To say that the year 2020 was an unexpected surprise to the world would be putting it mildly. The coronavirus pandemic and the global lockdown was one of the biggest hits to the economies of the world. This mass-scale, unprecedented shutdown had forced businesses to be behind the limelight. Virtual was the new normal and everyone had to adapt to survive. That is where Zoom found its fame and rose to glory and established its name globally.
Founded in the year 2011 by Eric S. Yuan, Zoom Video Communications is a remote video conferencing platform that offers a myriad of integrated services. These services include video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices, and conference room systems to make for a seamless remote/virtual working experience.
Zoom’s ultimate goal is to provide an elevated enterprise experience by using these features and the platform to create a more customised and unique workflow that accommodates the current work-from-home lifestyle.
Zoom stands out in the market and sets the pace for the competition with its diverse range of options within a single, streamlined platform that centers around video conferencing.
Zoom Video Communication is the brainchild of Eric Yuan, a Chinese immigrant who stepped into the US-based Silicon Valley start-up game in the mid-90s. He had come to the States following the Internet boom and joined a company called WebEx which was later acquired by Cisco for $3.2 Billion and he became a prominent player in the company.
Although WebEx was a complete A-to-Z video conferencing tool for the time, Yuan discovered that customers were not satisfied. Issues such as unstable connectivity lags in audio and videos, and lengthy installation made for a less than stellar customer experience.
This is where the vision for Zoom was born. After much resistance from the management at Cisco and WebEx, he left the company to invest time and energy into Zoom and founded the organisation in 2011. After two years of rigorous beta-testing, Zoom had finally seen the light of day and was launched in 2013. The company was founded on Yuan’s vision to give customers the experience they seek and deserve.
Initially, when Zoom was launched, it had a very streamlined and bare-minimum capability for hosting (quality, not quantity as they say) and the platform could host a grand total of 15 participants. Two years after its launch that number jumped to 25, then in 2015 it was 100 and in recent years that number has skyrocketed to a staggering 1000 participants, simultaneously.
To give an idea of the level of success the company garnered, one needs to look at the 1 million-plus user base that Zoom gained just one year after its success. In 2017, four years after the initial launch, the company entered the unicorn club.
Zoom’s Marketing Strategy and Business Model
The company’s primary business model was that of a customer-centric model that revolved around an organic outreach methodology and building of natural partnerships. This helped Zoom to integrate with existing B2B providers and use its distribution channels.
This model of business and outreach was realised early on in the company’s conception. With this business model in place, the company was able to generate direct leads as opposed to relying too heavily on other traditional means of marketing and advertising to get the brand’s name out globally.
Another ingenious tactic that the company employed was building the distribution within the product itself. That is to say, the more people used the product, the more the chain of growth and brand recognition would build naturally. The other half of the in-build approach was to make the product so simple and easy, that to use it no one needed an instruction manual to operate it.
In terms of the straight-forward approach, the company derived a lot of traffic and leads from its social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and so on. No doubt, in recent times, especially during the peak months of the pandemic you would have seen a lot of YouTube ads for Zoom’s superior video conferencing applications and the benefits for adapting it for your business. Contrary to popular belief their Facebook ads saw the most Return on Investment (ROI) in terms of leads. The reason being that these Facebook ads are kept simple and streamlined by first adapting the ads with the brand positioning and vision and then testing different angles to fit the audience’s preference. The most effective angles to these were product benefits, social proof of concept as well as collaborations and partnerships.
By pushing ads that played on these three simple angles Zoom drove traffic to specific landing pages and filled the sales funnel. Essentially what they were doing was bringing in traffic from all clients like the baseline customers, SMBs, Mid-Market, B2B, SaaS companies and Enterprises.
The use of actual visuals from real conferences and people using the application as well as video testimonials made for an authentic and organic atmosphere. It was a genius move.
When it comes to the actual service side of things, it again focused on the personal audience-oriented aspect of things by providing free accessibility to use a lot of its services at a limited capacity which gave customers a feel for the platform and acted as a further marketing ploy. This multi-faceted marketing approach that kept to its digital borders ensured that the brand could expand its branches far and wide at a minimum expense to the company.
Rise to Success and Growth: The Indian Perspective
When looking at the global scale, of the 300 million daily meetings that make its way through the platform, India makes up a large chunk of that number. Thanks to the Indian way of working and the fact that India is the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world, it stands to reason how those numbers came to be and how a platform like Zoom garnered popularity and became a necessity in the day-to-day of pandemic business operations.
