The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world in ways most of us never imagined. With the rise of social distancing, we have been seeking out ways to find alternatives to our daily tasks.
Board meetings were quickly replaced by video conferencing. California based video conferencing tool Zoom shot into fame for its free-to-use platform and better call quality as compared to the traditional tools we had - Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Hangouts. The phenomenal growth of Zoom can be traced back to Google Search results. When 1/3rd of the world went into lockdown in March, Searches for Zoom went up by 12.5 times, overshadowing stalwarts like Skype and Google Hangouts.
On a global scale, Zoom dominated across all regions.
My first interaction with Zoom was in 2018 through Harvard Extension School, and I was in awe of the video quality back then, and the unique breakout rooms. Little did I know that this simple education tool was going to change the world. The breakout room we used to discuss class assignments turned out to be conference rooms for corporate meetings and seminars.
But communication wasn’t the only avenue affected by the pandemic. We were looking for new ways to entertain ourselves and purchase our necessities. Entertainment shifted from theatres and movies to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. OTT video streaming had a major impact on mobile data rates. Some video streaming platforms, including Netflix and YouTube, reduced their video bitrate to ease the pressure on telecom infrastructures and increase the adoption across homes and personal usage.
Gone are the days when we could just go to the park or a stadium and enjoy a game. Esports finally got the coverage it was looking for, with a sharp increase in interest for Twitch - the streaming platform. As the world’s favourite sporting events were cancelled, users were quick to adjust to the Esports movement
As the restrictions were eased, sporting events like Soccer and Cricket returned back, but it wasn’t the same again.
While entertainment and communication were important, the retail industry had to adapt the most to survive this shift.
Offline shops were shut and retail stores pushed to move towards an online adoption. Three primary shifts defined how the retail industry adjusted:
A recent research by Global Web Index titled “Are Consumers Confident About Returning To Public Places?” gave us a very interesting insight. 80% users in APAC are confident their country will overcome the outbreak. Comparing this with Europe, the optimism score falls down to 45%.
While aged people are at a higher risk of being infected, the eagerness to return back to shopping offline was noted among 4 out of 10 baby boomers - just 9% less than the Gen Z. One of the major factors associated with this would be the trust of a brand and its regulatory measures. Half of the candidates who pledged to immediately return to shops also stated they would prefer places that maintain a regular cleaning and sanitization schedule, implement social distancing norms, and have the provision of hand sanitizers.
In terms of online shopping, GCC has been showing the true meaning of smart cities. Dubai Mall collaborated with noon.com to sell the goods online(source). More than 90% of consumers shifted to online shopping during the restrictions, and that has resulted in a 300% increase in sales for some brands(source). Popular online grocery platform Carrefour reported a phenomenal 800% increase in sales in KSA alone.
The times have been difficult, and there have been developments that have led to a sustainable future. We have been pushed 10 years into the future in terms of the adoption of new technologies to drive the movement. Omnichannel is a segment that hasn’t been explored enough to know the best practices. Brands who have adopted fast enough have reaped the benefits of the move. Brands who have not been proactive enough have suffered the brunt (traditional print news media for example).
The scenario also gave rise to a new breed of digital marketing. The need for performance marketing has shifted from a “good to have” to a necessity. And it will only evolve into something out of a science fiction movie in the coming times.
Information sources: Global Web Index, The New York Times, Google Trends.