It would be an understatement to say that the internet has changed the way we do business – but we are not just talking e-shops or social media presence any more. These days you can use the interconnectivity of Web 2.0 in order to pool together resources – be it expertise, time, information, or money – from a ‘crowd’ or group of individuals across the globe, united towards a common goal. This practice of mass mobilisation to collectively contribute to a project is called crowdsourcing – and can prove very useful in various stages of a business cycle. In fact, crowdsourcing can help a business in more ways than some would expect.
One of the most well-known ways to put crowdsourcing to good use is crowdfunding: a rapidly growing concept that engages potential customers – or, in general, people who would like to see a certain idea or product be put on the market – in a grassroots fundraising process. On popular crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter or GoFundMe, entrepreneurs can reach out to a wider audience of people willing to pledge funds in exchange for perks like a limited first edition of the intended product or a personalised thank you gesture from the creators.
Crowdsourcing works very well for getting a startup to kick off or launching a novel and risky product that might not draw enough support from traditional investors – and it can prove quite successful. As of the end of September 2017, a total of 131,884 projects were successfully funded on Kickstarter, gathering a whopping $3,294,885,064 between them.
In an era of social media dominance, user-generated content has really become the name of the game; companies continuously strive to come up with innovative ways to get consumers to engage with a product and create some hype. This is precisely what crowdsourcing is about: Spreading effort and resources across a wider array of platforms by mobilising a crowd of happy or excited consumers to help draw more people in.
One smart way to go about it is to ask for consumer help when designing a new product; Haagen-Dazs has in the past asked fans to come up with new crowd-sourced flavours, as has Lay’s potato crisps with the recent series of “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, while last January, Monopoly enthusiasts were asked to pick the 8 newest game pieces for the popular board game among 50 options.
Crowdsourcing can help relieve workload, too – as well as scale more effectively according to seasonal demands. Crowdsourced marketplaces such as Amazon Mechanical Turk allow entrepreneurs access to freelancers who can work on as-needed basis across a variety of tasks. Cybersecurity is another up-and-coming area for crowdsourcing, in an approach that recognises that no one can fight cybercrime as a lone wolf with limited resources. Instead, crowdsourced threat intelligence advocates the free and transparent sharing of information about potential security vulnerabilities, actual security breaches, and operational code for mitigating cyber attacks and developing defence mechanisms against cybercrime.
Lastly, another great, albeit indirect way, to engage customers in alleviating labour burden, is to establish an online forum where they can exchange experience and tips, as well as contact the brand more easily. This allows companies to gather feedback and data, as well as allowing people to turn to each other for advice and get frequent questions answered quickly by other users, can work wonders for customer service workload and costs.
So whether you are getting ready to launch your startup or are already running an established enterprise, crowdsourcing is a radical but tested way to develop cost-effective solutions – and it could well prove to be the key to your success.