Crowdsourced mystery shopping app, Field Agent, has signed up almost 20,000 shoppers for retailers to employ as smartphone-bearing mystery shoppers in its first year of operation.

The service, which lets shoppers submit photos of stores, complete staff service, price and promotional compliance checks and take part in surveys in store, has been used by retailers including David Jones, Coles, Witchery, 3, Microsoft, Westfield and Mimco.

It’s another example of digital automation of the market research process, turning the traditionally hand-written feedback process of mystery shopping into a simplified and crowdsourced technique. Results can be delivered via the iPhone app’s interface in real time by members of the 19,000 strong panel who are near the job location, eliminating the fieldwork costs of sending shoppers out and processing hard-copy feedback forms.

User companies off the service list the job they need done on the app for a registered shopper to complete in return for an incentive. Boost Juice Bars recently used Field Agent to check the consistency of a promotion across five states. General manager of Boost, Scott Meneilly comments that the data, which started to come through 20 minutes after the job went live, enabled the retailer to contact stores that did not meet promotional compliance standards.

Launched in 2011, Field Agent is a joint venture between The Realise Group, an Australian customer experience and research organisation, and Field Agent USA.