Industries that are Innovating During the Pandemic

By Scott Wallask

The most innovative industries share something in common, especially during COVID-19: speed.

Based on data analyzed by ZoomInfo, the manufacturing industry has consistently released the most products since 2018.

Other industries that launched products frequently during this period include software, business services, finance, and retail. All five of these industries reflect an ability to quickly offer new features or roll out enhanced technology to keep customers happy.

Figure 1: These five industries have strong records of new product releases. Source: ZoomInfo.

These examples of offer expansion serve as a cornerstone of go-to-market efforts.

To arrive at these results, ZoomInfo analyzed press releases and published articles within its Scoops feature that mentioned new product and service launches. The numbers in the sample measure new product activity through September 2020.

What is it about these five industries that make them ripe for innovation?

Manufacturing (including pharmaceuticals)

This industry is on track to release more products by the end of 2020 than in each of the prior two years. Automation is likely helping here with efficiencies, particularly at factories where earlier worker illnesses due to the pandemic created gaps in production.

The sector is also benefiting more from upsells and cross-sells — both indicators of offer expansion activity. “Experience shows that manufacturers who focus on parts and services have outperformed their peers and exited past crises stronger than before,” according to Industry Today.

“Experience shows that manufacturers who focus on parts and services have outperformed their peers and exited past crises stronger than before.”

— Industry Today

Software

It is not surprising that software-as-a-service and app companies were in a strong position to ride out the pandemic, as many B2B customers still needed back-office products and more work-from-home technology became necessary.

Many software companies now have a larger audience to upsell or release new products to. For example, Zoom Communications — which perhaps more than any tech provider grabbed the biggest market share from COVID-19 — announced a slew of new features and products in October to capitalize on its wave of pandemic customers.

Business services

This wide swath of interests, ranging from professional cleaners to graphic designers and advertisers, was forced to come up with new ways to serve customers, particularly with so many people working from home and using more digital services.

“As engagements are canceled or stalled, professional services firms can start developing a new business model that provides a stable revenue stream during intense disruptions,” according to business software seller SAP. “Such approaches — including digital services or as-a-service revenue models — are simpler to scale based on business volume and need low- or no-touch processes from order to cash.”

Retail

Depending on the product, this industry received “essential service” status during COVID-19, allowing some brick-and-mortar stores to remain open throughout the pandemic. Many of those retailers were quick to offer easier ways to pick up items in person, such as at curbside with contactless payments.

The far bigger influence on retail, which the pandemic accelerated, was eCommerce. “Many retailers will need to embrace technology to balance risk and survive the pandemic by getting them closer to customers, serving their needs, whilst still keeping the required social distance,” wrote Polyglot Group, a business consultancy.

Salesforce predicted that stronger eCommerce activity will continue even after countries get COVID-19 under control.

Figure 2: Most buyers say they will conduct more business online even after the pandemic ends. Source: Salesforce.

The pandemic and its eventual aftermath “will most certainly result in a growing set of new categories of products and services joining the eCommerce bandwagon,” Polyglot added.

Finance

Much like retail, the finance industry had already been heading toward self-service apps that allowed customers to skip waiting in line at a local bank or mailing in payments. Banking integrations are another important piece of offer expansion.

“Banks’ response [to COVID-19] must be to focus less on developing their own digitized products and services … and a material pivot to partnering with fintechs, eCommerce players, software developers, and cloud services by connecting with them through their APIs,” wrote an analyst for KPMG.

Meanwhile, investment and asset management services have increasingly relied on new data sources to guide operating decisions during this period of economic instability, Deloitte said.

Conclusion: Speed helps steer innovation

An ability to change direction quickly based on existing customers’ evolving needs has proven beneficial to the five industries noted above.

The pandemic posed challenges that fields such as manufacturing and retail would not have anticipated in annual planning. However, they are among the industries that continue to push forward with new product releases in 2020 at rates that may rival prior years.

It’s clear innovation remains vigorous for some businesses, which is a positive sign in any economy, but particularly heartening as the world grapples with COVID-19. Companies that are able to rapidly adjust to changing market conditions now will likely earn customer loyalty in the future as the “new normal” settles in.

Scott Wallask is a longtime content writer; seeking stories flowing from data with a dash of skepticism; Northeastern grad

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