Zoom quickly became a household name — and a bonafide verb — when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 and sent millions of employees around the world to work from home. The brand experienced an astronomical 317% increase in revenue year-over-year between 2019 and 2020.
But Zoom was far from the only web conferencing software available at the time. In fact, prior to the onset of the pandemic, Cisco’s WebEx owned the top video conferencing market share for years.
So how did Zoom do it? What was it about their brand and product that launched them way ahead of the rest of the pack?
This interview with a former WebEx marketing exec explores how Zoom’s savvy marketing strategy paid off big time, what the industry’s competitive landscape looks like two years into the pandemic, and trends we can expect to see in this space in the coming years.
- The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced a predicted 5-6 years of adoption to fit in one week.
- Zoom’s savvy marketing strategy was their key to winning the market in early 2020.
- Major competitors like Microsoft and Google have an advantage in their bundled products and everyday use by consumers.
- Zoom could have a big opportunity in third-party integration — or the “Zoom button.”
Pandemic squeezes years of adoption into a single week
It’s hard to remember now, but video conferencing was not the norm before March 2020. Adoption was happening, but it was fairly slow on the uptake and expected to be several years before video conferencing became a fully integrated part of the everyday work experience.
No one could have foreseen the massive and rapid move to remote work that had to happen, truly, in a matter of days. The speed at which companies had to make this leap played a substantial role in how they made decisions about the video conferencing products they would use — something that turned out to be heavily to Zoom’s advantage.
“A lot of the decision-making was [initially] ‘We need to solve an immediate problem,’ so [companies] jumped onto whatever platform they had. [That] accelerated the market for video conferencing and collaboration software. It accelerated five or six years within a week. The adoption overnight went to where it was going to be five or six years from now.”
Before long, everybody was “Zooming” — from enterprise execs to your grandma who just learned to use a computer to institutions in traditional higher education.
Savvy marketing pushes Zoom to the top
The key to Zoom’s success in that brief window, according to this expert, was savvy marketing. Despite the huge opportunity that had arisen, times were uncertain and brands were unsure how to respond to what was happening.
“What happened was when COVID started to really pick up in the U.S., a lot of companies were afraid to jump into the middle and be looked at like an ambulance chaser and really go out there as people were starting to get sick and people were scared. Nobody really wanted to jump in there and say, ‘Let’s take advantage of the situation.’’
But Zoom didn’t hesitate. They read the room, so to speak, and their marketing strategy hit the mark.
“Eric Yuan, [Zoom’s] CEO, did a fantastic marketing job of pushing his PR team to get him on every major news outlet and basically go out there and just say, ‘We’ve got a product, you should try it’ . . . He did it in a way that it wasn’t viewed as ambulance chasing. He did it in a very positive way and it was brilliant.”
Zoom’s smart strategy and quick action made them winners for months to come. Even enterprise-level IT recommendations could not beat out the user familiarity and adoption that Zoom earned during the pandemic’s onset.
“Zoom would win because they were perceived as the innovator. Even though in some cases an IT team would have selected Webex and that would be their recommendation . . . the CEO or the COO would override it and say, ‘We want Zoom because it’s easier and all of our users are using it already’ . . . There was an element where, from a brand perspective, if you had critical mass inside of an organization already, the executive team would basically say, ‘I don’t want to anger the people that work for me. I want to give them access to the tools that they like, that they already know how to use because that’s easier.”
“The big 4” and the future of video conferencing
Two years later, video conferencing is now part of our everyday lives both at work and in our personal lives. While Zoom surged to the forefront of the competitive landscape during the pandemic’s initial months, other industry players have now had their chance to make headway — which they have.
This expert gave excellent insight on one key way the industry’s other major video conferencing providers, namely Microsoft, Cisco, and Google, are gaining an advantage over Zoom today.
In short, it comes down to bundled products and capitalizing on existing presence in people’s everyday lives. Microsoft Teams, for example, is already integrated with 365 and Office Suite. Nearly half of email users in the United States are already using Gmail, where Google Hangouts is already a feature.
So how can Zoom compete? This expert sees opportunity in third-party integration efforts — the “Zoom button” — that would make it easier to launch Zoom through other programs users are also using.
“They’ve also done a really good partner strategy in terms of being able to integrate into other platforms. Other collaboration platforms do have Zoom baked into the UI now. They could potentially continue to be that way. They could just make sure that every primary collaboration platform has a Zoom button baked into it. There’s a pretty strong opportunity for them to do that.”
One hiccup to this strategy is that major competitors could box them out in many cases.
“I think what happens though and what pushes them [out] in that market is Slack being acquired by Salesforce, Teams blocking them or Microsoft just saying, ‘We won’t allow a Zoom button.’ . . . [Then] you’re stuck with all the secondary collaboration tools, the tools like monday.com, Smartsheet, and all these [other] second tier of collaboration suite platforms. If they can have Zoom baked into them, then there’s definitely a really good market share opportunity for them to still maintain.”
Access the full transcript for even more insights
Want to dive deeper into the future of video conferencing? Access the full transcript for this interview to learn more about:
- The difference between enterprise and individual video conferencing customers
- How privacy and security features are a competitive advantage in this space
- The potential trajectory of the industry’s growth as in-office work slowly returns
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