How Crowdsourcing Works

BY GREAT2BNATE | 5 min read

by Chris Medenwald, PhD

Many companies today are achieving remarkable results through the phenomenon known as crowdsourcing. This informative article illustrates crowdsourcing and its benefits in 5 fascinating facts. We also provide an inside look at how Field Agent, the leader in mobile audits and research, utilizes crowdsourcing to offer fast, affordable, far-reaching business solutions.

From Uber to Kickstarter, these days the Internet is buzzing with talk of crowdsourcing. But what is crowdsourcing exactly, and how does it benefit companies and their customers?

The term crowdsourcing splices together two words: crowd and outsourcing. In this way crowdsourcing occurs when an organization outsources a work project or creative problem to a large group of people. In its purest form, then, crowdsourcing is a process of co-creation between an organization that provides direction, structure, and incentive, and “the crowd” which devotes its time, effort, and abilities to completing a task.

Crowdsourcing projects might assume various forms, but one common application of crowdsourcing is to achieve large, labor-intensive work projects more quickly, easily, and economically.

Through crowdsourcing, large work projects can be broken down into smaller chunks called microtasks and then divvied out to tens, hundreds, or thousands of people for fast, efficient completion. In this sense, crowdsourcing is based on the principle that many hands make light work.

Only crowdsourcing isn’t just about working lighter…it’s also about working smarter.

In this article we offer 5 fascinating facts that illustrate some of the benefits of crowdsourcing. We also explain how we at Field Agent, the leader in mobile auditsand market research, harness crowdsourcing to offer fast, affordable audit and research solutions.

So, join the crowd…and get caught up to speed on this phenomenon we call crowdsourcing.

1. The Crowd gets to the truth…fast and accurately

On the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the audience’s accuracy rate outperformed that of the experts, 91% to 61%.

There you are, with one question standing between you and a cool $1 million. If you could have only one “lifeline,” either ask an expert or ask the audience, which would you choose? According to James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, you’d probably be better off relying on the collective intelligence of the audience. While no one member of the audience would be preferable to a subject matter expert, the combined wisdom of the audience (91% accuracy rate) is often more reliable than a single, perhaps even well-informed “expert” (61%).  

Companies often approach Field Agent with their own million-dollar questions.

For example: Are stores carrying our products in sufficient amounts? Are the promotional displays we invested in properly positioned and executed in stores? What do consumers think about this new product concept? And so on. 

We then dispatch these critical questions to “the crowd,” our army of over half a million agents who collectively furnish companies with answers to their most pressing business questions.

Field Agent might, for instance, dispatch 100 agents to audit displays and signage in 100 stores across the country, only to discover that a vendor’s displays are improperly positioned in 50% of locations. Or, we might ask 500 consumers to share their attitudes about a new product concept. The crowd—that is, our panel of agents—speaks with authority, because, as with a game show audience, the collective opinion of many people counts a great deal.

The crowd often gets it right.

2. The Crowd does really good work

For 9 straight years Doritos commercials have ranked in the top 5 of USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings for best Super Bowl commercial, ever since the chip-maker began crowdsourcing commercials with its Crash the Super Bowl advertising contest.

From designing hot-selling t-shirts to making scientific discoveries, the crowd deserves credit for its good work. At Field Agent we are regularly and consistently pleased with the timely, accurate contributions of our agents.

In keeping with the principle described earlier, that crowdsourcing is a process of co-creation between an organization and a crowd, Field Agent also employs a series of quality control checkpoints to ensure our clients receive only the most dependable, trustworthy information and insights. In this way, we break the rules.

Field Agent puts human eyes on every piece of data that comes through our system. Also, the smartphone itself, which we use to gather data, has inbuilt quality controls. GPS positioning and time-date stamping allow us to know exactly when and where photos were taken and survey responses were submitted.

For over five years Field Agent and our “crowd” have co-created quality work that brands, retailers, and agencies have come to rely on.

3. The Crowd produces fast results

Since its launch in 2008, Starbucks has collected more than 216,000 ideas on its website, an online platform whereby customers share ideas on everything from beverages to ambiance, payment to social responsibility.

When you crowdsource work projects, even gargantuan tasks, to large groups of people, it’s often startling how quickly the work gets done. To illustrate, Field Agent recently surveyed 1,000 agents across 18 different consumer segments about their attitudes toward companies that take public stances on controversial social-political topics.

We captured 95% of results within 2 hours!

Other times companies ask our agents to conduct display audits, price checks, or other location-specific tasks in all stores belonging to a particular retail chain, from coast-to-coast. We often have full results within a matter of days. In fact, where traditional audit and research methods talk in terms of weeks and months, we generally talk in terms of days and hours. Crowdsourcing makes this possible.

4. The Crowd is big…and it’s everywhere

In June 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported there were over 9 million registered app developers and 1.2 million iOS applications on his company’s App Store.

When you’re doing meaningful work, it’s amazing how quickly a crowd forms. In just five years, Field Agent’s army of store-auditing, survey-taking agents has grown from just 1 to a whopping 565,000.

The implications of this are quite significant. With over half a million agents across the country, we have agents staking out locations practically everywhere in the United States.

Wherever our clients need us…we’re already there.

This allows us to provide what we call “location-specific” information and insights. So if a company needs to survey, say, hundreds of consumers in five different U.S. regions, as we did with our lawn and garden survey, we can do it quickly and easily. Or, if a client asks us to get even more specific and exclusively survey coffee-drinkers in Seattle, Washington...we can do that, too.

5. The Crowd can tackle a wide variety of tasks

In 2013 alone, the federal government crowdsourced over 85 prize competitions to find creative solutions to vexing governmental challenges, from improving astronaut gloves to blocking unsolicited “robocalls.”

Crowdsourcing is versatile. It’s been used by organizations to explore the universe, fix city infrastructure problems, and, in our case, optimize companies’ operations, strategies, and in-store executions.

Specifically, we combine crowdsourcing and mobile technology to complete a wide-variety of tasks, including:

  • In-store Mobile Audits
  • Displays and signage
  • On-shelf availability/out-of-stocks
  • Price checks
  • Modular compliance/planograms
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Demo confirmation/evaluation
  • Photo shoots
  • Consumer Mobile Market Research
  • Surveys
  • Mystery shopping
  • Shop-alongs
  • In-home use tests
  • Concept testing
  • Diaries/ethnographies

When powered by nimble technologies such as smartphones, crowdsourcing has proven to be a highly flexible means of completing a diverse array of information-based tasks. Start your project today.

There’s a Crowd for That

Paired with technology, crowdsourcing produces meaningful results faster, more affordably, and more broadly than traditional approaches to work. At Field Agent, we offer audit and research solutions in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional store audit and market research methods.

If you're in need of in-store display/signage audits, consumer research, mystery shopping, competitive intelligence, or, in general, the answers to pressing business questions, rely on the crowdsourcing advantage. Rely on Field Agent.

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