Over seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the industries that have come out on top are clear. At-home fitness, e-commerce, edtech, telecommunications and several others are all thriving while other industries go bankrupt, lay off thousands and generally struggle to adapt to the new business landscape. Now that the victors are clear, the battle in business has turned away from coming out on top during the pandemic, and has instead moved towards strengthening claims so that the companies that succeeded under COVID can continue their success once the pandemic is gone.
Across multiple growing industries, companies have launched policies, services and products that are aimed at longevity rather than capitalizing on the current moment. As we approach the end of the first year of this pandemic, questions are being asked about whether companies like Zoom, which have grown enormously under COVID, will be as relevant or worth as much after the pandemic. Will we really need Zoom on a daily basis after all this? When gyms open up, won’t people stop buying home workout gear? Once students return to the classroom, will they really need online learning tools?
We’ve listed some of the ways in which the largest or fastest-growing companies in each thriving industry are trying to secure their position at the very top and fight for relevance beyond COVID-19.
Peloton’s price changes
Last month, stationary bike company Peloton, which has emerged as the clear fitness industry leader, announced a price reduction of its flagship bike alongside the release of a few new products. This discount is one of the simplest ways a company has tried to increase its presence beyond COVID; Peloton bikes are enormously popular, and reducing its price even a little bit means more people will buy the bikes. And once someone makes an investment that large into at home fitness (the original Peloton bike now costs $1,895 and can be paid off over time), they are likely to stick with working out at home for a considerable length of time, if not forever.
But even though Peloton, Echelon, and other fitness companies’ business model means that customers will stick around for a long time, efforts have been made to creep into the routines of even those without their machines in the living room. Peloton’s fitness app, which contains a multitude of classes and workout guides, can be downloaded and used without owning one of its machines. The company has put a 30-day free trial in place to allow people to test it out while at home and hopefully remain subscribed throughout and after the pandemic.
For fitness, the strategy is simple: get a customer once, and you’ve got them forever.
One of the fastest-growing industries during COVID-19, e-commerce has leaped ahead decades in just a few short months. Big box stores have completely gone under and shopping has moved almost entirely online in a way that analysts were predicting would take years, but instead took less than one thanks to the pandemic. Many e-commerce and fintech companies have secured strong positions, and are taking different steps to ensure that they’ll remain powerful after the pandemic.
One of the fastest-growing startups during the pandemic has been Fast, a company that was founded just a year ago but has since raised over $20 million and launched its one-click checkout service across thousands of internet storefronts. Fast’s value proposition is simple: if their checkout button exists on a website, you won’t have to worry about remembering any emails, passwords or payment information when placing an order; just click the Fast button. While Fast is spreading rapidly to capitalize on the sudden boom in ecommerce, it’s long-term strategy goes beyond just one-click payment.
In an interview we conducted with Fast’s CEO Domm Holland, he revealed that the company wanted to expand its one-click service beyond checkout to things like login, job applications, and more. Holland said that delivering on payment is a way to display the company’s value proposition, but that the long-term strategy is to become the world’s “data vault.” If Fast can secure online checkout during the pandemic, it will be much easier for them to spread outwards afterwards.
Investment apps are doing a myriad of things to keep users on board beyond COVID, but one of the most notable ones is the introduction of features focused on educating users. After a series of controversies earlier this year where users lost huge amounts of money due to making bets they didn’t understand, apps like Robinhood and Public have introduced tools to teach new users about how to navigate the stock market.
Robinhood also operates like something of an online bank, allowing users to store money on the platform at interest rates much higher than what they could get at a bank - the current interest rate on the app is just over 2%, and having to open the app to access your bank information means you’re just a tap away from making a trade with that money.
Zoom is trying to build an empire
Zoom is perhaps the easiest target of claims that thriving industries will dwindle after COVID. While companies are making a permanent shift towards work-from-home that will ensure Zoom has some residual use after the pandemic, there will still undeniably be a major return to offices and abandonment of digital workplace communications because of it. To try and preempt this, Zoom has launched the Zoom App Store, or Zapp Store.
This Zapp Store, which has some investors seeing dollar signs, shows an effort by Zoom to both secure its position as an indispensable business tool, and to expand beyond business towards a general audience. The Zapp store launched with 35 partners across several industries, including Slack, Weight Watchers, education app Kahoot!, and several others. Early on in the pandemic, Zoom became a major social tool and was used to host things like fitness classes, happy hours, birthday parties and countless other digital gatherings as people remained in their homes starved for social interaction.
Seeing that there is a clear use case for alternate, non-business uses for their service, Zoom is branching out. But by developing its own app ecosystem, Zoom may end up becoming the home of the next generation of tech unicorns, and can thrive off their success much like Apple has thrived off being the gatekeeper of its own App Store for many years. If Zoom can attract one-of-a-kind services that balloon to massive valuations, it can secure a space as a platform for innovation and growth that will generate attention from new founders and create longevity for Zoom at large. When it comes to personal use, however, Zoom may have difficulties competing with apps like Facetime and Discord, which have huge install bases already.
In the coming holiday months, the multiple successful pandemic industries will continue to make shifts towards securing their position at the top beyond the current status quo. It will be a long