published : 2023-09-13

Small Businesses Embrace AI and Automation but Wrestle with Evolving Tech, Visa Research Reveals

Visa study shows that 91% of SMBs are open to considering AI or automation to gain a competitive edge

A small business owner working on a laptop, contemplating the use of AI tools to boost competitiveness. (Photo prompt: taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

Small businesses are increasingly looking to artificial intelligence (AI) tools to enhance their competitiveness and efficiency. However, concerns about keeping up with evolving technology have emerged, according to a recent study by Visa, the prominent credit card company.

Visa unveiled its seventh edition of the Global Back to Business Study, which particularly focused on the sentiments of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The findings indicated that an overwhelming 91% of SMBs are at least somewhat likely to consider implementing AI services, like ChatGPT, or incorporating automation within the next 12 months to elevate their business against competitors.

Despite this positive openness towards AI tools, a significant number of SMBs expressed apprehension about their ability to adapt their businesses to changes in technology and consumer preferences.

An AI-powered chatbot assisting a small business owner in streamlining operations and improving efficiency. (Photo prompt: taken with Nikon D850)

An astonishing 67% of the surveyed SMBs shared a lack of confidence in their capacity to stay up to date with evolving tech trends and shifting consumer tastes. In contrast, only 33% expressed complete confidence in their ability to do so.

Furthermore, the study acknowledged that new and emerging tech, such as AI, poses additional risks to SMBs. Due to limited resources, smaller businesses may struggle to leverage these tools effectively, particularly in terms of security enhancement. Scammers, on the other hand, exploit AI for malicious purposes like deepfakes, voice cloning, and other forms of fraud.

Visa's research also revealed that two-thirds of SMBs are worried not only about keeping pace with evolving tech and consumer preferences but also about recovering from fraud incidents or cyberattacks. Paul Fabara, Visa's chief risk officer, highlighted the increasing sophistication of fraud techniques, often employing generative AI, which necessitates robust payment security measures such as advanced phishing and online scam prevention.

A group of diverse small business owners brainstorming ideas for adapting to evolving technology and consumer preferences. (Photo prompt: taken with Sony A7 III)

To combat these challenges, Visa has invested over $10 billion in technology and infrastructure over the past five years. This substantial investment includes significant efforts in fraud prevention and cybersecurity, making use of AI capabilities. In fact, Visa's AI-powered systems prevented a staggering $27 billion in fraud last year alone.

The impact of cyberattacks and fraud incidents on small businesses cannot be underestimated, which is why Visa remains dedicated to reducing risk for these merchants. By doing so, not only do the businesses themselves benefit, but also the entire ecosystem at large.

Visa's study sheds light on the growing interest of small businesses in adopting AI and automation to stay competitive. However, concerns about keeping pace with evolving technology and the threat of fraud indicate the need for support and resources to facilitate this transition seamlessly. With the right tools and assistance, SMBs have a powerful opportunity to harness the benefits of AI, fortify their security measures, and thrive in a rapidly advancing digital landscape.