Although the term has been in use for nearly 15 years, the notion of “crowdsourcing” still seems to generate confusion regarding its purpose, use, and effectiveness for businesses.
In general the term defines the practice of obtaining services by soliciting contributions from a large, relatively open and growing group of Internet users. Because of how the term was initially used, however, it is still somehow associated with gathering ideas or funds for a specific cause (crowdfunding).
But what is crowdsourcing today? And how can it help businesses and people achieve a more sustainable way of living and working?
In recent years the rapid development of mobile Internet and social networking techniques has broadened the horizons of what a Crowd can do. Mobile users can now share live information - including data - from any location, facilitating the execution of a larger number of tasks and opening up more opportunities for companies.
Apps like Weathermob and Waze are excellent examples of how mobile crowdsourcing has facilitated the implementation of new services based on real-time and geo-located data. But today mobile crowdsourcing is already in a more advanced stage where the Crowd is no longer a random group of people reporting - typically for free - on traffic or weather conditions.
Mobile technologies, together with the surpassing of the classic “9-to-5” mentality are shaping a new way of working, both for people and for companies. More specialized Crowds with different skills and interests are now called into action by numerous brands on pre-defined payment. They are no longer unknown individuals: they are profiled according to their experience, activity, and results; thus, they represent a reliable, on-demand workforce for a growing number of companies operating in different fields.
Nearly eight years ago, with Roamler, we started putting together a Crowd to perform monitoring tasks in supermarkets in order to check in-store execution for big manufacturers. These Crowds were asked to take pictures of shelves and answer questions concerning the availability of products while doing their own grocery shopping. The tasks allowed members of the Crowd to earn a little extra money based on their availability, and it enabled brands to get data about their in-store execution in a much faster and cost-effective way. Through the years, technology has supported us in achieving even more, and today, manufacturers can crowd-source not only monitoring tasks but even more complex assignments, such as refilling shelves when products are out of stock or setting up promotional displays.
The interesting thing about this process is that, when looking at the members of our community, we see a growing number of people who are already employed, often full time, but who feel the need for a more flexible schedule that allows them to interact with multiple brands at their own pace.
The cultural shift in business is opening up more opportunities for specialized Crowds of professionals
The potential of crowdsourcing doesn’t stop with field-marketing activities executed by “regular shoppers”. Crowds are now profiled and organized into groups of professionals who can act on behalf of brands, allowing companies the flexibility they need to compete in rapidly evolving markets. We’re heading more and more towards a task-led future, where companies can select specific operational activities and scale them through skilled Crowds of independent professionals. All those tasks that are widespread, high volume and repeatable can easily be assigned to a Crowd of experts in different fields, with great benefits for both businesses and workers.
Two years ago Roamler put this approach into practice in the technical-installation field with Roamler Tech, a company that only works with a Crowd of certified and registered independent professionals.
The “plug & play” nature of the service allows companies to cut all costs that are not strictly connected to their core business, such as the planning and management of after-sales installations of smart-home devices, Internet, and even more complex appliances. With professional crowdsourcing, they can optimize costs and increase customer satisfaction. On the other hand, the members of the Crowd are given more chances to fill in their schedule or, in many cases, to kick-start their careers as entrepreneurs with a service that allows them to skip “doing sales” and to focus on what they know how to do best.
With nearly 70% of workers demanding more flexibility, crowdsourcing is the way towards a sustainable future, and not only for companies.
More and more professionals in diverse fields are embracing the way technology is re-shaping the way of working and are jumping on the crowdsourcing wagon, from taxi drivers (Uber) to professional installers, from merchandisers to healthcare professionals. In fact, Roamler is about to launch a new platform, Roamler Care, that connects independent healthcare professionals and patients needing home assistance.