Field Agent launches in the UK as an Amazon Mechanical Turk for field research

Field Agent, a new iPhone app that launches in the UK today, is bringing the Amazon Mechanical Turk model to field research, although the company, a licensee of the Field Agent brand and model already launched in the US, probably won’t entirely appreciate the comparison. The location-based app lets companies crowdsource their field market research and related activities so that instead of employing a dedicated field research team, they source and pay users via Field Agent to complete those tasks.

The minimum price per job is £1, which to be fair is more than the micro-jobs typically deployed through Mechanical Turk, though the model isn’t dissimilar with the aim to drive down the cost of field research. So what kind of tasks might ‘agents’ be asked to carry out?

Companies that sign up to Field Agent can ask ‘agents’ seven types of questions: yes/no, free form, price check, count, multiple choice, five-point scale and photo request, so there’s plenty of room to accommodate all kinds of research. These might include mystery shopping exercises and data auditing such as a mobile phone brand wanting to find out whether their hardware is recommended by staff in a major retail chain, or perhaps a chocolate brand checking that they have the promotional position by the till they paid for across a supermarket’s nationwide stores. The app can also be used to gather more mundane survey oriented market research along the lines of “What was your favourite TV ad tonight?” and that kind of thing.

The advantage of Field Agent’s mobile take is, of course, that companies can be sure that agents are where they say they are when conducting field research while tasks can be deployed quickly to people who are already on the ground. So there’s potentially a speed rather than purely cost advantage too.

Field Agent UK is founded by Chris Pearson, founder and former Chairman of field marketing and brand experience agency Channel Advantage, and Steve Weston. The company is self funded and looks to have the rights to the brand across the whole of Europe, with the app’s roll out in all 23 of the Euro-zone countries scheduled over the next two years. There are also plans to take the app beyond the iPhone with the company hinting that Android is next.