Offering young people a way to make extra cash while on-the-go
Affordable mobile-based crowdsourcing of data for companies
WHAT if you could earn a few dollars on your way to work by answering questions or snapping photos on your mobile?
That’s a proposition that the team behind new mobile app MOAR!, hopes will resonate with the youth and young working adults living in Singapore.
Developed by Newton Circus, a social enterprise-centric technology company and consultancy, the app is a venture under its Next Billion project, which dedicated to engaging the next billion emerging mobile consumers.
During an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), Next Billion director Oliver Gilbert (pic) shared that MOAR! came about after the team had successfully gotten its Mobile Movies project off the ground.
Mobile Movies harnesses movies to attract entire rural communities, and the platform provides non-profit organisations and positive companies the means to engage rural communities via collecting data, spreading educational messages and affecting behaviour change.
“While Mobile Movies was targeted at rural communities in South-East Asia, we were looking at doing something that targeted urban communities as well.
“The idea came about roughly a year ago and essentially extends our mission of leveraging crowd sourced data to improve lives,” Gilbert adds.
Free to download for iOS and Android, the app works by notifying users whenever a task is available near their home, office or current location.
The pitch to users is the opportunity to make a little extra cash without taking too much out of their daily routines and is not intended to replace regular incomes.
The rationale is that “anyone is underemployed”, with blocks of time during the day that could be used to help perform tasks and earn some money, and MOAR! intends to offer a platform for those so inclined, to do just that.
“This isn’t intended to replace full-time jobs but rather offer additional opportunities. Imagine if you could earn S$10 a day just by completing tasks that’s along the route to your office, that’s an additional S$300 dollars a month in your pocket – who wouldn’t want that?” says Gilbert.
These tasks are provided by companies or organisations looking for a more cost effective avenue for collecting data and comprise requests such as answering questions about promotional displays at a convenience store or reporting on the customer experience at a retail outlet.
“Collecting relevant data points is a challenge for all companies. Our pitch to brands is that opportunity to quickly get access to twice as much data for a fraction of the cost of using traditional market research methods,” says Gilbert.
MOAR! In the making
A completely bootstrapped venture with a team of five, sharing resources with other ventures under Newton Circus, the app made its limited beta debut in September 2014 tested by a small group of friends and family. [Amended to correct beta testing start date]
In January of 2015, the team partnered with the International Youth Summit to conduct their first live campaign, crowd sourcing surveys regarding the interests and challenges to launching social enterprises in Singapore.
Gilbert reports that between December 1 and January 7, MOAR! collected over 3,000 data points regarding youths' interests in social enterprise, resources needed to succeed, along with a collection of inspirational photo messages for other youths seeking to build their own passion projects.
Since then the team has been adding new tasks for its community of users, the first of which is crowdsourcing data about the cheapest beers in Singapore on behalf of cheapbeer.sg, an interactive location-based service for finding the best beer deals closest to you.
Gilbert shares that the MOAR! platform has approximately 3,550 total available paid, location-based tasks.
Recent additions include product check tasks for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lux body wash along with a mystery shopping task for many major mall retailers around town which include brands such as Uniqlo, Top Shop and H&M.
According to him, MOAR! currently has about 1,500 active users whom have downloaded and completed tasks on the app.
“While users don’t have to enter detailed information to join our platform, in terms of a demographic breakdown, we can share that about 55-60% of users are female aged between 18 and 28 years of age, with male users also falling within this age group.
“It certainly demonstrates the appeal and applicability to students and young professionals that we are initially targeting with this app,” says Gilbert, adding that there are plans to expand outreach efforts to older users.
The platform’s business model is commission-based, with payment for tasks funded by the participating organisation. Training tasks pay S$0.50 (US$0.40) each while advanced tasks pay S$1-S$2 (US$0.80-US$1.60).
[S$1 = US$0.80]
The team aims to pass on as much of the revenue to users, with Gilbert noting that future payouts could be higher depending on the complexity of the work requested.
Payments for completed tasks are credited to users’ EZ Link cards after being checked and the team recently closed a deal with a major bank to integrate its mobile banking facilities to offer its users more payment options.
Getting the most out of MOAR!
While one side of the MOAR! proposition is to offer the opportunity for people to make extra cash, it is in leveraging the efforts of the collective for what is essentially market research that holds the most potential.
“Big data is awesome but if you can’t do anything with data, what are you going to do? By having the ability to take that in its collective in a crowd sourced way, not only is it much cheaper to do but also can be plugged in immediately in real time,” explains Gilbert.
For example, the CheapBeer project is but one way of leveraging on data. Gilbert envisions the same data collection strategy being applied to other use cases.
“Finding cheap beer is one thing, but it could just as easily work for ‘I’m going out with my girlfriend tonight, show me the cheapest way I can eat Thai food, get ice-cream and go to the movies’ as one possibility,” he adds.
Gilbert stresses that the platform does not share or sell personal data such as names or mobile numbers, but does provide task data which includes photos, question responses, GPS locations, time stamps, and other meta data to partners – the companies and NGOs that sponsor the tasks.
By leveraging on the GPS tags and timestamps attached to each completed task, organisations are able to conduct research requests for specific locations or enable post-campaign drilldowns with a higher degree of specificity.
Gilbert also shares that the biggest takeaway to date in creating the platform is figuring out how to make and keep things compelling for its community of users.
“Figuring out what were the best incentives was the tricky part, such as what tasks would keep our now more than 1,500 users interested and active on our platform.
“And in the course of developing this, I think we’ve created a pretty good framework that we can work with and present to potential customers,” he adds.
The focus on actionable market insights also means that the most important aspect of the entire process is the team’s internal system of checks and balances.
“All the completed tasks are reviewed manually by people on our team rather than outsourcing the whole process to others.
“All our reviewers understand the scope of the campaigns underway, the goals, and are mindful of market research requirements by clients.”
While the team is open to funding opportunities, it is currently not a priority with immediate goals focused on growing both the user base and list of available tasks, and improving user experience.
The aim is also to continue bootstrapping and become self-sustaining on deals made with participating companies for as long as possible.
“We’re hoping to grow organically all the way if possible and there’s no crazy need to go out and get funding yet,” says Gilbert.
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