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Zoom Announces New Products and Significant Innovations at Zoomtopia 2021

At its fifth annual Zoomtopia conference, Zoom announced a wide range of innovations and upcoming products for Q4 2021 and 2022. Of note were feature improvements for inclusivity, workspaces for hybrid teams, and virtual whiteboarding within Zoom’s core videoconferencing platform; expansions for Zoom Phone and Zoom Events; and the introduction of Zoom’s Video Engagement Center.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan kicked off Zoomtopia’s keynote with an emphasis on enabling the post-pandemic workforce, which is decidedly following a flexible hybrid model. One important factor in enabling hybrid workforces is inclusivity, ensuring that the playing field for meeting experiences is leveled. To this end, Zoom announced the following feature updates:

  • Through its acquisition of Kites, Zoom will be offering live translation (supporting up to 12 languages) and automated transcription translations (supporting up to 30 languages) by the end of 2022. This feature was available during Zoomtopia for preview and functioned alongside the ability to pin sign language interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
  • These accessibility features will also be bolstered with Zoom’s Smart Gallery, which is currently in beta mode. This gallery creates individual video feeds of in-room attendees to equalize the meeting experience with remote attendees.

Other key upgrades to Zoom Meetings include the following:

  • Zoom Whiteboard, expected in Q4 2021, provides a native virtual whiteboarding software within the Zoom application.
  • Zoom is partnering with Facebook to offer Oculus Horizons Workrooms. This technology is at the forefront of enabling virtual reality (or augmented reality) meetings. By using Zoom Meetings and Zoom Whiteboard through Oculus headsets, attendees can appear within a virtual meeting room with others. The software reacts to real objects, enabling attendees to use their devices or even draw on a whiteboard during the virtual session. These devices will ship in 2022.
  • Zoom Widget, to be released in the first half of 2022, will provide users with an overview of their meeting schedule, where they can see who is already in a meeting and send meeting hosts a quick message through Zoom Chat if, for instance, the user is running late.
  • Zoom Chat will receive enhancements, with persistent chat and continuous collaboration enabled even after a meeting has ended. Moreover, at the beginning of 2022, users will be able to use “Huddle View,” which provides a digital workspace visual of a channel (e.g. an image of an office and where people sit, who is at the virtual water cooler for a quick chat, and so on).
  • Interlinked with Huddle View, Zoom will offer a hot-desking feature for Q4 of 2021 that will allow employees to reserve desks and rooms in the office using an interactive virtual map.
  • Other features arriving this October will be functionality to let multiple people other than the host control a shared presentation and a waiting room two-way chat with the host.

On the back of Zoom Meetings’ popularity, Zoom Phone has fast become a leader in the UCaaS marketspace. With Zoom Phone now available in 47 countries and territories and surpassing 2 million paid seats, Zoom is providing several expansions to enhance the offering:

  • The Zoom Phone Provider Exchange will launch in Q4 of 2021, allowing organizations to discover PSTN provider partners through the Zoom Admin console. This self-service feature grants better visibility for organizations to ensure they can choose the right PSTN partner.
  • Video voicemail.
  • Enhanced security features with end-to-end-encryption during one-on-one phone calls that occur via the Zoom client.

Source: SoftwareReviews’ Zoom Phone Scorecard. Accessed September 20, 2021.

Zoom Events is seeing the launch of its Conference solution, generally available this fall – indeed, this year’s Zoomtopia was hosted on Conference. When building a Conference in Zoom Events, organizations can host multi-track and multi-day events, including branded emails, recordings, and analytics. Conference hosts will also have access to a virtual backstage green room for Q&A, chat monitoring, or mingling before going live. Other important features include:

  • 13 sessions can be held simultaneously.
  • Attendees can use an itinerary builder.
  • An event can last up to five days.
  • Sessions can be streamed to the conference lobby.
  • Sponsors can be showcased.
  • Attendee networking can occur through individual session chat.

Finally, Zoom will launch its new Video Engagement Center in early 2022. This is a video solution that aims to extend contact center capabilities to use video for enhancing customer experiences. The Video Engagement Center will offer video-optimized workflows, enabling customers to visually engage with customer service agents. For instance, banking customers may find it beneficial to video chat with an agent, as the agent can share their screen and troubleshoot issues with the benefit of visual aid.

Our Take

Zoom has seen its stock price be rather volatile of late, as investors question whether the Zoom hype will fade post-pandemic. This year’s Zoomtopia was a strong response to alleviate those concerns. Zoom, as with other major UC&C vendors like Cisco, have bet on the future of the workplace being a flexible hybrid model, and plenty of new products and features announced at Zoomtopia were grounded on this assumption. Oculus Horizons Workrooms was the most brazen example of this: the idea that meetings of the future will be hosted in virtual reality, bringing distanced attendees together into a virtual meeting room.

Perhaps the most interesting announcement, though, was Zoom’s Video Engagement Center. The UC&C market is trending toward merging with contact center and customer experience functionalities, with organizations preferring to have their solutions unified into one platform. Zoom is betting that video – as a channel for customer engagement – will be important alongside voice, email, and other channels. Once coupled with the Five9 platform (after its acquisition by Zoom is finalized), this promises to be a dominating product across the UCaaS, team collaboration, CCaaS, and customer experience marketspaces.

Of course, video will not always be the right channel to invest in for all organizations. Interestingly, Five9’s CX Summit (held a week before Zoomtopia) centered on voice still being customers’ channel of choice, and the company has sought to invest predominantly in voice technologies over the next year. Organizations considering multi- or omnichannel capabilities should ensure the channels they offer resonate with their customer target audience, lest those organizations risk losing ROI on underutilized channels. Use Info-Tech’s Build a Strong Technology Foundation for Customer Experience Management for guidance on selecting the right kind of customer experience framework for your organization.

Source: SoftwareReviews’ UCaaS Data Quadrant. Accessed September 20, 2021.

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