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Crowdsourcing As An Effective E Commerce Strategy Business Essay


With the turning tendency of societal web sites and their use for e-commerce activities, “ crowdsourcing ” has become an advanced scheme to carry on e-commerce. The paper aims to research on its effectivity as an e-commerce scheme, foremost by seeking to understand the history of crowdsourcing. Second the paper will look at the methodological analysis and definitions of assorted types of crowdsourcing. Third, the paper will specify how crowdsourcing is used in e-commerce. Next, some instance surveies of concern that uses crowdsourcing are discussed, with analysis on its success and failures. Finally, the paper will supply suggestion on how crowdsourcing can be an effectual scheme.

1. Introduction

Introduced by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in the June 2006 issue of Wired magazine, the term crowdsourcing describes a procedure of how new web-based concerns organize labour, by outsourcing undertakings, traditionally performed by contractors or employees, to a community ( normally online ) through what sums to an unfastened call for proposals. Howe offers the undermentioned definition:

“ Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or establishment taking a map one time performed by employees and outsourcing it to an vague ( and by and large big ) web of people in the signifier of an unfastened call. This can take the signifier of peer-production ( when the occupation is performed collaboratively ) , but is besides frequently undertaken by exclusive persons. The important requirement is the usage of the unfastened call format and the big web of possible labourers. ” ( Howe, 2006 )

Howe farther explained that true crowdsourcing involves a company accepting the thought received, treating it and bring forthing for sale ; and the thought supplier being rewarded, in most instances, monetarily. This is to distinguish crowdsourcing from “ unfastened sourcing ” , which is a concerted activity initiated and voluntarily undertaken by members of public.

In other words, crowdsourcing happens when a company posts a job online, persons in the community offer solutions to the job, the winning thoughts are awarded some signifier of a pecuniary wages, and the company mass produces the thought for its ain addition.

In another article, titled “ Power of Crowdsourcing ” , by Matt H. Evans, he states that “ Crowdsourcing taps into the planetary universe of thoughts, assisting companies work through a rapid design procedure. ”

From both definitions, it can be understood that crowdsourcing needs a channel that is able to make out to the multitudes to be effectual, and the most obvious pick is the cyberspace. This is farther complimented by the rise of Web 2.0 engineerings, whereby persons are able to interact and specify the web instead than being inactive browsers of the web. This makes crowdsourcing even more attractive as it allows companies to tap into the possible huge corporate intelligence of the multitudes to accomplish their concern scheme. As such, e-commerce concerns ( concerns that uses the cyberspace to manage the purchasing and merchandising of merchandises or services ) are the most likely adoptive parent of crowdsourcing technique for their e-commerce scheme.

E-commerce scheme is the program and classs of action that a company undertakes to offer its merchandises and services on the cyberspace to accomplish its concern end. For companies that have bing offline operations, e-commerce scheme will most probably be focused on incorporating its offline operations into an on-line presence. This will include how to outdo represent the company online, the substructure and model required to make so and the scope of activities needed to advance the company ‘s nucleus activities on the World Wide Web.

Another ground that crowdsourcing is deriving popularity is because in today ‘s globalised market, competition in invention is really ferocious and in-house research and development is acquiring more dearly-won. As mentioned in “ The Global Brain ” , by Nambisan & A ; Sawhney, 2008, “ These forces – quickly diminishing merchandise life rhythms, diminishing internal invention productiveness, and planetary competition – together are making a Red Queen consequence[ 1 ]in invention: Companies have to put more and more merely to keep their market place. ” This make crowdsourcing a feasible option, as it allows the tapping into the huge intelligence of the multitudes, like what former Sun Chief Scientist, Bill Joy says, “ Most of the smart people in the universe do n’t work for your company. ” More significantly, this intelligence can be obtained at comparatively low cost.


To understand the current popularity of crowdsourcing, this paper has referred to PBworks ( hypertext transfer protocol: // ) , one of the universe ‘s largest supplier of hosted coaction solutions for concern and instruction, which has a wiki that provides a comprehensive list of companies that uses crowdsourcing. In add-on to the wiki, as the list provided by PBworks is strictly textual, this paper has besides referred to Grant Silverstone ‘s article, “ Friday Fact Box – Crowdsourcing ” ( hypertext transfer protocol: // ) , for graphical representation of the list. Extracted are two graphical dislocations of industries that use crowdsourcing, one group utilizing strictly crowdsourcing as their concern scheme, and the other utilizing crowdsourcing as an add-on enterprise to their current concern, without interrupting their ain nucleus concern scheme.

