Pandemic Influenced Tech Promotional Products: For many businesses, 2020 was written off as a lost year. Major projects were postponed, others were rethought and turned into something that was still profitable, albeit less so. Budgets were adjusted. And, perhaps most importantly, there has been a mass migration to remote work, with executives having to pay rent for unused office space.
According to The Economist, before the pandemic, Americans spent 5 percent of their working hours at home. By the spring of 2020, that number jumped to 60 percent. Learning curves aside, the transition has gone better than expected. However, privacy concerns quickly faded into the background. IT had more pressing concerns than the glitches of virtual exhibit platforms or employees’ reluctance to reboot their computers.
“When people brought their computers home, they also brought with them the webcams needed for Zoom meetings,” said Lori Metz, CEO of C-Slide, Lehi, Utah. “They can be easily hacked, and people can unknowingly open their home to be seen and heard by cyberattackers.”
The security breaches don’t end there. Ambitious criminals can hack into a device’s microphone and hear personal or business conversations that could reveal sensitive information or confidential strategies. The good news is that there are technological accessories that eliminate security risks or solve other problems caused by the pandemic. We reached out to Metz and Wendy Knapp, vice president of sales for iClick, Seattle, to learn more.
What’s happening now.
During Microsoft’s first-quarter FY21 earnings call last October, the tech giant reported that Microsoft Teams, its workplace collaboration platform, now has more than 115 million daily active users — a 53 percent increase since April 2020. The rapid growth shows no signs of slowing down, especially since it’s hard to predict how corporate life will work out after the pandemic. Some organizations are eager to fill empty jobs and restore camaraderie. However, not all employees share this enthusiasm.
According to TechPublic, a recent survey on Blind, an anonymous network for professionals, sought to understand how the shift to in-person work might affect employee turnover if the “great experiment in remote working” were to end. The survey showed that one in three employees would quit if that happened. Interestingly, of the 3,050 respondents, 349 had “already agreed to WFH permanently.”
Regardless of the outcome – return, remote or hybrid work – Slide has a solution. Webcam cases are compatible with most devices, require no battery, and eco-friendly options are available for environmentally conscious consumers (such as eco-friendly bamboo and recyclable walnut wood). Metz listed additional benefits.
“One of the great things about our webcam cases is that a webcam case cannot be hacked,” she enthuses. “It’s a physical device that can’t be controlled by a cyberattack, which makes it the safest way to protect your family. When you add a microphone blocker and a data blocker, you further protect your privacy and information at home.”
Tech companies have long warned of such risks. So it’s not too surprising that Firefox, the mobile browser privacy advocate, has been handing out C-Slide webcam cases like the Razor model at its events. The Razor’s ultra-slim depth allows laptops to close normally, but its sliding mechanism allows quick access to the camera when needed. Meanwhile, in the medical sector, Parexel, a biopharmaceutical provider, has chosen the Aluminum Swivel webcam cover, which, as the name implies, swivels to open and hide webcams. Their appeal extends beyond cybersecurity companies and hospitals: Metz cites airlines, trucking companies, schools, travel and government agencies as frequent users.
Importantly, COVID-19 has also accelerated pre-existing non-security technology trends. Before the pandemic, and to a greater extent now, Knapp saw the biggest growth in the iClick “food” category. She attributes that growth to WFH policies.
“Qi wireless chargers have been a big hit because they keep your phone passively charged, yet easily accessible, and [there’s] no need to unplug your phone when you take a call,” Knapp says. “Power banks are also booming. As employees spend more time on their personal phones answering business calls or Zoom meetings, their batteries run out before the day is over. Need to make a call outside because your kids are in Zoom class? This power bank will save your battery without having to pull an extension cord outside.”
Another example is ultraviolet type C (UV-C) disinfection technology with wavelengths in the 200-280 nanometer range. It’s not a new concept, but as Knapp noted, it has only recently penetrated the market at the consumer level. With the increased focus on hygiene and sanitation, she said, end consumers are demanding everything from UV phone cleaners to hand sticks for disinfecting masks, pens and doorknobs.
