Trend Report: Internationally competitive in online trading by using crowdsourcing

March 22, 2016
Internationally competitive

In keeping with ever-increasing network connection speeds and the constantly expanding supply of affordable, technically sophisticated mobile devices, the number of people shopping online is also rising. According to the statistics web portal, worldwide ecommerce revenue this year will amount to about 889,790.9 million Euro. The forecast is that sales by the year 2020 will increase another 50% and reach 1,334,864.6 million Euro.
With that the prospects for online retailers seem extremely positive, however the climate for individual online retailers is becoming harsher. Due to increasing internationalization and consolidation in ecommerce, competitive pressure is also rising. Besides the relentless price war, the struggle to have the best shop with the best technology, usability, best service and greatest experience factor for the user, as well as the best visibility on the net, is also on the rise. Only those retailers who can keep up and do so efficiently will share in this growth.
One option for online retailers to implement projects to improve their competitive position, and to accomplish that very efficiently, is by using crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing – Help from the Many

With crowdsourcing, tasks and projects are awarded to a large number of internet users (the crowd community). This principle has been professionalized in the last 10 years and has given rise to several crowdsourcing service providers. Besides specializing in certain tasks, these providers distinguish themselves by their methods of project fulfillment, by service, in their geographical market alignment, and by the composition of their crowd community.
Especially with the implementation of ecommerce projects, hundreds or even thousands of tasks often arise, that individually do not represent a great amount of effort, but in the required bulk can hardly be efficiently dealt with by online retailers. An example of this would be the generation of sophisticated, unique product descriptions. The crowdsourcing method of “microtasking” lends itself to the completion of a job like this. With microtasking large projects are broken down into smaller, homogenous, self-contained subtasks (so-called microtasks). For the example project of creating product descriptions for an entire online store, the generation of a description corresponds to a microtask. Through the crowdsourcing provider’s online platform, the microtasks are presented to the crowd community, which is verifiably qualified for the work, for processing. The tasks are worked on by several members of the community, so-called clickworkers, on a fee basis and after receiving instructions (briefing). All results are then verified through a quality management process, after which they are provided to the customer.

The qualification of clickworkers is ensured by most microtasking providers through online tests, verified profile information, as well as through continual assessment of their output.
Quality control of the results depends on the task type. Possible methods are: plagiarism checks, single or double copyediting, the two-man rule, and decision by majority.
Using the microtasking method a great number of high-quality results can be obtained very quickly, and even large projects can be accomplished in a short time. When executing projects via microtasking not only are thousands of helpers available when needed, but so is their knowhow (languages, expertise, local knowledge, etc.), human intellect and perspective as potential customers. All that in total makes the application of microtasking so efficient, especially because the cost of project realization compared to other possible solutions is relatively low.

Responding to the Trends and Challenges of Online Retail with Microtasking

The application possibilities of using microtasking to increase your own online retail competitiveness are diverse. Based on some current ecommerce trends and challenges, some examples of how microtasking is already being used here can be cited.

Content Flood on the Web and the Jockeying for First Place with Google & Co.

With the ever-increasing competition in online retailing, the amount of content on the net is also rising. This makes it comparatively more difficult for an individual to remain visible with his own content. Content that gets the top spot in search engines like Google & Co. is that which is most relevant for both the entered search term and the user.

With microtasking it’s possible to promptly create content in the form of text that is appealing to both search engines and users. In addition, with this method any content in a shop can be tagged with the most important keywords, and in doing so further optimize its findability on the net.

SEO Text Creation
The texts most commonly delegated to microtasking by online retailers are product descriptions, category descriptions, guides, glossaries, blog articles, manufacturer information, questions for the FAQ page, news, as well as application and usage examples. Depending on the briefing, these are created with or without keywords and subheadings, and in various text lengths, in high quality in a timely manner, and of course free of plagiarism.

Tagging Content
For better findability of content on the net, but also within the online store itself, various ecommerce retailers already allow their content to be examined and tagged with appropriate terms via microtasking. This especially includes content like: text, PDFs, videos, images (especially product depictions), and online catalogs.

Declining Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty to online retailers is declining steadily. People buy where items are cheapest, or where the best shopping experience can be had. For ecommerce retailers this means that they must direct their focus uncompromisingly towards the customer. Product offerings should be displayed clearly and filtered to be target-group-specific. Several search and filter functions should be offered for customer use. The detail level of product information, as well as the portrayal of the products, are also crucial for the shop and for the customer’s decision to purchase.

Microtasking is often applied here to quickly process and/or digitize the large amount of data that is required for the filter and search functions, as well as for product presentation. But microtasking is also very well suited to testing a store and its shopping experience.

Product Categorization and Tagging
Various ecommerce retailers have their products assigned to appropriate categories based on their article taxonomy via microtasking. Assigning and tagging store items based on different product features is also common and useful. Search functions and faceted navigation can only work with the help of these measures and can be further refined with product specific tags.

Product Data Management
Poor product data is often the reason a customer doesn’t feel well enough informed about an item to make a purchase, and so leaves the shop. Online retailers can combat this with expanded product information. The data is promptly extracted via microtasking from, for example, even thousands of photos or PDFs, and loaded into the online retailer’s CMS. This additional product information not only reduces abandonment but also return rates. In addition the extracted product information can also be utilized as further data for faceted navigation and search functions.

Product Image Tagging
Increasingly ecommerce retailers are employing 360 degree images to improve the presentation of their products, which depending on customer need can also be viewed in detail. For navigation and optimization of the picture viewing mode, all product aspects can often be tagged using microtasking, for example: shoe from front, shoe from side, shoe from above, sole, detail of toe, etc.

Whether the product presentation and navigation are user friendly and function flawlessly, even on mobile devices, can also be tested with microtasking.

E-Commerce Globalization

Internationalizing is at the very top of the to-do list for many online retailers, when the subject is growth and expansion. The potential to secure customers in other countries, depending on the users’ online shopping behavior, the prices in the target market and the shipping costs that arise, can be worthwhile. Important steps towards internationalization include a careful market analysis and target-group-specific appeal. Microtasking is very well-suited to quickly acquire information about the target group and the competition, as well as preparing content that appeals to the target audience.

Competitor Research Analysis
Those who want to be successful internationally, must be familiar with the competition’s offerings in target markets, and always be a step ahead of them. This requires permanent competition monitoring, which for ecommerce business can easily be delegated to microtasking. Clickworkers perform web research on other online retailers who are active in the target market and, for example, their offerings, prices, terms and product assortments.

Different countries, different customs: this is also true for consumer habits in different target countries. To get to know the target audience better and to optimize your shop accordingly, the microtasking method for surveys in the target country is very popular. Here clickworkers who correspond to the target group, and/or the geographical location, age and gender as well as other possible specified criteria, are polled. Questions are asked about consumer behavior and also about opinions on and feedback for the shop.

Text Creation and Content Optimization
With content in text form like description of a product, category texts, etc. it is important for online retailers too that they use the language of the target countries correctly. Simple translations are often too rigid and not sufficient to reach the tonality of the target audience. Microtasking offers online retailers the opportunity to access the clickworkers’ language skills. Thousands of new texts in various languages can be ordered through microtasking providers, and be quickly created by Clickworkers in their respective native language.


Ines Maione