Is Amazon Chime Poised to Disrupt the Workplace?

Key Takeaway: Given numerous entrants into the videoconferencing sector from established and emerging technology companies—including the recent introduction of Amazon Chime—the market leader position in this space is up for grabs. We at Market Strategies have a lot of questions about how the sector is growing and transforming. How prevalent is videoconferencing? Which platforms are being used? What do companies need to focus on to make their platform ubiquitous?  In this article, we will share our data and insights on the players in this space, including the number one thing a company must do to come out on top.

Videoconferencing technologies have been around for more than a decade, but we have seen them take off with our clients in the past year. We enjoy being able to visually interact with our clients and colleagues so we set out to conduct our own research study to learn more about the experience. While analyzing the results, we were surprised by the introduction of Amazon Chime, which promises “frustration-free online meetings with exceptional audio and video quality.” Why would Amazon enter this market now, with Skype and Hangouts being around for years? Is it insightful or redundant? Will a majority of users asking their colleagues to ‘Skype’ or ‘Hangout’ now ask them to ‘Chime?’

Our data suggests Amazon’s move is insightful. While Skype and Hangouts are certainly popular, there is plenty of room for additional competitors especially since no one seems to have worked out all of the technology bugs. And with a majority of users not wedded to any single platform, Amazon (or another disruptor) has plenty of opportunity to grab market share.

Will Videoconferencing Transform the Workplace?

Companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon are looking to transform the workplace, changing where, when and how we work. Their tools are redefining how we collaborate by creating personal connections regardless of geography—letting someone feel like they are in the boardroom, even though they are connecting from their home office.

Yet, adoption of new technology always has hiccups and videoconferencing is no exception. Meetings can get bogged down by technical difficulties, such as not being able to connect, having the video feed lag or having the audio skip like a scratched CD. While video may someday be synonymous with conferencing, it is not yet widely adopted, perhaps for this reason. Among those who use personal computers at work, only 29% say they are currently using videoconferencing technologies.

Who Will Emerge as The Leader?

So how are information workers—those who work on a computer and conference with colleagues or clients—responding to videoconferencing platforms? We see a workforce excited about the features, but extremely wary of the technical bugs.

Amazon will be targeting usage share of two entrenched platforms: Microsoft Skype for Business and Google Hangouts. However, given that 71% of information workers have not yet adopted videoconferencing, growth of new users will also be critical. Currently, neither Skype nor Hangouts has a majority of users. Microsoft Skype for Business is used by 36% of all videoconferencing users while Google Hangouts is close behind at 33%. Cisco WebEx and Citrix GoToMeeting are each used by 16%, and an additional eight platforms have usage between 11% and 5%. With so many still to adopt, any of these platforms have the opportunity to become a widely adopted tool.

With products from Tech behemoths Microsoft and Google enjoying the highest usage, we were surprised to learn only 46% prefer Skype or Hangouts, with 28% preferring Skype and 18% preferring Hangouts. Videoconferencing specialists hold the next tier, with another 13% preferring WebEx, 8% preferring GoTo Meeting and 13% having no preference. Lukewarm support for Skype and Hangouts indicates a huge opportunity for Amazon or another platform to disrupt the market.

The Value of Video is Real & Ageless

Despite these issues, the value of video is real. A clear majority (71%) believe videoconferencing technology makes collaboration easier. Surprisingly, this sentiment is resonant across different age groups, from 18-34 year olds (74%) to those 55 and older (60%). This demonstrates that videoconferencing as a tool to transform the workplace is not a fantasy, but that information workers across generations know it is improving their ability to collaborate.

Though information workers of all ages see videoconferencing as useful for collaboration, there are differences in how younger and older workers experience the technology. While 80% of 18-34 year olds agree that “Overall, videoconferencing technologies are easy to use,” only 67% of 35-54 year olds agree, and less than half (44%) of those age 55 and older agree. Workplaces will never be generationally homogenous, so having a communication experience that is not universally easy to use represents a significant barrier to real transformation.

The Keys to the Kingdom

Mitigating technical difficulties is the key to success. Nearly half (46%) say they experience technical issues and limitations which negatively impact their meetings, and these difficulties occur for workers of all ages. Surprisingly, the proportion is similar across generations. Almost half (46%) of those 18-34 years old experienced technical issues; almost identical to the rate of issues for those 55+ (47%).

Why do older workers say the platforms are harder to use but do not appear to have higher instances of technical difficulties? This may be linked to perceptual differences between generations regarding technical versus usability issues. While more research would be necessary, younger workers may be more willing to tolerate or fix technical issues. Older workers, on the other hand, may not have the same skillsets to overcome them.

It’s too soon to know if a majority of users will be asking their colleagues to ‘Skype’, ‘Hangout’ or ‘Chime’ (or something else?). But we’ve got our money on the company that develops an agile, mobile and bug-free platform that’s easy for all generations to use no matter where they reside on the globe.

Understanding customer needs and user experience is necessary for any product, but it will be critical to removing the barriers that are preventing greater adoption of workplace videoconferencing. If you want to talk more about the challenges your company is facing and how our innovation and product development research can help, please email me.

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About Market Strategies’ Study

Market Strategies interviewed a national sample of 1,042 adults between August 16 and August 18, 2016. Respondents were recruited from the Full Circle opt-in online panel of US adults and were interviewed online. The data were weighted by age, gender, and census region to match the demographics of the US population. Information workers are defined as those who use a desktop or laptop daily at work and have a sample size of 693. Due to its opt-in nature, this online panel (like most others) does not yield a random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

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