The term crowdsourcing is not a new one anymore. By now, pretty much everyone has come across it at some point in their life. However, have you ever wondered what exactly crowdsourcing means? Or maybe even if your company could benefit from it in some way?
This article will help answer these questions and give you a better idea of the concept.
The American journalist Jeff Howe first coined the word crowdsourcing in 2006. In his article The Rise of Crowdsourcing he describes scenarios in which people contribute to a company’s success without actually being employed by it.
With the world becoming more and more connected through smartphones and the internet over the last years, crowdsourcing became increasingly popular. Naturally, this resulted in the emergence of numerous different definitions of the term.
To put it in a nutshell, crowdsourcing can be described as an open call – usually online – to a large undefined group of individuals to complete particular tasks, create ideas, etc. The call can be made by other individuals, corporations, institutions, and the like.(i)
This also means that crowdsourcing can take various forms: creating content (e.g. articles about a certain topic), designing logos, testing software, or providing information – it can all be done via crowdsourcing.
These examples show that the different types of crowdsourcing require differing types of people (often called crowdworkers) to complete the tasks. Some ask for technical knowledge, others for creativity, and yet others can be done by basically everyone as they don’t require any particular know-how.
What Is Mobile/Location-Based Crowdsourcing?
In many cases, tasks open for crowdsourcing can be done anywhere in the world and are not tied to specific locations. For example, a manager looking for someone to design a new company logo usually won’t care where on the planet the sought person is.
Yet in this article we want to dive a little deeper into mobile/location-based crowdsourcing.
As you may have noticed, this term combines two different forms of crowdsourcing. Let’s split them up first to make it easier to understand.
- Mobile Crowdsourcing: This term describes crowdsourcing activities which are completed on mobile devices, i.e. tablets and smartphones. The past years have shown consistent improvement in the technology used for mobile devices. Especially, reliable GPS and cameras able to take super sharp pictures were key developments in taking crowdsourcing to the next level. Crowdworkers complete tasks with their smartphones anywhere today.
- Location-based Crowdsourcing: As the name indicates, this form of crowdsourcing requires tasks to be completed in a specified place. This could be, for instance, supermarkets, toy stores, DIY stores, electrical stores, etc. Due to the need for the crowdworker to perform the task at a certain location, location-based crowdsourcing pretty much always equals mobile crowdsourcing. For the remainder of this article we’re, therefore, mostly going to leave out the mobile in mobile/location-based crowdsourcing.
But why is location-based crowdsourcing necessary?
Because location-based crowdsourcing can provide you with valuable insights; and it doesn’t matter whether you are a retailer, the producer of a product, or working at a brand company.
- You want to know where your product is positioned at the Point of Sale (POS)?
- Your promotional campaign is not performing the way it should and you want to figure out why?
- You are wondering how clients like the atmosphere when shopping in your store?
- You have agreements concerning product placement with a store chain and need to know if those are adhered to?
- You’re interested in how your competitors’ products are presented in store?
Location-based crowdsourcing has the power to give you the answers to these questions faster and cheaper than you would imagine.
By simply letting people who are already close to the locations in question know that information is needed. Since they are likely to pass by these on a regular basis, they can provide exactly the answers you are looking for within a very short timeframe.
How You Can Benefit from Location-Based Crowdsourcing
By now, you may be wondering: Why should I consider using location-based crowdsourcing when I already have a stable field service in place that could do the exact same thing?
People forming the crowd are usually located nationwide. Therefore, results from all over the country (or even across countries) can be collected in almost no time. And it is on you to decide at which locations (i.e. supermarkets, electrical stores, etc.) the results are generated.
Your products are sold Europe-wide and you want to see how they are presented, for example, in Spanish or Italian stores? Location-based crowdsourcing makes it possible without you having to leave the office or send someone from your team to the respective stores.
Additionally, real customers may view stores differently than a professional field service team. They do not care so much about whether a promotion is set up correctly or not, simply because they don’t know what “correctly” means. What they can tell you, though, is if the promotion is appealing to them and if they would buy the product due to the promotion.
