By Karen-Janine Cohen
It turns out, people really do like to help their fellows. That's what Ha Ta, assistant professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business, and her colleagues learned when teasing out what type of message most attracted workers to sign on for a task through a crowdsourcing site. Results showed appeals designed to help others while avoiding personal loss had the clear advantage.
The study, "Appealing to the Crowd: Motivation Message Framing and Crowdsourcing Performance in Retail Operations," appeared in the September 2021 issue of the journal Production and Operations Management.
Ta and her colleagues crafted employment offers for freelancers published on a real crowdsourcing site. The researchers set up a fictitious firm, "Nutritius," and invited people to perform easy tasks for a small payment.
Six different Nutritius ads were tested, all asking recruits to evaluate the presentation of a particular brand of (real) cereal at Walmart Supercenters and Walgreens stores. Respondents, who earned $6, reported on shelf presentation, took photos and answered a few questions. A more complex task asked them to scan barcodes and count inventory.
The study found measurably more response to the ad that promoted the action as helping others. Here is the winner: "Complete this task and you will help improve shopping experiences for food products for consumers like you!" The other options noted that the work would help the Nutritius company or improve data quality. "In general, the messages that emphasize helping others are the most effective," Ta said. "They help increase participation, performance and satisfaction after the tasks."
For simple tasks, she noted, "the combination of messages that emphasize helping others and potential loss of rewards is the most effective for both participation and performance, but not so much for satisfaction." However, for complex tasks, she said, "the combination of messages that emphasize helping others and potential gain of rewards (positive message) are the most effective."
The study also showcased how companies in the supply chain industry can more effectively recruit through crowdsourcing sites. Fine-tuning employment ad messages with a focus on motivation could help streamline operations. "With this new type of model, you can use resources from the mass market to improve your logistics and supply chain, which is a real benefit to the company," Ta said.