Zoom became one of the most downloaded apps on Google Play Store during the peak lockdown months, even outdoing the likes of WhatsApp and Instagram as it was downloaded 343,000 times in a single day. The biggest uptick was surprisingly not in the B2B sector but in the education and training sector as Zoom was a primary vehicle for facilitating online classes and training programmes for schools and colleges around the country.
The company embraced this and even went as far as to release a paid education plan which allowed up to 300 participants and removed the 40-minute time limit on meetings for an uninterrupted session. From January to April 2020, according to statistics provided by Zoom, the company saw a 6,700 per cent growth in the free signups in India.
Zoom recognised the untapped potential of the massive Indian market and went one step further in 2020 by initiating employment opportunities for Indians within the organisation. This dual approach of job creation and having a hyper-focused frictionless video communication platform pushed them to the forefront of the market and outdid the pre-existing competitors like Skype and Google Meet.
Zoom's infamous viral reputation was a large part of what propelled it forward into the public's eye and even cornered the market on those who did not even use the application.
Hilarious Blunders: The Viral Sensation
The clever marketing ploys and business models aside, the popularity for Zoom rose more with the frequent occurrence of blunders that took place during Zoom meetings. As you might have come across on YouTube or on someone’s Facebook feed, the hilarious and unfortunate mishaps are plentiful. From people coming on camera in a state of undress, or saying something inappropriate or even getting into altercations while a session or class is in progress was something that took the internet by storm.
Zoom meetings became a viral sensation, not just for its performance capabilities but for the ways in which people amused themselves through the platform. So much so, that ‘Zoom’ became one of the most searched keywords during peak lockdown season.
A True Unicorn in Our Backyard
Zoom officially entered the exclusive and coveted unicorn club in 2017 after Sequoia Capital had invested $100 million in the company and brought the total valuation up to the mark of $1 billion. As of October 2020, just three years later, the company once again stole the spotlight as it came into the market with a valuation of $139 billion as reported by Forbes.
The company beat out forecasts in the second quarter and ended the month of August with a revenue of $663.5 million, which far surpassed the anticipated $500 million which was estimated earlier. This rapid pace of growth from their early days as a start-up to the current unicorn status, the credit goes to their approach to the market as well as the confidence of investors.
The company demonstrated early on that even if they do not make too much money in their early stages, they definitely will not be losing either. This made them a safe investment and given how the economy was sinking in 2020, it makes sense that investors were desperate to place their bets on something safe and reliable. This is proven by the fact that they were primarily backed by world-renowned investors Sequoia Capital and Emergence Capital at a sum total of $145.5 million.
As early as 2019, just two years after their rise to unicorn status, the company registered for Initial Public Offering (IPO). With their stock opening at $36.00, and the company’s habit of meticulously managing their funds and investor confidence at an all-time high, the stocks remained stable in 2020 when most others were floundering to survive. It was the beginning of a much larger journey ahead.
Current Market Standing
In hindsight, Zoom was not the first one to work around the idea of video conferencing, far from it. Prior to its existence, the market was saturated with industry titans like Microsoft’s Skype, Google Meet, Google Duo, Webex, Hangouts, Slack and other third-party hosting platforms that offered many similar services to that of Zoom. So, what made it any different?
The answer to that is product-centric development. That is to say, while brands like Microsoft and Google offered video conferencing as an add-on, they primarily had their focus on the audio calling and messaging applications for long distance communication. While on the other hand, Zoom was video-oriented from the beginning. The entire premise of the company is to provide face-to-face interaction between users regardless of the distance and at high-quality output.
This combined with user-friendly interfaces that are adaptable to a myriad of devices and Operating Systems, multiple product lines and options to choose from, sound marketing tactics and heavy financial backers who saw its potential, made for the success that we see in the industry today.
The CEO and Founder of Zoom, Eric S. Yuan, is the man behind the success of this now globally recognised brand. With a Masters in applied mathematics and computer science from the Shandong University of Science and Technology, China. Yuan moved to the states during the Silicon Valley Internet Boom and went onto build and establish Zoom after seeing the state of disarray that the video conferencing segment was in. He had truly bridged a gap between technological capabilities and customer satisfaction.
Two reasons make this company very successful; one is the company’s sound practices and two, it has a founder who believes in the vision he is working towards and actually practices what he preaches. His belief of the customer-first approach is evident in the way the company operates, which is a core part of why Zoom Video Communications is at the top of its league. As the old saying goes, Zoom may have not invented the game, but it sure has mastered it.
Read more stories like this in our Inspire section.