Yesterday marked over 1 million Coronavirus (or COVID-19) cases worldwide, with a daily increase of 80,000 from the previous day. Stay-at-home orders rise in an effort to control the disease. Local businesses in the United States begin to confront the dilemma of keeping their business running and the risk they impose on their customers and employees by remaining open. But in some cities, like New York City, restaurants have no option as the government has mandated closure.
While the challenge confronting Wingman is small in scope to the global challenge imposed by this WHO-declared pandemic, understanding its impact on business card scanning and contact management will hopefully accelerate recovery once COVID-19 is under control. The Wingman team started asking questions internally, like:
- Will conferences and events go all virtual, or will there continue to be some in-person?
- Are there going to some countries and regions that recover sooner than others?
- Once recovery is achieved – whatever that looks like – will people want to exchange business cards, or will their fear of touching an object that has potentially been infected with COVID-19 germs bring an end to the business card industry?
- How will contact information be shared in virtual conferences?
- When is the most likely timeframe for recovery, and how does this impact staffing?
What was clear from these conversations is that there is a lot we do not know. The CDC and WHO are still learning a lot about this virus every day, and their research will instruct business practices and vaccine development. The best we could do is make our best guesses based on trends and how other businesses respond.
Virtual Events Indefinitely
Event organizers have quickly responded to the pandemic, many immediately turning to virtual conferences and events. I had planned on speaking at three events over the next two months; all three have turned to virtual conferences. Businesses are reluctant to send their employees on an airplane or to occupy confined spaces with other people. Overall, face-to-face meetings have been canceled unless urgent.
While Wingman’s differentiation to date has been the speed and quality of business card scanning, the vision has been to transition to a contact management app. Therefore, one action item from internal discussions was to re-prioritize the 2020 product roadmap to prioritize contact management features. Some of these features include:
- Synchronizing Apple Contacts across multiple Apple devices;
- Deduplicating contacts between Apple Contacts, Google Contacts, and MS Exchange Contacts;
- Exporting Contacts to Google Sheets and Customer Relationships Management systems (CRMs) like Salesforce & SugarCRM; and
- Supporting Team sharing functionality.
Business Cards Won’t Go Away
Whether the exchange of physical business cards will emerge post-Coronavirus was probably the most heavily debated topic internally. While there is risk either way, this prediction influences the product decision on whether to deprecate the business card scanning functionality. Given the amount we have invested in making the scanning of business cards fast and accurate, there was a bias towards keeping this functionality within Wingman. Acknowledging this bias, we presented arguments internally to retain the business card scanning functionality within Wingman.
First, many have claimed that business cards are dead over the past ten years and digital business cards will replace physical business cards. Over 7 billion business cards are printed each year, with an average annual increase of 8% over the past ten years. Many other stats make it compelling for businesses to continue to print and hand out business cards.
Second, since the starting development of Wingman’s business card scanning functionality, we have believed there is an untapped opportunity in improving the user experience during the physical exchange of business cards. Our vision is to provide the user with immediate intelligence about a person they just met, to help break the ice and make the initial discussion more meaningful. Collecting intelligence across the internet in real-time with minimal false-positives is no small feat. The best way to minimize the false-positives is to supply the intelligence-gathering engine with as much context as possible. Business cards – full of information like name, company, office location – provide excellent context. It is much better than just a name. The historical problem with business card scanning is speed and low accuracy. The scan and intelligence collection need to be completed within 2 seconds to not interrupt the normal conversation flow. And, without an accurate scan, the intelligence collection will not find the correct information. With Wingman’s current scans completing within 2 seconds and accuracy above 90% and improving every day, we believe we are creating that differentiated user experience and do not want to drop the functionality that supports it.
Finally, even as business cards decline – we think there will be a decline over the next ten years – the other methods of sharing identity will increase to offset the decline of business card use. At a conference, that may be scanning a conference badge. In a meeting, it may be simple verbal introductions. The real-time intelligence collection does not change; just the method of collecting information about whom you are speaking with changes.
It is evident from the early days of this pandemic that each country and state are responding differently. Different regions will implement more successful policies than others, and landlocked countries or countries that can control their borders are more likely to contain the virus. We will target marketing funds towards countries that can control the spread.
These are unusual times. We pray for our world leaders to make the right decisions, reduce the loss of life, and minimize the business impact of COVID-19.