COVID–19 brought about many challenges for businesses. But while many brands tried to stay afloat during the pandemic, some found the pandemic–induced transition to virtual events and working from home to be the perfect catalyst for their growth. Zoom was one of these companies.
Cait Lamberton, professor of marketing at the Wharton School, shares her thoughts on the growing success of Zoom as the go–to video conferencing platform during the pandemic. According to Lamberton, the company's skillful marketing strategies and collaboration with various applications shuttled it to success as businesses and classes transitioned to online meetings.
Eric Yuan created Zoom in 2011 after he left his job with Cisco WebEx, another telecommunications platform. He took many lessons with him when he left Cisco, especially what it took to make a successful video conferencing platform. Lamberton describes Yuan’s time at Cisco as the opportunity to learn from the pioneers, understand the market, and realize he could do better. Today, Zoom is the most popular platform for video conferencing, even beating its older competitors.
Because of Yuan’s experience, Zoom was able to learn from the successes and failures of its competition. Unlike Skype, which has been available for download twice as long as Zoom has, Yuan’s platform is easy to use. Yuan was able to fix the bugs that prevented more people from using Skype For Business, which will be retired in July 2021.
Additionally, Zoom was innovative and constantly improved its platform when others didn’t. Zoom gave its users the option to have a gallery view, but Google Meet just recently added that feature in April 2020. Before 2020, there were not many improvements in video conferencing platforms, but Zoom’s innovation attracted users and helped it become the primary video conferencing application during the COVID–19 pandemic.
A significant reason why schools and universities decided to use Zoom as their central platform for classroom meetings was because Zoom was easy to integrate into other platforms. On each class Canvas page, the toolbar has a link to the class's Zoom code. Zoom also collaborated with Slack, a workplace communications platform, to allow users to download the Zoom extension through the app and schedule video conferences.
Zoom made it simple for institutions to integrate the platform into their classrooms, especially when people were under the stress of the emerging pandemic. Even though there were other options for the online classroom, such as Google Classroom, the versatility of Zoom made it the optimal choice for all grade levels. “It's a nice blend of usable features, but not overwhelming features,” Lamberton says. Once Zoom became institutionalized, everyone learned how to navigate it, grew comfortable with it, and kept using the platform.
But Zoom was never limited to classroom and business usage. The growth of Zoom was also due to people realizing that Zoom can really be used for anything. Lamberton points out that in the early stages of the pandemic, in April 2020, Saturday Night Live aired a skit revolving around the usage of Zoom. Lamberton describes this event as a shift in people’s perceptions of how they can use the platform. “Suddenly, you had one of these major beloved entertainment groups, saying, ‘Hey, you know what, you can use Zoom for the arts. You can be funny on Zoom,'” Lamberton says.
This realized potential expanded Zoom’s scope. We have all been on family Zoom meetings or 'Zoomed' with our friends during quarantine. People realized it was not only a business or school application, but much, much more in the age of the pandemic. This expansion in the application of Zoom “was sparked by this idea that if Saturday Night Live can even use Zoom, then everybody can use it for something,” says Lamberton.
From there, Zoom was able to expand even outside of our computer screens and became a part of our daily lives. “Zoom became part of our lexicon,” Lamberton says. “We had new words like ‘Zoombombing,’ or ‘Zoom fatigue.’” Once something is so ingrained in our daily lives during the pandemic like this, it becomes the default. Zoom became the conversational default, the “generic term for any kind of video conferencing experience.”
Now as we look forward to life after the pandemic, we wonder what role Zoom will have in it. Zoom impacted our lives tremendously during COVID–19 and has created a massive reputation for itself. It is now the standard for video conferencing platforms. Like Kleenex is used to describe tissues and Xerox for photo copies, Zoom proved itself to be the default by being the best of its kind through its usage across businesses, universities, and everyday purposes.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that Skype as a video conferencing service is being retired in 2021. However, only Skype for Business is being retired. The article has been updated to reflect this correction. Street regrets this error.