‘It felt like a war room’: Inside the meteoric rise of Zoom and its post-lockdown growth plans

The story of Zoom's success: "We're not curing cancer, but we are playing a very important role"

After a bumper year, Zoom’s top marketer discusses how the video service has been impacted by its meteoric rise during lockdown and how it is working with brands to further bust out of the B2B comms bracket.

In 2019, virtual quizzes, family reunions and 'pub' meet-ups were few and far between. Most video conferencing was consigned to business meetings, and usually conducted under duress. Fast-forward 12 months and these activities now squarely fall into the ‘new normal’ bracket.

Amid all this, video conferencing platform Zoom has become a common noun, as synonymous with its product as Hoover is with vacuums and Kleenex with tissues. The software business has it seen its revenue grow by 355% to a whopping $663.5m this year, and it’s also increased its customer base by over 105,000 (39%) since Q1.

According to its recent second quarter earnings update, the business grew its American revenue by 288% year-on-year while APAC and EMEA saw increases of 629% combined. An increase of paid-for subscriptions showed there was money to be made as people around the world sought to remain connected to family, friends and employers in the throes of lockdown.

“Zoom has been growing fast for a long time,” explains Derek Pando, the company's head of international and partner marketing.

“At the beginning of the year we were very excited about the business. It was growing well, but we first started to notice that things were changing in February, especially on the international side, where we were tracking what was happening with the coronavirus in Asia and how that started to impact some markets there. I was watching that progress, country-by-country and day-by-day, it didn't seem like there was anything stopping it."

As governments around the world issued stay-at-home orders to their citizens, Pando started to see subscriptions swelling in markets where it had previously had no usage.

He knew then that 2020 would be a “very interesting and challenging year for many people around the world”.

“It felt like we were in a war room, like we had this thing that was moving and impacting us and we didn't know where it was going next and we didn't know how bad it was going to be. We were constantly trying to shift our resources to try to support people that were using and relying on Zoom.”

Busting out of the B2B bracket

Based in San Jose, Zoom is led by founder and chief executive Eric S. Yuan who expects Q3 to deliver between $685m to $690m in revenues, as demand for its use continues. If it stays on track, total revenue will hit $2.4bn by the end of its fiscal year.

But how has the company (which held its IPO in April 2019) coped with the surge in adoption, and how does it plan to keep momentum going – and money flooding in – as lockdown eases?

Prior to this year, the bulk of Zoom’s users came from enterprise businesses. These firms had IT departments to support and train their colleagues. But the spike in Zoom usage for socializing meant that a deluge of new users were now turning to the business with questions while learning how to use the technology.

As well as being quizzed on privacy, the business faced an influx of questions on the basics of its software from newcomers: “How does this work? How do I turn off my camera? How do I invite people?”. Though it was “always prepared” to answer these questions it wasn’t ready for the scale of which they’d come.

Since Q1, Zoom has welcomed 600 new staff members to its teams to help assist users, bringing its total global headcount to 3,400. Marketing was also quickly drafted up to educate people, with the brand creating YouTube videos each day in different languages.

The product too was altered to meet the needs of those in lockdown, but despite Zoom's rapid ascent, it faces a plethora of well-resourced competitors vying for the same audiences, such as Facebook at Work, Microsoft Teams and Slack.

As to how it’s managing this, Pando is confident Zoom is fit for survival.

”We're going to take advantage of that as right now we've been the platform of choice. We’re going to take advantage of all the different use cases and feedback to continue to innovate to stay ahead,” he says, pointing to its recent announcement that Zoom will now be integrated onto consumer devices like Facebook Portal, Google Nest, and Amazon.

Letting brands do their thing

As well as assimilating with tech giants, Pando points to the work that Zoom has been doing with brands as another feather in its cap.

The company recently teamed up with Formula 1 to deliver the first ever virtual Paddock Club hospitality experience which included live updates and insights from F1 legends. Elsewhere, brands such as John Lewis and Madewell have been promoting their wares through Zoom, recognizing the ability to engage with interested potential customers in real time.

“It's been really fun watching the innovation, whether it be a virtual design session or a virtual chocolate tasting.”

He says that sometimes Zoom’s partnerships team gets involved (as it did with F1) but in other cases the brands “just take it and make it their own”.

Pando reveals that going forward, the company will place emphasis on growing awareness of Zoom Phone, its cloud phone service app, expanding into new countries and heightening the user experience of companies wishing to have easy access to video calls, voicemails, call recording and blocking functions too.

Meanwhile, he concludes by passionately stating his pride of being a part of Zoom while it has become a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of people all around the world.

“When I get a call from my mom in Utah, saying; ‘I just saw Zoom on the news’ and the presenter is talking about how they're leveraging it to keep businesses open and to stay safe and connected - she's speaking to me as if I'm a doctor curing cancer.

“We're not curing cancer, but we are playing a very important role in enabling people to do a lot of important things in this environment. So that's how I keep a smile on my face.

“We're going to keep trying to live up to that expectation and promise as people continue to deal with what's happening.”

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