Brazil leads with 72% of SMBs mentioning this benefit, followed by 72% in Costa Rica and 69% in Canada). Regarding customer service, 52% of SMBs mention it as a benefit, with Colombia leading in this category with 62%.

Most SMBs consider the impact of AI on productivity to be positive. Our survey found that 84% of respondents agree that the impact of AI on productivity is positive; moreover, this technology has provided an average increase of 40% in the productivity of the surveyed SMBs, demonstrating that its use has been beneficial for them.

SMB employees are increasingly using AI in their work, and in general, we notice that they have adopted similar frequency strategies, hiring employees with AI experience and training their existing employees, with the goal of ensuring the presence of these skills in their staff.

It is important to highlight that 57% of the surveyed SMBs consider the AI talent of their workforce to be quite strong, an aspect that may be related to the fact that more than half of the participating SMBs have already carried out some type of AI training for their employees.

The Potential of AI for SMBs

As can be seen in our survey, AI has proven to be a valuable tool for SMBs, allowing them to increase productivity, improve customer service, and enhance the skills of their employees. As its adoption expands, we will be able to see even more benefits and different ways of using it that will help them grow and succeed.

“Artificial Intelligence has proven to help companies of all sizes and industries achieve more. At Microsoft, we maintain our commitment to democratizing its use so that more SMBs have access to it, use it, and take advantage of its benefits to be more productive, offer better services and products, and grow, supported by technology, in the increasingly competitive world of business,” said José Gómez Cueto, General Manager of Small and Medium-sized Businesses at Microsoft for the Americas.

Microsoft, through its AI solutions, is well-positioned to help SMBs take advantage of this technology, which has the potential to drive their growth today and in the future. If you want to know more, read this text by Roberto Icasuriaga, director of SMBs and native-digital companies for Microsoft Latin America and the Caribbean, which analyzes the survey findings and how AI benefits SMBs.


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