This is Part 1 of a two-part series focused on how tech companies are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and economic uncertainty. If you’re keen to understand more about how to integrate these insights to boost employee and customer retention, you can read Part 2 here.
At PartnerHero, we are fortunate to work with amazing companies across almost every sector of the startup landscape, providing stellar outsourced CX, moderation, design and engineering teams. This has given us a unique perspective in the current climate of economic and personal uncertainty: we’ve been privy to how many different companies are adapting and shifting to navigate a rapidly changing world.
In this article, we breakdown the impact seen across businesses facing the current economic downturn and pandemic: how companies are re-strategizing to make the most of what they have, retain employees and customers, and future-proof their businesses moving forward. We also profile a few industries that have seen dramatic increases in overall demand.
Let’s jump right in.
What are we seeing?
There isn’t an industry that hasn’t been impacted by global changes as of late. Quarantine, economic downturn and a spike in people working from home has meant a lifestyle change for consumers and businesses alike. Tons of companies are using this as a time to focus on what they do really well and offer that to newly-emerging demographic cohorts, while some are pivoting their products entirely to make them better suited for a different, changing audience and world.
Here are some insights from a few corners of the tech industry where PartnerHero has developed expertise:
EdTech is booming. Amidst a dried-up funding circuit, EdTech seems to be one of the few industries that is not having any trouble calling up new rounds of financing. Flexible tools that make remote learning easy for school-age children and adults new to the job market are seeing a meteoric rise in usage and popularity.
Many companies have also taken the opportunity to give back to the community and offer free resources. For example, Varsity Tutors recently launched Virtual School Day — a free resource providing parents with access to 30+ hours/week of live online classes, skills assessments, practice tests, and other helpful resources. So, there’s been a rise in good-will within product decisions, as well.
As schools across the globe have been forced to close their doors, Khan Academy, a non-profit organization known for its mission of offering a free education to anyone, anywhere, has answered the call for emergent support in distance learning by offering teachers, students, and parents its plethora of free learning resources and gradebook-style reporting.
Khan Academy’s free content has had mass appeal worldwide and has led to an explosion of traffic in the site. To match this influx of usage and demand, they’ve added even more to their roster of free offerings, including webinars hosted on Facebook and YouTube, new guides and platform walkthroughs for teachers and parents, and handy daily schedules for families with learners ages 2 to 17 to follow.
AMC and Regal, the largest movie theater chains in the U.S., both closed their venues starting March 17 for at least three months. Additionally, many movie studios have announced delays in scheduling theatrically released movies. But, that hasn’t stopped a shift to virtual and at-home entertainment— sectors of the entertainment industry that are booming.
We’ve seen a lot of innovation as legacy industries are forced to update their models for a COVID-dictated reality. Take, for example, Trolls: World Tour being released entirely online by Universal and breaking records for the largest digital debut to date.
Similarly, in the tech world, it’s no surprise cooperative gaming from a distance is having a moment right now, with surging popularity for companies like Jackbox Games (whose party games can be hosted over Zoom) and Marmalade Games, which makes app versions of popular board games like Monopoly, Clue, and Battleship.
Social Media Platforms
It should come as no surprise that as people turn away from public spaces and are forced to stay indoors, the use of social media has seen a spike. That said, true innovation is occurring in the online dating world. From March 12–22, Bumble, a dating and networking app, recorded a 21% increase in sent messages in Seattle, a 23% increase in New York City and a 26% increase in San Francisco.
Companies like Match Group have released innovative new features to take advantage of this boom. For example, its new Dating while Distancing hotline is now available and free for users 12 hours a day and helps people cope with the new struggles introduced by existing, for the meantime, in an entirely virtual world.
Grindr, another dating application, has also started offering premium features free to encourage its members to connect safely from home.
Businesses that deliver goods are clearly seeing a huge surge in demand and are hiring aggressively to meet it. Even companies that didn’t previously offer delivery are being forced to toss their hat in the ring. Michael DiBenedetto, CEO of FoodBoss, a service that aggregates information about restaurants, delivery times and prices, reported that from March 12 to March 18, surge pricing drove food delivery fees 16.3% higher compared to the first week of February.
Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers and increasing wages from $15 per hour to $17 per hour. Domino’s Pizza wants to hire 10,000 employees to help delivery operations, and Walmart plans to add 150,000 new workers to support orders on walmart.com and their suite of ecommerce brands. Uber, whose ride hailing demand has cratered, is directing time and resources to their Uber Eats delivery service.
Delivery is one of the fastest-growing sectors in spite of the supply chain challenges.
Like restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores pivoting to a delivery-based model, retail is trending towards online shopping and ordering. And, for the people that are getting on board, the results are mostly positive. Cross-generationally, purchasing behavior differs: one survey of U.S. and U.K. consumers found that 96% of Millenials and Gen Zs are concerned about how the pandemic is affecting them specifically. This concern expresses itself in cutting back on spending, stocking up on items, and spending less on experiences. It doesn’t hurt that travel is mostly at a standstill.
With older generations, though, the concern is less: only a quarter of Boomers and about a third of Gen Xers said they were letting current events impact what items they purchase, or were cutting back on spending.
We believe that the impacts of Coronavirus on eCommerce will last well beyond this pandemic, accelerating the already rapid shift online.The benefits to shifting your strategy toward a more online presence will pay dividends for years to come. As legal constraints continue to crack down on in-person shopping and congregating, many companies are moving online. It’s likely that this shift to eCommerce will remain to some degree, even the pandemic begins to flatten.
Check out how some innovative SaaS companies are supporting the shift to eCommerce below.
SaaS is one of sector where performance lacks uniformity. Because many SaaS companies sell to businesses across industries, even within individual companies results can vary widely. For example: if your product is in travel or experiences, you may run into buyer concern or reticence. But, if you are in a marketing or support product, you may be in a prime position to drive sales.
One of our partners, BentoBox, has its finger on the pulse of several of these trends. Their innovative SaaS platform helps restaurants build websites and manage their online presence. While the restaurant industry is facing some huge challenges right now, Bento is doubling down on features that allow customers to offer online deliveries directly to their customers.
Not only that, but the company is using its position to publicly advocate support funding for restaurants (eg gift cards) to help keep the doors open, and retain the restaurant workers hard hit by quarantine. This is a prime example of a SaaS product thriving in the current environment, and continuing to try to do well by its customers and employees in the face of hardship.
Innovation and constant iteration abounds in SaaS typically, so it’s no surprise that SaaS companies are finding unique responses to the moment. Privy, an online marketing platform, is not only supporting the eCommerce boom of this moment, they’re also taking a stand to draw more attention to small businesses that sell online with a beautiful online portal called Shop Small.
The “Internet of Things,” which brings new levels of connected convenience to people’s homes, is having an interesting moment. While many families are spending less due to the economic uncertainty, many, stuck at home, are also relying on their connected devices more than ever before.
Kinsa, the makers of a smart thermometer, have even been making their data public and offering a U.S. Health Weather Map that shows where they’re reading spikes in temperatures. It was built to track the spread of the flu but now they’re using it to help highlight symptoms that could possibly be tied to the novel coronavirus.
To read more about the CX lessons tech companies are internalizing during this challenging time, check out Part 2 of this two-part series.
If you have questions about anything we’ve posted or you’re interested in supporting your business with a custom outsourced team, please contact us.