(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Just a year ago, the world witnessed one of the most dramatic changes in human history, forcing people into unprecedented lockdowns and curfews. The disruption was so brutal ‘uncertainty' became an understatement.
But with any challenge and change comes opportunity and what we saw this past year was how quickly people were able to adapt to technology and prepare for a world that is continuing to prime itself for enhanced levels of productivity and efficiency thorough technology.
One technology that realised a steep increase in popularity and demand both at the corporate and consumer level was video — in every form be it long-format, short-format and livestream.
Businesses need video, like they need e-mail, as part of their communications mix. But they also need technologies that ‘glue' together their disparate communications applications — like chat, voice, video, meetings — with the business-critical applications handling, for example, workflows and customer relationships.
Asslan Salloum, unified communications and collaboration lead for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Avaya, said: 'In short, video in and of itself will not be the key driver when it comes to revitalising the economy, and any strategy focused solely on video is backwards, rather than forward-facing.
He added that users have been benefitting from video conferencing technologies for over a decade, which partly explains why so many organisations could go remote relatively seamlessly in 2020. Thus, the technology was already familiar.
'But in this new, work-from-anywhere world, mastery of video conferencing only makes up part of the recipe for success. One of the biggest issues that organisations report is employees struggling with the fatigue of managing too many separate apps: They're constantly switching between their video conferencing, their messaging, their e-mail, their task management and more. All while figuring out new ways to do business in the middle of a global pandemic, Salloum stressed.
According to PwC's annual Global Consumer Insights Survey, health and wellness were already in focus. More than half (58 per cent) of respondents said they were making time each week to improve their health and general wellness as well as adopting a better diet.
This desire for a healthier lifestyle arguably grew stronger during lockdown. In the current survey, more than three-quarters of the respondents 'agreed that they are more focused on taking care of themselves because of Covid-19, across the following categories: Mental health and wellbeing (83 per cent); physical health and fitness (85 per cent); diet (84 per cent); and medical needs (88 per cent).
We have already seen many organisations adapt to video in some form or the other during Covid-19. Fitness First in the UAE, for example, had their personal trainers livestream their workouts and many people start to find online applications to help them with the health and wellness journey. And Apple launched Fitness Plus, allowing users and fitness enthusiasts to follow along a variety of workouts to help them reach their fitness goals.
Users are also preferring to consume content on their mobile devices vs an alternative due to ease, convenience, mobility and more.
Soubhi Droubi, head of content operations at Huawei Mobile Services MEAI, said: 'The pandemic accelerated digital consumption as consumers shifted to digital entertainment as a welcome distraction. The shift of entertainment online has seen an uptake in video-on-demand, with advertising video on demand and subscription video on demand faring particularly well. The future is ripe with opportunities for both a video and a hybrid reality.
Recent consumer adoption of over-the-top (OTT) services has made it the dominant entertainment platform, positioning itself as an ideal platform to generate e-commerce leads, he added.
For instance, OTT could implement e-commerce integrations that would take product placement to the next level. Features such as searchable information about the actors in a scene with an interface that allows you to seamlessly purchase the music soundtrack or the apparel with a few clicks will enhance brand-consumer relationships.
'The possibilities are endless when it comes to OTT service, Droubi pointed out.
Prior to the lockdown, urban consumers prioritised travel, accommodation and entertainment, based on the regional findings published in February by PwC; respondents identified travel (41 per cent) and restaurants (42 per cent) as two of the top three ways they chose to spend their disposable income. However, as a result of Covid-19 consumers say they are now spending more on groceries (61 per cent) and entertainment and media (41 per cent).
Furthermore, PwC's Covid-19 Pulse survey conducted in May 2020 found that 53 per cent of Middle East respondents had increased their use of smartphones for shopping in response to the pandemic, compared with 34 per cent for all territories in the survey. Meanwhile, 39 per cent of the Middle East survey said they had increased their shopping via computer, with 31 per cent using a tablet more often for purchases.
The results suggest in particular that shopping via smartphones will continue to rise after lockdown ends, with 92 per cent of those consumers who increased their shopping via smartphone reporting that they were 'very likely (63 per cent) or 'likely (29 per cent) to continue with this purchase method once social-distancing measures are removed.
We must remember that unlike the Western world, mobile shopping still continues to be a growing trend here in the region. The impact of Covid-19 has forced change: Consumers who were previously resistant to using mobile payment channels discovered that purchasing goods and services on their smartphone was not only easy but convenient too.
Three-quarters (75 per cent) of the Middle East survey said they had increased their consumption of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Likee as a result of social distancing and other isolation measures, substantially more than the average of 52 per cent for all territories.
'Livestreaming is becoming extremely popular both in the region and across the world, said a spokesperson from Bigo Live.
'People are looking for new ways to explore and discover the world around them whilst being in a safe and comfortable environment. With technology evolving at an exponential pace, we will start to see users engage with livestreams from individuals and brands in a more efficient and authentic manner where they can actively participate in live and virtual events or perhaps even make purchases online after a live engagement.
Emad Haffar, head of technical experts at Kaspersky, said: 'Social media applications have become a huge part of our lives especially now during these unprecedented times. As social media usage increases, it is important to stay vigilant about the dangers that lurk on these platforms.
'It is also vital to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands and potentially be used against you by cybercriminals looking for financial gain or another third party. To stay safe on social media applications, users can keep in mind simple steps like not sharing their passwords for online accounts with anyone and not using the same password for more than one account.
Video is not only a trend, but a medium that is here to stay. The continuous evolution of technology and social media will only enhance its versatility and create more opportunities for individuals, small businesses and multinational organisations alike. Video certainly has the potential to revitalise economies and we are just witnessing the beginning of a world of opportunities brought directly to people's screens regardless of where they may be.
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