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The Promise of AI-Driven Sentiment Analysis for SMBs

This product enhancement launch from Vendasta got me thinking about how local and small business can leverage the same machine learning and AI tools that large companies are using.

Vendasta is suggesting that local and franchise operators can use AI to extract valuable information from the review streams that are being posted by modern consumers each and every day.

Some 30 million reviews were posted on Yelp alone, in 2018. If one assumes Yelp accounts for a third of all posted reviews, then upwards of 100 million reviews were posted in 2018. If data is the new oil, then those 100 million reviews are, in the immortal words of Jed Clampett, “black gold.”

It’s good to see this capability being pushed downstream to local and franchise businesses. So the question is, why should they leverage this capability and how can it improve their business operations?

Today, the expectations of the modern consumer continue to rise, largely because they’re experiencing life through apps on their phones. And apps are getting smarter and smarter about how to deliver compelling customer experiences.

As large companies place greater and greater focus on delivering a compelling experience, local and small businesses need to do the same to remain competitive.

Enter sentiment analysis of the reviews stream.

So here’s what I wonder. Can a local business really extract valuable insights from sentiment analysis of a few hundred reviews? My hunch is this probably isn’t enough data to extract powerful insights about a specific business. But this shouldn’t stop local and small businesses from being able to extract insights.

Rather than having an individual owner try and leverage machine learning for their own business, perhaps companies that focus on reviews management can use the power of scale and extract category-level insights. What could they learn if they ran sentiment analysis across all of their HVAC operators or carpet cleaners?

This would probably yield reliable insights that could be turned into action by local operators. I imagine this is already being done in large categories such as hotels where aggregators can utilize machine learning for insight that help raise all boats.

This is not to suggest that local and multi-location businesses cannot make use of machine learning and AI. It just seems that with larger volumes of data, even better and more useable insights can be extracted.

It is certainly high time local and small businesses share in the learning benefits that large companies are using to upgrade their customer experiences on a minute-by-minute or even a second-by-second basis.

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