In the chart ( Fig 1.1 ) , it shows the current industry dislocation of companies utilizing Crowdsourcing as their chief concern scheme. Harmonizing to PBworks, out of the listed 141 companies, the bulk, or 43 % belongs to general concern, such as selling, gross revenues, advertisement and finance. This is followed by Design ( 15 % ) and so Media ( 13 % ) , while Tourism makes up the least at 1 % .

Fig 1.1 ( Beginning: Grant Silverstone, Friday Fact Box – Crowdsourcing )

In add-on to that, in Fig 1.2, it shows that of these 141 companies, a immense bulk comes from USA ( 65 % ) , Europe ( 13 % ) and UK ( 6 % ) , while Brazil, Africa and Russia merely make up 1 % each.

Fig 1.2 ( Beginning: Grant Silverstone, Friday Fact Box – Crowdsourcing )

From these two charts, it can be derived that bulk of companies utilizing crowdsourcing attempts are those in industries that traditionally requires big community webs ( such as gross revenues, intelligence and selling ) and creativeness capacity ( such as design, advertizement, media ) . While industries that requires specific accomplishments ( such as Education ) and are more systematic ( such as Science and IT ) are less popular with companies to see utilizing crowsourcing as a concern scheme. Furthermore, crowdsourcing is chiefly engaged in western states, which the economic system and substructure are much more developed. This is an of import factor as mentioned earlier that a good networking channel is needed for the success of crowdsourcing.

Following in Fig 1.3, it shows the industry dislocation of companies that initiated crowdsourcing attempts to complement their current concern scheme, with the bulk from IT at 33 % . It is besides interesting to observe excessively that about all these companies in the list are large participants in the industry, such as Adobe, BMW, Nokia and so on.

Fig 1.3 ( Beginning: Grant Silverstone, Friday Fact Box – Crowdsourcing )

From the chart and the list, it can be seen that presently, crowdsourcing is still a new thought and non attractive plenty to pull companies to venture into it as a complement procedure to their bing concern scheme. However, large companies, with immense resources, do see the potency of crowdsourcing and are able to put into it. This is besides the ground why IT industry is the major subscriber to crowdsourcing enterprises, as they have the cognition and expertness to tap on the cyberspace to maximise crowdsourcing possible.

3. Examples of Business utilizing Crowdsourcing

To understand how crowdsourcing is presently being used in concerns and its effectivity, it is necessary to look at existent instances. The paper will look into 3 companies, each with typical methods of prosecuting crowdsourcing, viz. Threadless, Amazon Mechanical Turk and Cambrian House.


Threadless is a community-centered online dress shop launched in 2000 by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, with $ 1,000 in seed money after come ining and run intoing in an Internet jersey design competition. They wanted to get down their ain design competition, but alternatively of engaging a jury, they decided to allow the interior decorators themselves pick the victor.

Beginning: Threadless: hypertext transfer protocol: //

How it works

In the beginning, members of the Threadless community will subject their t-shirt designs online, where the designs are so put to a member ballot. The victor would acquire free Jerseies bearing the winning design, while everyone else would acquire to purchase the shirt.

Presently, Threadlesss receives on norm, one 1000 designs in any given hebdomad, of which, merely 10 designs from the voted top hundred to publish and sell through an on-line shop. DeHart and Nickell besides increased the premium paid to these victors to $ 2,000 in hard currency, a $ 500 gift certification ( $ 200 in hard currency if they trade in the certification ) , every bit good as an extra $ 500 for every reissue. This is because limited batches are printed and sold out shirts will merely be re-printed if there is adequate demand from clients bespeaking for a re-print.

On juncture, particular competitions will run in association with assorted patrons. These competitions set a subject for designs, with a choice of extra awards, frequently related to the patron, being awarded to the chosen victor.

How Successful was Threadless

The Threadless community is presently six hundred 1000 strong, bring forthing about one 1000 designs for voting each hebdomad. In 2006, Threadless had managed to bring forth $ 17 million in grosss and it is still turning quickly.

Threadless self-praises, harmonizing to Jeffrey Kamikoff ( Threadless Chief Creative Officer ) , “ unbelievable net income borders ” . Each shirt that sells for between $ 12 to $ 25 is produced at a cost of merely $ 5. Furthermore, Threadless need non make any advertisement or selling, as the community itself will self-perform such maps. The interior decorators will carry friends and community members to see and vote for their work. Threadless will besides honor the community for those who submit exposures of themselves have oning a Threadless shirt or refers a friend who buys a shirt with shop credits ( deserving $ 1.50 and $ 3.00 severally ) . This crowdsourcing scheme helps Threadless to sell an norm of 90 thousand Jerseies a month.

