Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Since the novel coronavirus became the story of the year, many of us have wondered how the new normal we eventually return to will be different from what we knew before.

One of the lessons the great quarantine of 2020 taught us was how to use technology for remote learning or meetings, as well as for business and consumer transactions. It’s not like the technology was exactly new. There’s almost nobody in management or marketing who wouldn’t say they’d been through more than enough webinars or video presentations in their life.

But when it became the normal way of communicating with your team at the office, your kid’s teachers and even the local car dealership, things got real. If you tried to upgrade your teleconference equipment in the first weeks of April, it was apparent that many of us had already begun to see video conferencing as a long-term trend—the major online players were all but completely sold out of custom-focus webcams and deep-resonance microphones. A cottage industry of downloadable custom backgrounds sprang up overnight and if you already owned a green screen … well, why, exactly? But you just about owned the weekly staff meeting.

So is more common video conferencing going to be one lasting effect of COVID-19? Absolutely. People now are much more comfortable with the technology. For many, the added experience gives more confidence that we can actually drive the technology, rather than simply submit to it. That means many routine business meetings are likely to stay on video platforms, even after social distancing.

But it also means that when an auto dealership or a jeweler or your financial planner invites you to a quick video demonstration, you’re more likely to be comfortable with the experience—and respond positively.

The other side of that equation, of course, is that if you are operating as one of the competitors to that car dealer, jewelry store or financial adviser, you’d better be ready to do the same. Early movers will only have an advantage until other marketers catch up.

This doesn’t mean that retail stores, car lots or conference rooms are going away anytime soon. As we’ve said before, personal interaction is a basic human need. But at least for the preliminaries … or the follow-up conversations … if a video chat isn’t as personal as a visit, it’s more intimate than phone call or an email. And the barriers to that technology are coming down.

This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.