COVID-19 has changed the way we define ourselves as human beings. To save lives and protect the people we love, we have had to adjust the way we interact, work, learn, play, teach, love, celebrate and even grieve.
The use of technology in creating in-home experiences is one of the most important factors for keeping a semblance of normal life and in helping us adapt to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Through the use of technology, our homes have become a workplace, a school, a cinema, a place of worship, a restaurant, a prom venue, a gym, a gaming arcade, etc. The home brings us together despite all odds and redefines what we previously took for granted.
Not all businesses or aspects of our life can be replaced or supported by technology. Still, technology has brought hope, saved jobs and united us in ways never experienced before.
In-home experiences have become a much needed lifeline for many.
The technology we use to facilitate our lives under COVID-19 is not new, but the fast pace of adoption is something new. While the short-term gains are considerable, the dividends technology will pay in the long run are even more significant.
Staying in Touch
Until a couple of months ago, video conferencing was mainly restricted to our work environment. The big winner of video conferencing is Zoom, a relatively unknown video conferencing app which has become the choice for more than 200 million people during lockdown. As a result, its share price increased by more than 40% since the start of the pandemic. It’s now valued at just under $39 billion. Beyond its share price, Zoom has moved out of the boardroom and into the living room. Zoom’s primary target had been office workers, but it has now become a cultural phenomenon used to host meetings, wine tasting, parties, birthdays and school classes. A true homage to its popularity is the proliferation of Zoom memes.
For Zoom, the short-term gains are apparent, but the battle will be maintaining the hype beyond COVID-19 by either converting its newfound users into paid customers or by changing its business model entirely.
The way we entertain ourselves has also shifted back to the living room and our renewed appetite for streaming services. As an early adopter, I remember watching Lovefilm on my Samsung smart TV back in 2010. The experience was great at the time, but nowhere near what can be experienced today in HD with a hyperfast internet connection.
When it comes to streaming services, two names have significantly benefitted from lockdown: Netflix and Disney+.
Netflix is a well established success story, but it still added 16M subscribers during lockdown, doubling its target for Q1. As we binge-watch Tiger King or La Casa de Papel, the short term benefits of the lockdown are apparent.
However, in the long-term, Netflix will have to cope with the halt to production during the pandemic as well as facing fierce competition. Amazon Prime brought cinema titles to the smaller screen with its Home Premiere offering, and Disney+ launched its services in Europe during the height of the lockdown period.
Disney+ is another winner of the lockdown and maybe one of the most promising. In February 2020 Disney+ had 28.6 Million users, fast-forward to April 2020, and the number is now 50 Million.
There is pure brilliance in the Disney+ offering and we will see demand for it survive beyond COVID-19.
Disney+ has a straightforward but effective offering and marketing strategy for its streaming service:
- Product: For content, Disney+ chose quality over quantity.
- Distribution: Disney+ partnered with a broad set of distribution partners such as Hulu, ESPN+ and Verizon.
- Price: Even when Disney+ reverts to its $69.99/£59.99 yearly subscription in 2021, it will still be one of the cheapest streaming services.
- Promotion: it made the most of its much loved content, creating some highly anticipated spinoffs, such as The Mandalorian which gained 33 M demand expressions in Europe alone.
Play and have a laugh
Social distancing and physical isolation are hard and can have a profound impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. COVID-19 has taken a lot from us, yet technology is giving us ways to ensure humour is not another casualty of the pandemic. Laughing and playing are powerful coping mechanisms, and in my experience, those have been facilitated by TikTok and Snap.
TikTok is a social media platform, which until now was an app favoured by GenZ. TikTok stands for comedy, creativity and connection, all of which are desperately needed in times of crisis. The social platform has become an escape route from the daily news. Its COVID-19 related content is fun, it does not take itself seriously, and its challenges are making the world move as one. Will TikTok pass the lockdown test? My answer is yes. Tiktok is addictive fun, has an excellent user interface which makes discovering new videos easy, and the 15” format is tapping into my inner binge-watching addiction.
Snap has seen a similar lockdown trend. Its daily active user count has risen to 229 M and its audience has expanded beyond GenZ. During this time, Snap has heavily invested in its AR technology and its gaming platforms. During the lockdown, Snap has brought new features such as fun lens experiences in collaboration with WHO and created an AR game to myth bust COVID-19 information. Through the launch of its desktop app, Snap has also made our work calls entertaining.
During lockdown, technology has made being homebound palatable and social distancing more bearable. The short-term gains are well documented and in more ways than one, technology has helped us remain safe and somewhat sane. Long-term, we need to capitalise on our experience. We need to build a new normal where technology is an enabler of better experiences for everyone. For the victors of the lockdown, the biggest challenge is not for today but for life beyond the pandemic.