However, Threadless had besides suffered by their ain success. Their spring sale in March 2008 resulted in serious waiter downtime, ensuing in the offer of $ 50 verifiers to trouble clients and the promise “ … to ne’er of all time allow this go on once more everlastingly of all time. ” Eighteen months subsequently, a particular one twenty-four hours sale to bind into the 09/09/09 day of the month saw Threadless pummeled once more by insane sums of traffic, with users describing inability to entree the site for extended periods – some ne’er acquiring through. The client experience was impacted by such a deficiency of planning of traffic which was to be expected from a company covering with such immense societal community. It was merely from these experiences that Threadless had begun to look into better pull offing their wildly fluctuating degrees of traffic in their substructure.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a service launched on November 2, 2005 by, which was ab initio invented for in-house usage by Peter Cohen as a service to happen extras among its web pages depicting merchandises.

As of 2010, though still in beta, Mechanical Turk has grown to be a crowdsourcing cyberspace market place for work where concerns ( known as Petitioners ) publish undertakings ( known as Human Intelligence Tasks or HITS ) , and workers ( known as Suppliers ) complete them for a pecuniary payment that was set by the Requesters. Amazon Mechanical Turk gives concerns immediate entree to a diverse, planetary, on-demand, scalable work force and gives Workers a choice of 1000s of undertakings to finish whenever and wherever it ‘s convenient.

Beginning: Amazon Mechanical Turk: hypertext transfer protocol: //

How it works

Amazon Mechanical Turk, as mentioned is a market topographic point for undertakings that computing machine and machines can non make, or can non make it precise plenty. These undertakings can merely be done by human intelligence, such as composing reappraisals or observing specific objects in images.

The procedure of Mechanical Turk is foremost, companies will post occupations ( HITS ) at MTurk ( Amazon Mechanical Turk Market Place ) , so deposit the HITS payout sum into their MTurk history. Next, workers, who are registered members of MTurks, will look for undertakings that they feel that they can execute. Once they take up the undertaking, they will be assigned to it, but at that place will non be any contract. These HITS are undertakings that are reasonably easy and speedy to put to death, with most of them being able to be completed under 20 to 30 seconds or less and payout at approximately 10 to 50 cents. After the HIT is completed and submitted, Amazon Mechanical Turk will automatically reassign the money from the Requester ‘s prepaid HIT balance to the worker ‘s Amazon gift certification history. With the payout, workers can take to either reassign the money to their bank history or to their gift certification balance. For every undertaking performed, Amazon will take a cut. In add-on, Requesters can besides give fillip to workers whom they like the undertaking done.

Besides the Official MTurk website, there is another web site, Turker Nation ( hypertext transfer protocol: // ) , a forum for workers and requestors to run into and discourse the work at manus. Issues with Hits are discussed here. The site is independent from Amazon, and is non related to Amazon in any manner.

How Successful was Mechanical Turk

Since its launch in 2005, the figure of worker members in Amazon Mechanical Turk had grown in Numberss. By March 2007, there were reportedly more than 100,000 workers in over 100 states. MTurk is popular with companies as they find that HITS are a really low-cost manner to outsource big groups of similar undertakings that are really simple to finish. Companies find the MT “ undertaking auction ” theoretical account attractive because it reduces paysheet costs of holding to use normal workers to execute such undertakings.

However, while Companies or Petitioners find the cost of prosecuting MTurk to finish HITS attractive, there are many unfavorable judgments. As HITS are typically simple, insistent undertakings and users are paid frequently merely a few cents to finish them, many have criticized Mechanical Turk as a market topographic point for “ slaves ” . Furthermore, workers are paid as contractors instead than employees, petitioners enjoy revenue enhancement advantages and low cost, and they besides avoid Torahs sing lower limit pay, overtime, and workers compensation. Workers, on the other manus, must describe their income as self-employment income. In add-on, some petitioners have taken advantage of workers by holding them do the undertakings, so rejecting their entry in order to avoid paying. does non supervise the service and refers all ailments to the posting of the HIT.

However, in position of such unfavorable judgment, MTurk is still pulling workers, particularly those populating in 2nd and third-world economic systems, because the impact of gaining those few excess dollars will be magnified many times over.

Welsh House

Launched in 2006, Cambrian House started as a crowdsourcing community that pioneered the thought of tackling the power of the crowd to make thoughts for web sites and package merchandises. Its mantra is “ ” You think it ; crowds test it ; crowds construct it ; you sell it ; you net income ” .

