Getting out into the field to gather information has always been one of the most effective research tools. Whether it’s observing the behavior of customers, conducting interviews, participating in a sale, capturing images and video, or assessing an interaction, field research is essential for businesses that need qualitative insight.
Mobile research is a related concept. It combines the traditional principles of field research with the efficiencies and scalable advantages of smartphones and crowdsourcing in the growing gig economy. Given the fact that 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones, employers now have the incredible opportunity to deploy their users as a crowdsourced workforce. This is a workforce that can report on experiences related to consumer and business activities directly from the field.
Without a doubt, the gig economy, with its mobile research capabilities, has made field research faster, more affordable, and effective. Here are some examples.
Field research example #1: mystery shopping
Regardless of your industry, the experience of your customers is what sets you apart from your competition. Delivering on your brand promise is critical to your organization’s success. Mystery shopping is one of the best ways to assess whether your customers’ experiences are living up to what you’ve envisioned for your customer journey.
Mystery shopping involves measuring the quality of service your employees are delivering. Also, if you want to know how your locations are complying with brand standards, marketing roll-outs, displays, and other corporate requirements, using mystery shoppers is the perfect solution. Mystery shopping can also be used as a tool to gather intelligence about the prices and sales strategies of your competition.
Traditionally, mystery shoppers have used paper questionnaires to record their responses during or after their experiences at an assigned location. Whether that location is a restaurant, hotel, or a retail store, the process is the same. The mystery shopper experiences a service then completes a questionnaire that is designed to evaluate that service. The questionnaire must then be forwarded to the company conducting the research.
With the arrival of the gig economy and mobile research, the process of mystery shopping has been dramatically streamlined. Now, customer experience can be recorded in real-time.
Real-time information collection means two important things. First, there is virtually no delay between the experience and the recording of perceptions related to the experience. Second, no time is wasted with mailing in a paper questionnaire. Instead, the information is streamed back to the mobile research agency using a smartphone through the agency’s mobile platform.
Moreover, because of the expansiveness of the gig economy, mobile research can take place anywhere. That’s because gig workers are everywhere your business operates.
Field research example #2: market research
Market research is a broad term that includes the process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, a product, or a service to be offered for sale in that market; and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service.
You might engage in market research because having accurate and thorough information about your market is essential to the formulation of an effective business strategy. Market research also enables you to estimate the future success of a product or line of business before committing substantial time and resources.
With an army of gig workers out in the field conducting mobile market research on your behalf, you have the ability to capture location-specific information at the time the customer is experiencing the product or service. This point is crucial. When a person completes a paper or online survey hours or days after their experience, the memory of their experience has degraded significantly. Consequently, their responses to market research surveys are not as accurate or have been modified by intervening thoughts or events.
Additionally, by tapping into an on-demand workforce acting on your behalf as market researchers, you are exponentially expanding your reach. You have instant access to workers who can deliver information about their experiences, or the experiences of others, quickly and efficiently.
Field research example #3: risk assessment
When related to compliance and loss prevention, risk assessment helps evaluate your employees’ adherence to corporate policies, procedures, and protocols across all of your locations.
Risk assessment helps reduce preventable loss caused by deliberate or inadvertent human actions such as theft, fraud, vandalism, waste, or other misconduct. Risk assessment can also reduce preventable loss caused by inadvertent employee actions such as those attributable to poorly executed business processes. And, risk assessment can help identify cases in which business policies and procedures are lacking.
A visual inspection and survey are all you may need to assess the risk at a location. Or, you may want photographs or video to be taken of an area or location to assist you with your risk assessment. With the information gathered from the field, you are able to mitigate risk and plan for improvement because you’re not guessing about risk. You know what’s true.
In this field research example, tapping into the gig economy workforce is both efficient and effective. Instead of incurring the cost of sending someone from headquarters out to every location, or relying on onsite personnel who are probably not objective, you can send a gig worker to conduct the assessment and return the results to you. Not only are you receiving a third-party assessment, you are also saving money and time by using a local, on-demand worker.
The field research examples discussed above demonstrate a revolutionary combination of mobile research with the gig economy and crowdsourcing. Fortunately, the gig economy and the use of smartphones will continue to grow. And, as mobile technology becomes even more sophisticated, conducting mobile research will become even faster, easier, and more efficient.
To learn more about how WeGoLook can help you leverage the gig economy in your next field research project, visit our solutions page for restaurants, hotels, and retail chains.