2020 wasn’t anything that we’d hoped it would be and the world will still be dealing with all the COVID-19 consequences for a while. As a society, we stopped like we’d never stopped before and many of us found ourselves with very little to do. However, thanks to the availability of various digital products and services, we were still able to continue doing certain things, albeit remotely.
Before this strange year ends, we thought we’d review some of the successful digital products of 2020 to take some inspiration and perhaps use their examples in product development going forward.
Anyone already working in the digital industry or providing online services was able to continue operating and cover for the lack of face to face interaction to a certain degree. For example, banks quickly adapted to online appointments and managed to help lots of customers with financial services. Supermarkets ramped up their online delivery, and video conferencing services saw a huge demand for hosting quizzes, catching up with families, as well as holding business meetings.
One of the main ‘winners’ that have come out of the pandemic are online retailers and ecommerce platforms like ASOS, Amazon and Shopify.
ASOS doesn’t have any retail presence, so it carried on relying on its website and app, as well as keeping up with the demand. The closure of retail stores and the need for casual clothes drove more shoppers online.
ASOS’ app is one of the great examples of ecommerce. It has very clear navigation (filters, browsing options, categories etc), constant promotions and engagement (app only discount, deals on certain items, notifications), as well as having a consistent way of displaying products. The purchasing process is also very streamlined and quick, including returns and customer services. ASOS’ marketing is always spot on and relevant. They prioritised casual/athleisure wear as soon as the first lockdown hit, so customers were instantly drawn to it. The whole user journey is enjoyable, simple and clear. It shows that making an effort to create a useful and detail-oriented product pays off, and not just in a pandemic. As a result, ASOS more than quadrupled its profits.
Amazon is very similar and made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world with a net worth of $185 billion. However, what was interesting about Amazon is that it grew rapidly in the pandemic. It saw new sales rise 40%, which is again because of how convenient it is to order from. In addition, having developed Amazon Prime with video streaming services, it was a no brainer for many new customers to join. Amazon really didn’t do anything new apart from building on its brand and offering quick delivery services that many more people appreciated in the lockdown. However, their product was already well-established and it didn’t take long for everyone else to see how easy it is, so the onboarding process was smooth for many new customers too.
Although Shopify is much smaller than Amazon, its platform grew 71% in Q2 compared to Q1. It enabled smaller and independent retailers to use its services to extend their business and continue to trade online during the pandemic. Instead of going through the potentially lengthy process of creating a bespoke ecommerce website or outsourcing one, retailers were able to launch their online stores via Shopify. It takes care of marketing, payments, shipping and other tools that a retailer needs.
Shopify recently reported a shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to online shopping. They believe a growing amount of shoppers will continue to buy online, as well as making an effort to support smaller, independent businesses. It’s also demonstrated how easily smaller businesses can set up their online stores and has hopefully encouraged more of them to do so going forward. It’s much better to have a digital backup for your services.
Esports and iGaming
It was a sad day when sporting events got cancelled. Having a variety of events on throughout the week offers lots of entertainment for many, and it was a big deal not having anything to watch. However, we suddenly saw a rise in esports. People started playing more, as well as watching others play professionally. Both Twitch and YouTube experienced a rise in viewerships and esports streams. Esports is now worth over $1 billion thanks to its dedicated audience and lots of commercial opportunities from growing demand.
What made it popular? Although there’s little crossover between esports and sports fans, it was easy for the latter to venture into video games. Esports games are entertaining and can appeal to many avid sports fans as an alternative. The wide availability of gaming consoles also helped onboard new viewers, and they were likely familiar with many of the games too.
As more traditional forms of entertainment moved to digital platforms (theatre, talk shows etc), it was only a matter of time for sports to join them. We saw online FIFA tournaments between professional footballers and NASCAR’s iRacing series where professional drivers were competing online. It was a big step for sporting events to be moved online and it’s shown that there is a market for these types of events too. Even as live sports are returning, esports can be another commercial opportunity for sports clubs and organisations going forward.
As far as sports betting is concerned, the industry also suffered from a lack of live events. However, operators quickly shifted focus to esports, online casino and iLottery products. They were able to rely on their online gambling products to support business and provide entertainment to customers. These products managed to fill the live event gap and grew the gross gambling yield by 3% month on month. However, it was also important for operators to encourage safe and responsible gambling, as online activities rose and customers had more spare time. Ensuring that customers could set limits easily or take a break from playing was key.
Entertainment and streaming servicesFor those spending extensive amounts of time at home, entertainment and streaming services became a huge part of our lives (probably only slightly more than usual). Luckily, Netflix released some great new shows and Disney+ timed its launch perfectly - just in time for all the kids to be off school. Netflix subscriptions were up 23.3% YOY.
We’d been binging on Netflix shows for a while, and the pandemic offered another reason for us to continue, attracting a huge global audience to its selection of content. But what makes it successful, is not only what’s available, but how easy it is to watch everything. You can cast Netflix on your TV or watch it from your laptop. It’s also available on smart TVs and gaming consoles, so users can start watching Netflix almost on any platform. The way the app displays newest releases, categories, recommendations and previews is also very intuitive and engaging. Users can easily resume watching shows, set subtitles and create lists of what they want to watch. The UX of Netflix is excellent, and we often use it as an example in our work too.
To conclude, the platforms and products that were able to grow revenues were already established and had solid products behind them. What made them so successful was the UX, design and overall customer experience. So many people that were reluctant to order something online or complete online transactions have now been converted thanks to the ease of use of these services. It took a pandemic to move a big chunk of consumers to digital, but perhaps this is a start for a new approach for many businesses. Shopfiy predicts that there’s been a shift to customer behaviour, particularly around retail shopping.
This pandemic has encouraged more to shop online, and perhaps discouraged some to venture to the high street due to social distancing. It’s not a reason to close up retail, but it’s clear that online can prove more practical in many cases. There’s a market for digital products and more customers are embracing them. If it’s possible to order food, manage finances and find plenty of entertainment, more businesses need to be thinking about their digital strategy and how it fits in their product development.