Beginning: Welsh House: hypertext transfer protocol: //

How it works

Welsh House calls itself “ a community of people with wide endowments and involvements to make web-based merchandises that the universe wants, markets those merchandises, and portions in the net incomes. ” They cater to people with no clip to prosecute new thoughts or anyone with a vision and motivated to subject thoughts.

The manner Welsh House plant is, foremost, Persons register and create a profile of their capablenesss in its web site. They can so take part within the community by originating thoughts. The community will so prove these thoughts and give the blessing on those that are executable. Following, Welsh House staff will make a “ booklet site ” to prove the victor ‘s popularity and serviceability within the community. If the thought survives, the subscriber will so seek people with passion and accomplishments in the community to build or co-develop the commercial version of the thought, by presenting them with Royalty Points ( the sum you receive for coming up with an original thought ) or Cambro ( Cambrian House ‘s currency, 1 Cambro = $ 1 USD ) . Welsh House will fund the undertaking and if needed, they can besides seek extra support from the community. Once the merchandise is created, the undertaking title-holders can so seek sellers, concern development professionals, and or SEO ( Search Engine Optimization ) experts in the Welsh House community to cover with the promoting, selling and bringing of the merchandise. Finally, one time the merchandise starts to sell, every member that contributed will gain Royalty Points or Cambro that had been negotiated with the concern title-holder.

In short, every member in the Welsh House community can take part by non merely giving thoughts but besides in conveying members ‘ thoughts to life. There are no bounds to figure of undertakings members can fall in. During every development phase, everyone involved will besides take part as peer-reviewers at choice “ determination Gatess ” along the manner to mensurate the person ‘s part.

Although Welsh House crowdsources the construct and creative activity of its merchandises, thoughts are capable to editorial reappraisal by a nucleus squad and existent production is capable to a set of quality guidelines. In the instance of conflicting codification or design parts, the community decides which the best is.

An illustration of how Welsh House involves in every undertaking is its first merchandise ( a picture game ) which was emerged from the community forums and seemed popular, so it risked $ 8,000CAD on a preliminary web site to advance the game. It sailed through the “ market trial ” selling 100s of pre-orders at half-price ( $ 9.95CAD ) in a individual weekend. That response encouraged Welsh House to put more for the following development phase.

Welsh House ‘s eventual end is to turn each undertaking into a separate, independently funded house, but merely after it has been market-validated.

How Successful was Welsh House

The original Welsh House community was deemed successful as it managed to accomplish the most of import constituent of crowdscourcing by pulling 50,000 plus members and more than 7000 thoughts from the crowd.

However, Welsh House did non realized that although the crowd was great at thought and testing, it was less interested when it came to the edifice component of Cambrian House ‘s theoretical account. Furthermore, there are failings in the idea-community theoretical account which include the challenge of converting users to analyze and vote a quickly turning pool of thoughts, of which some are of comparatively low quality, the direction trouble of distributed development, and the big figure of duplicate entries.

After unsuccessfully seeking to raise a new unit of ammunition of capital, in May 2008, Cambrian House announced the sale of much its assets to the New York-based venture capital company Spencer Trask. While Welsh House will transport on as a seller of Crowdsourcing package, its being as a crowdsourcing community had come to a stopping point.

In contemplation, Welsh House CEO Michael Sikorsky provinces in a missive ( extract ) :

“ Indeed, our theoretical account failed. In short: we became a finish people loved to bookmark more than they loved to actively see. The restricting reagent in the startup equation is non ideas, but astonishing founding squads.

A cardinal premise for us, which proved out NOT true: given a great thought with great community support and great market trial informations, we would be able to happen ( crowdsource ) a squad willing to put to death it OR we could put to death it ourselves. We needed astonishing establishing squads for each of the thoughts – this is where our theoretical account fell abruptly.

What we learned: it would hold been better to endorse great squads with atrocious thoughts because most of the heavy lifting kept falling back on us, or a few select community members. A barbarous rhythm was created taking all of us to acquire more and more diffuse.

Hence: the wisdom of crowds worked good in the theoretical account, but it was our engagement of crowds facet which broke down. Trying to happen people willing or capable to take on the progeny ( our end products ) of the Cambrian House theoretical account was difficult and/or improbably clip devouring. ” ( Michael Sikorsky, 2008 )

The lesson from Welsh House is that the crowd merely is non plenty as it needs to be managed and needs an inspiring leader to steer it.

6. How can Crowdsourcing be an Effective E-commerce Strategy?

After looking at the definition and instances of crowdsourcing, it is understood that crowdsourcing has the potency to assist e-commerce concerns gain competitory advantage, but like all concern schemes, it is does non vouch success. Nevertheless, crowdsourcing can be effectual as an e-commerce scheme by assisting companies in 5 ways.