That means that you can get 2-in-1 information: By having the crowd take pictures of your promotional campaign or your product at the POS, you get to know if the campaign was available in store, if the product is positioned at the right place, etc. By asking a few questions on top of that you get valuable insights only real customers can provide.
This combination results in a double benefit: Firstly, you get to check if retail execution has been done correctly (i.e. is the product in the right place, is out of stock something to worry about, is the promotional display present). Secondly, you get first-hand information about whether your marketing efforts really reach the shoppers and have the potential to increase your sales figures.
And the best thing is that you get these results in real-time! That means as soon as a crowdworker completes one of your tasks, you will see the result in an online dashboard tailored to your needs.
That way, you can immediately take action in case something is not going the way it should and adaptations need to be made. Consequently, you can ensure that retail execution for your products is done according to your requirements minimizing losses due to mistakes you didn’t even know about.
You don’t need anything checked but want to collect the opinion of a variety of people for market research purposes? Whether this is location-based (e.g. rate the shopping experience in a certain store) or independent from a specific location (e.g. find out where customers prefer to do their shopping) – it can also be done fast and easy using the power of the crowd.
So, if you have ever asked yourself one or more of the questions listed above and want to get them answered as soon as possible, you should consider location-based crowdsourcing a solution for you.
So far, we have seen that location-based crowdsourcing can do a lot of great things. In most cases, though, it can’t fully eliminate the need to employ a traditional field service.
Because the crowd generally won’t be able to provide information which is as detailed as the one you would get from your field service team. Keep in mind that a big portion of crowdworkers (especially in location-based crowdsourcing) complete tasks on the go. So naturally, they don’t want to spend hours in a store to do just one set of tasks.
The effort a crowdworker in location-based crowdsourcing has to invest in order to answer your questions can’t be too high. Unless the amount you pay for the set of tasks is high enough, chances are they just won’t do it. It is, therefore, important to keep it short while still retrieving the most information possible.
Another aspect which makes it pretty much impossible to replace your traditional field service with location-based crowdsourcing, is the crowd’s limited ability to perform merchandising activities.
Usually it requires a certain amount of training for someone to be able to actually take action in a store (e.g. set up the display for a promotional campaign at the POS). This kind of training can hardly be provided to everyone in the crowd. Many crowdworkers also don’t want to do this kind of work.
Nevertheless, it is imaginable to find a dedicated group of crowdworkers who explicitly state that they would be willing to perform merchandising activities. In this case, this group of people can be trained according to the company’s needs and subsequently complete the tasks. Naturally the payment for these kinds of activities has to be substantially higher than for the ones mentioned above, where the in-store status quo only has to be checked, not changed.
For these reasons, location-based crowdsourcing should rather be considered a supplement to the traditional field service or a starting point when a traditional field service isn’t doable for a company, yet.
As outlined in this article, mobile/location-based crowdsourcing has the potential to leverage significant benefits for various kinds of companies. Whenever information regarding retail execution, the competitor’s presence in stores, or consumer insights is needed, location-based crowdsourcing should be considered a suitable solution.
Pictures from certain locations and answers to questions can be delivered faster and cheaper than when using a traditional field service. Nonetheless, location-based crowdsourcing shouldn’t completely replace the field service team either as parts remain that require trained personnel and can, therefore, not as easily be done by the crowd.
Naturally location-based crowdsourcing has its benefits as well as its downsides but it is definitely worth thorough consideration in many retail-related problems.
Now, what is your perspective on location-based crowdsourcing? Is it something you would consider for your company or have you already made experiences? Let us know in the comments below!
You have a question in mind but are still not sure if location-based crowdsourcing can help you answer it? Don’t hesitate to contact us – we’re happy to help!
(i) cf. (amongst others) Estelles-Arolas, E., & Gonzalez-Ladron-de-Guevara, F. (2012). Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information Science, 38(2), 189–200..