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How ecommerce companies can use crowdsourcing to thrive

For some time now, the practice of crowdsourcing has been a feature of the tech landscape. From ideas to investment to content, the method of sourcing what you need from multiple backers or contributors online, rather than just one individual or organisation, has become an established method of growing a successful business.

But although crowdsourcing may have lost its novelty, it hasn’t lost its effectiveness for businesses in a startlingly wide variety of different industries.

Pebble’s new Smartwatch, for example, the Pebble Time, is in the process of completely obliterating its target on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. At the time of writing, Pebble, which was aiming to raise $500,000 to produce and release the Smartwatch, has surpassed the $10m mark, exceeding its original goal more than 20 times over.

In the transport industry, too, crowdsourcing is continuing to pay dividends. Revolutionising the way in which people travel around urban areas by utilising the services of ordinary drivers enabled Uber to be valued at $40bn in December last year. Since then, the ride-sharing app has also made its first acquisition, GPS mapping start-up deCarta.

Rather than representing just another way of doing things, then, crowdsourcing continues to be an astonishingly successful way of increasing revenue for both a wearables producer and a transport app. Ecommerce companies, too, can benefit from crowdsourcing’s capacity for stimulating growth, but to understand how, it will help to first consider what it is that the practice offers in essence.

In Pebble’s case, crowdsourcing offers reliability. Rather than going through the lengthy and potentially disappointing process of sourcing investment from angel investors or venture capital firms, Pebble was able to go directly to its customers and raise exactly what it needed, enabling it to get on with the business of producing its new Smartwatch.

For Uber’s customers, on the other hand, crowdsourcing offers speed and convenience. Instead of having to rely on 1 or 2 taxi firms on a busy night out, which could entail a substantial wait, Uber users can instead choose from a large number of individual drivers nearby and get picked up almost immediately.

In both cases, crowdsourcing removes the necessity of relying on just one person or small team of people in one location to provide a much-needed service, leading to various forms of improvement in that service.

For ecommerce companies, one of the areas in which crowdsourcing is most beneficial is software testing. This is because the traditional way of performing testing – with a small team either in-house or at a contractor – is increasingly unable to cope with the growing number of unique mobile devices that sites and apps need to be tested on in order to provide a great customer experience.

Partnering with a crowdsourced software testing company, on the other hand, enables retailers to ensure their software functions correctly on a broad range of devices. Crowdsourcing companies like BugFinders maintain communities of thousands of professional software testers around the world, of which hundreds can be deployed to thoroughly test a piece of software simultaneously.

This means that large ecommerce sites can be tested on up to 200 unique devices in just 2 days, and apps in as little as 24 hours, enabling retailers to enjoy the same speed and convenience with their testing as Uber customers do with ordering a lift home.

And, like Pebble, ecommerce companies with crowdsourced testing partners also benefit from reliably excellent results. Because crowdsourced testers are paid for the bugs they find, rather than for time spent testing, a powerful impetus is created for them to find every single critical defect on a site, making it highly unlikely that bugs will be missed.

Although now a tried and tested measure, crowdsourcing as a general practice continues to act as an effective revenue generator for many different companies. Online retailers can take advantage of the potential of crowdsourcing, too, by modernising their testing practices and increasing conversions through providing an exceptional user experience. 

Martin Mudge is technical director of BugFinders.

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