Crowdsourcing, foremost, can assist companies to make market anticipation by utilizing the crowd to understand market desires. Companies can utilize the crowd to prove the entreaty of any new concern thoughts. Besides that, companies can deduce from the crowd, emerging market desires and tendencies.

Second, in add-on to the cognition of market desire, companies can pull information from crowdsourcing for merchandise and concern invention. Based on information drawn from the crowd, companies can prioritise new concern thoughts, conduct merchandise trials, rank following best sweetenings with bing merchandises and uncover methods to cut down costs and better service.

Third, as mentioned, the cognition of the crowd is really powerful. As such, crowdsourcing is a good option to work out jobs that are hard to work out internally with the companies ‘ current resources, by ask foring replies or solutions from the crowd. Companies can besides join forces with the crowd to happen new scientific find.

Fourthly, besides work outing internal jobs, crowdsourcing can besides assist to undertake external issues, such as selling. Companies can ask for crowd to assist in the creative activity of runs.

Last, crowdsourcing is comparatively much cheaper than engaging work force for making similar occupations. As companies merely need to honor those who had contributed in the crowd, and it is normally non of immense sum, crowdsourcing is able to assist companies to cut cost.

With the above it mind, crowdsourcing effectiveness depends on how and under what environment it is used. Based on all the information gathered, the paper has come up with a few cardinal points to effectual crowdsourcing.

First, the crowd that crowdsourcing wants to tap into must be of significant size. For illustration, if Threadless has merely a member base of 100, and maintains its procedure of taking 10 winning designs every hebdomad, it will come a clip whereby members might lose involvement or doubt the unity of these winning designs. Furthermore, one of the feature of crowdsourcing is that the crowd is to stand for the market, as such, the larger the community or crowd, the better the representation it will be.

Second, companies must understand the crowd. When companies use crowdsourcing, they are normally aiming a particular community, which is formed by a common involvement. Therefore, if companies want to crowdsource, they will necessitate to cognize the community strengths and failings. For illustration, if Threadless decides to bespeak its community to subject computing machine programming plants, it might non acquire anything or the plants might be of inferior qualities.

Third, companies need to cognize what they want and need from the crowd. This is one of import factor that determines the effectivity of crowdsourcing. For illustration, in Amazon Mechanic Turk, if petitioners post HITs with equivocal demands, the workers might hold trouble understanding what is needed of them and supply plants that are irrelevant or non to the intended demands. This will do many rejected undertakings, which is a waste of clip of the companies and crowd, therefore doing inefficiency.

Following, companies need to acknowledge the parts of crowd. Monetary wages is a manner to admit the crowds part, but normally crowd plants chiefly non for pecuniary ground. Participants of crowdsourcing are frequently leisure users, whose chief motive to take part is to be recognized and experience they are portion of the community. The more attached they feel towards the community, the more willing they will be in supplying aid in undertakings presented.

Last, companies need to hold equal resources to pull off the crowd and back up the end product from the crowd. This is one error that many companies make when they do crowdsourcing, as they thought the crowd will be able to lend in every portion of their concern program. This is by and large non the instance, as experienced by Welsh House. As mentioned in the old point, the crowd is normally made up of leisure participants, as such, they will be more willing to prosecute in undertaking that requires less attempt like supplying thoughts and suggestions, as compared to more boring undertaking like constructing the existent merchandise which will be avoided.

7. Decision

The above treatment has shown that crowdsourcing, when used right can be extremely effectual as an ecommerce scheme. It is able to tap into the power of the crowd for cognition which is virtually limitless at really low cost. Just like Threadless, by maintaining the crowd motivated, concern will turn as cognition from crowd grows.

However, it is of import to observe that there are state of affairss where crowdsourcing is non possible or impractical. First of wholly, occupations that are confidential in nature, such as attorneies and comptrollers, and high degree occupations, like concern procedure planning, are non possible to be crowdsourced.

As shown by Welsh House, the crowd needs to be monitored by the company and supply resources when needed for successful manifestation of thoughts. As such, it is non possible to to the full crowsource a concern procedure to the crowd. Internal work force is still needed as the crowd might non to the full understand the companies ‘ concern theoretical accounts and ends and these internal employees are able to supervise and guarantee the crowds parts are within the companies ‘ guidelines and procedure. Furthermore, excessively much trust on the crowd could be construed as unethical and open the company up to unfavorable judgment about the true nature of its societal mission. By utilizing Amazon Mechanical Turk, many companies have been seen as operating “ practical perspiration stores ” . As such, physical work force is needed to equilibrate the image of the company.

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