As a business owner, you are undoubtedly aware of some of the fascinating things companies like Google and Amazon do with the aid of machine learning. Things that only a few years ago were nearly inconceivable. Things that make them more efficient and, therefore, more profitable.

Google applies ML to services such as its image search and translation tools. These sophisticated algorithms allow computers to see, listen and speak in much the same way as humans do. By aggregating and analyzing purchasing data on products using ML, Amazon can more accurately forecast demand. It also uses ML to analyze purchasing patterns and identify fraudulent purchases.

Machine learning provides a computer system with the ability to learn and automatically improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. So how can ML be applied to your business? Here is what you need to know to take advantage of machine learning, just like the giant tech companies do.

The first thing a small- to medium-sized business owner should know about ML is that you don’t need to have the in-house expertise or capital resources required to spin up your own ML applications. The technology has evolved to the point where many useful ML applications can be purchased ready-made and then adapted to your specific use.

You may already rely heavily on cloud computing, which means you are accustomed to consuming what you need “as a service.” You may already consume software as a service, or network as a service. You can also purchase machine learning as a service.

Another thing you should know about ML is what it can do to help your business compete with larger enterprises. While custom ML development services are available, these services often exceed the price point where it makes sense for SMBs to make such a substantial investment. Like other cloud-based services, MLaaS services are much more affordable than custom development.

Some of the MLaaS applications ready to be adapted to your business needs include the following.
Sales Forecasting – By factoring in all the many variables that affect sales forecasting and then learning over time to become more accurate, ML can provide a precise forecast.
Natural Language Processing – There are many uses for NLP, including automated support, enhancing the customer experience and analyzing customer feedback.
Sentiment Analysis – Interpret and classify your customer’s emotions (positive, negative and neutral) within text data using text analysis techniques.
Fraud Detection – If done correctly, ML can distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent behaviors while adapting over time to new, previously unseen fraud tactics.
Image Classification – Do you need to find, identify and classify items found in images? ML can help to automate that process.

Cloud services have revolutionized business by bringing expensive, highly sophisticated applications within reach of SMBs. Employing ML to increase efficiency and profitability is simply the next step in the revolution.

Contrast Media Labs is a unique design and development studio located in San Francisco, California. CML specializes in AR/VR, 3D media and the production of unique immersive experiences using mobile apps. CML partners with Bay Valley Tech (www.bayvalleytech.com) to foster growth of the Central Valley’s tech economy and talent base.