One form of Social Commerce which has been rapidly growing over past few years is the virtual work contracted through online platforms – this is where people contract out work ("gigs") to freelancers through sites such as eLance, oDesk, Fiverr, Guru, Maven or others. We believe social influence in the form of feedback and ratings from previous purchasers is a major factor in growth of this form of social commerce, as it is essentially establishing trust between the buyers and sellers of services.
The jobs which are being contracted out on these online work platforms vary all the way from $5 for a logo design or cross posting links contracted out via Fiverr to technical, programming or marketing projects costing thousands of dollars on eLance, oDesk or Guru. During a time where the decrease in the number of full time jobs is increasing (which is often being reported on the front page of daily newspapers), online platforms such as eLance are reporting over 40% year on year growth in terms of both the total dollar amounts and the number of projects and services being performed or offered on their platform. Fiverr, an Israel-based global online marketplace offering tasks and services for $5, has reportedly seen a 6X growth factor for business conducted in the last six months alone (Fiverr raised $15 million in Series B funding in venture capital earlier this year).
At the other end of the spectrum to the micro-job world of Fiverr are the micro-consulting platforms such as Maven. Maven focuses on connecting Decision Makers with highly skilled professionals who offer their in-depth knowledge, perspective, and insight via short telephone consultations or surveys, and allow professionals to set their own hourly rates, which can be as high as they want them to be.
In fact, in many industries where physical goods are not involved, one can run his or her entire business using professionals hired on these online platforms – from market research, product design, software development and testing, and even marketing, all entirely with freelancers. In fact, some of these platforms such as eLance already recognize that their projects may involve multiple team members from both the buying and the service provider entities and have thus made allowances for such cases in their systems.
The sheer popularity and incredible growth of these virtual job sites is very impressive. They demonstrate that the modernization of technology and communication infrastructure is finally leading to freeing individuals from being tied to a 9 to 5 corporate job, while allowing both small and large businesses to be able use specialists for each function. In fact, finding a specialized worker no longer involves a process which may last several months of head hunting, interviewing and making a long term commitment to an employee. An expert can usually be found after just a few minutes of searching online. Even the bidding and negotiation process for complex projects hardly ever exceeds a week. In fact, most customers who use such online systems are able hire people who can quite literally have their business up and running in no time.
Similarly, when you need an expert’s advice on an important matter but can’t afford to go through a high end consulting firm, a social commerce driven micro-consulting platform such as Maven can help you find an expert with deep knowledge of the subject matter in no time. There is no need to fly someone from across the continent, nor do you need to pay for research done by someone who does not quite have the exact knowledge you seek; or have one of your staff members spend time sifting through hundreds of documents, research journals or expensive analyst reports.
Obviously, credibility is lot more important when you are paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege of having a short conversation with an expert, so platforms such as Maven go through a stringent verification process when they enroll their experts, whereas micro-job platforms such as Fiverr primarily rely on user feedback.
One can see why this particular brand of Social Commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, and experts predict that in next 5 to 10 years, 40% of all work will be performed by freelance workers primarily found via online work markets.
Yash Talreja, COO, S5 Mobile Systems & a "maven" with 4.7 rating.