Out of the dozens of video conferencing services, Zoom became the most popular during social distancing. Businesses connected with teams and clients. People found a way to stay social through happy hours, trivia nights, and birthday parties. Daily participants spiked from 10 million last December to 200 million this March, and 58% of Fortune 500 companies are using the platform.
What made people turn to Zoom while having so many other options? The work from home trend has little to do with their success. Otherwise, Google Hangouts, Webex, or Microsoft Teams might as well have risen to the top, but they didn’t. As you will discover in this Zoom Success series, the answer lies in their product, people, promotion, and profit.
In this first part, we’ll take a close look at what makes their product so great that only two months ago they surpassed 300 million daily participants in spite of security and privacy concerns.
#1 It’s a video-first product
Most people have only used Zoom during the pandemic, but the platform has been on the market since 2013. In the first year, it reached 10 million users. By 2015, it already had 40 million users. Originally meant for enterprises and universities, Zoom was built, designed, and managed to be a video-first product from day one. Not an old product video with video features layered on top of it – simply a video conferencing platform.
When you’re in a Zoom conference call, everything revolves around delivering the very best video and audio quality, regardless of the number of participants.
Why Zoom and not Google Hangouts or Skype?
Compared to Skype or Google Hangouts, Zoom offers a sharp and crisp experience, high-fidelity video, and a fast connection speed that minimizes the delays you see in other products. Also, there is less pixelation in the video quality. Google Hangouts doesn’t have that – it’s just better by not forcing you to open up another application – it opens in another tab.
Even though Skype had an almost 10-year head start, it went through so many changes and acquisitions that they ended up confusing consumers – business users had to use one product, personal users were given another product. Zoom won over users by allowing them to blend their personal and business use of the platform, creating a seamless user experience.
When Skype launched, the internet speed was rather slow. So Skype relied on peer-to-peer connectivity, which doesn’t handle one-to-many conferences very well. Zoom on the other hand was fortunate to launch at a time when the internet speed got faster, so it focused its technology on what would take for lots of people to communicate at the same time. They came up with the solution of using a centralized server like a telephone switchboard. This allows Zoom to facilitate conference calls with hundreds of users and many simultaneous connections without affecting the quality of the video.
#2 Has a cloud-native strategy
From the very beginning, Zoom was engineered to be cloud-native and optimized for video. They are not tied down to legacy technologies that are not designed and built for the cloud.
By comparison, Microsoft Teams relies on a SharePoint architecture, which creates all sorts of limitations in terms of scale and growth. That’s why Zoom can easily handle more than ten times the daily usage of Microsoft Teams.
Here is how Zoom’s cloud and video architecture helps them scale:
- Distributed network: Zoom provides global connectivity thanks to a network of data centers interlinked through private connections. Their geographically dispersed presence allows users to connect directly to the Zoom Cloud through a locally-designated point of presence. Regardless of where users are in the world, a local on-ramp to the Zoom Cloud allows for high-quality audio, video, and collaboration services. If there is a failure at one of their 13 data centers, traffic is automatically redirected to a fully-functioning point of presence.
- Multimedia routing: With the help of low-latency multimedia routers, Zoom servers ensure that the rich offering of voice, video, and content is properly distributed between participants in a given session. All session data originating from a host device and arriving at the participants’ devices is dynamically switched. Multimedia routing delivers multiple video streams from other meeting participants and reduces computing power requirements.
- Multi-bitrate encoding: With this feature, Zoom has more control of video encoding and delivery and is able to create multiple renditions of an uploaded video with different bit rates. In addition to stream routing, each stream by itself can adjust to multiple resolutions, eliminating the need to encode and decode the streams for each endpoint. This also enables Zoom to provide different levels of video quality based on the device and network capabilities.
- Quality-of-service application layer: This proactive feature optimizes the video, audio, and screen-sharing experience for each device and the available bandwidth, creating the best possible user experience across any network.
#3 Focuses on customer experience
In addition to the audio and video quality and performance, Zoom has been introducing a lot of features that are making it easier for customers such as teachers, tutors, and businesses to schedule recurring meetings and keep people coming back to the platform, help and assist with technical and computer support, break off large meetings into smaller working groups, and to collaborate visually.
Last year alone, their engineering team delivered more than 300 platform innovations. Good enough reason for Zoom to be recognized as a 2020 Gartner customer’s choice for meeting solutions based on user reviews. And it’s the third consecutive time Zoom receives this well-deserved recognition.
A 95% recommendation rate and the overall 5, 600 user reviews are proof that customer experience is ingrained in Zoom’s DNA. Perhaps the only thing that is as good as their customer feedback, if not even better, is the NPS of their employees. Because Zoom seems to take culture and employee experience as seriously as customer experience itself. But that is a topic we’ll be addressing in the second part of our series, which highlights how culture and people are driving Zoom’s growth.
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