While the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown has hit the business world hard, some sectors are prospering as they help people and governments to meet the challenges of the situation.
From online sweepstakes games to home grocery delivery services, an accelerated shift towards digital providers in most aspects of life has meant unprecedented demand for the technology that enables us to keep going in difficult circumstances. For some tech industries, profits and share prices have soared as in many cases they provide an essential lifeline for those self-isolating or social distancing at home.
Video conferencing and social media
Before lockdown started, few had heard of the cloud-based teleconferencing firm Zoom, despite it being in existence since 2011. Since the end of 2019, however, it has gone from having 10 million users worldwide to 200 million, and its stock price has more than doubled.
Despite some much-publicized flaws in its privacy and security set-up, Zoom has become the default choice for work meetings, online education, social hangouts and for hosting the many talks, concerts, workshops and performances that have moved online since the pandemic took hold.
More well-established rivals like Microsoft Teams and Skype have also done well, alongside local equivalents around the world. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Slack have also reported a huge upsurge in use, as these are now main points of contact with friends, colleagues and the outside world.
With many people unable to go out or socialize, video gaming and online casinos have increased in popularity. The sales of physical games are up 35%, and hardware in the form of consoles and add-on technology is up 63%. However, the industry has struggled to keep up with demand, with many products constantly out of stock. Meanwhile, new games and console releases are likely to be stalled or delayed, with the result that for many big gaming companies, share prices have actually fallen.
Online games are a clearer winner, with the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Warzone recently notching up over 60 million players. Many prefer to spend their time in immersive games like Red Dead Redemption 2 rather than the dramatically curtailed “real world” around them.
Sticking with entertainment, lockdown has seen Netflix gain 16 million new subscribers, and they’re not the only beneficiaries. Disney+ launched at the end of March, and went from 33 million to 55 million subscribers in just a few weeks.
Spotify now has over 130 million paid subscribers, which should compensate for the dramatic loss of advertising revenue from its free version. With cinemas closed, streaming services are also gaining many new releases first, and this model may well continue post-lockdown as it’s also proved profitable for studios.
Broadly speaking, most areas of e-commerce are booming. With high street competitors either closed or seeing a downturn due to customers reluctant to go out, the only worry for online retailers is maintaining a robust supply chain.
The demand for household items and long-life groceries online has soared, while web-based retailers of clothes, books, medicines and many other commodities have seen a significant upswing. Last mile and local delivery companies have also benefited, as well as the apps that allow people to access these services.
Amazon has seen its stock price rise and has taken on thousands of new employees for its fulfillment centers and delivery network. But the company has also faced bad press for its working conditions, industrial disputes and even a ban on buying non-essential products from the company in France, while safety concerns are investigated. The company’s cloud computing services are also taking a hit as its business customers struggle to pay their bills.
Fitness and wellness apps
Apps and products that help people keep fit at home are doing very well. Wearables that monitor your walking and heart rate, live streaming and videos for home gym sessions and exercise machines are all in demand. Telemedicine services and home diagnostic tools are also finding more users, as are online tutorials and classes in looking after your health through yoga, diet and other means.
Finally, drones have literally taken off worldwide with both government and private companies using them for delivery and surveillance purposes. In China, drones previously used to spray pesticide in agricultural regions are now spraying disinfectant over city spaces and vehicles traveling through infected areas. They are also being used across the globe to transport medical samples quickly and efficiently, as well as to make sure people follow lockdown rules in China, Spain, South Korea and elsewhere.
Most of these tech sectors will continue to prosper once lockdown is lifted or reduced. We may be seeing an acceleration of trends that were already present. In any case, those providing technological solutions to the present crisis are reaping the rewards.
Interesting related article: “What is technology?“