Knapp recalled a specific case in which each of these technologies played a role. The distributor was working with a large independent food delivery service that wanted to improve driver safety while thanking its contractors for keeping up with orders due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The company first mailed a PopPack with interchangeable PopGrip handles and a vent attachment to help drivers drive without using their hands. The next month, it mailed the UVClean P4000 5x Flip to drivers to help them keep their devices charged, allowing them to operate the customer ordering app without interruption and easily sterilize items and surfaces.
What trends will remain?
As the proliferation of vaccines gathers momentum, it’s likely that travel will follow in one way or another. While it’s no longer possible to predict much, Metz and Knapp are confident that end-user demand for these technological products will remain steady.
“The security issues we face now will be the same when business travel and face-to-face customer meetings resume,” Knapp noted. “There will always be issues of accessing secure Wi-Fi, protecting data from ‘remote hacking,’ and more. Villains will continue to find smarter ways to hack our data, and technology security will follow suit in an effort to improve security.”
Last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office redirected cybersecurity discussions to the topic of “juice hacking,” which occurs when people plug their phones into an outlet and hackers use malware in the charging station or USB cable to “hack” private information such as phone numbers and passwords. Several news outlets claimed there were no documented cases, but prosecutors cited a study in which White Hats (ethical hackers who expose security weaknesses for the public good) concluded that hacking into USB ports is “definitely possible.”
“Adding a webcam to your mobile device and having a USB data blocker to protect you when charging devices in public places would be great ways to stay safe while traveling,” Metz advised. “We also highly recommend putting an RFID-locked card in your wallet to block the credit card scanner, as many people can simply walk past your purse or wallet in a crowd and take your credit card information. An RFID-locked card protects your cards from such hackers.”
How to sell technology
When selling technology solutions, it’s easy to let flashy features go to waste. Knapp cautions distributors against this approach.
“The market for technology products is growing and will be for a long time, so now is a good time to get involved,” Knapp stressed. “Learn all you can, stay on top of trends and be on the lookout for your customers.”
Ask questions. If distributors don’t know where to start, asking “Why?” – is a good starting point. Understanding their customers’ needs, what they hope to achieve, and how that product fits into their brand and overall strategy will help offer better solutions.
“Most customers are under the impression that tech is too expensive, that all they can afford are pens, mugs and stickers, but that’s not true today,” Knapp says. “As tech devices are gaining in popularity, they’re also coming down in price. They are becoming easier and cheaper to produce, making them affordable for many smaller budgets.”
“Take our QiDisc, for example, which costs only $5.65 (c), the same price as a decent coffee mug,” she continues. “Distributors can win sales just by introducing products side by side. Do you want to give another coffee mug that’s likely to just get donated? Or give them a Qi wireless charger that has a much higher perceived value and durability? If a customer immediately asks for a mug, don’t sell it just because it’s easy. Provide added value by asking why they want the mug.”
That means distributors have to do their homework. Knapp suggests presenting customers with about five solutions. Even if they only choose the mug, they’ll think of you when they need creativity in the future.”
Metz agreed that selling an underwhelming product based on price alone won’t result in customers staying with you for life. In addition to showing customers bundling options, Metz encouraged distributors to share virtuals that feature products with custom packaging. For its webcam cases, C-Slide offers a variety of options, including: 4×6″, 5×7″, 6×11″ and 8×11″ flat cards; 4×6″ bifold cards; 4×6″ tri-fold cards; and 4×6″ tear-off business cards.
Not only does the packaging help with presentation, but it’s also good for smaller products that have a limited amount of space to accommodate brand information.
“It’s preferable for webcam cases to be small, but the logo can usually only be placed on small products,” Metz says. “With custom packaging, you can tell your story, and let your logo on your webcam case remind [end users] of you throughout the day.” Remember, webcam cases are one of the most impressive promotional products on the market because they are on your customers’ computer screens or phones.”
Finally, distributors should lean on their vendor partners. Be transparent, attend webinars and ask vendors if they are willing to participate in a phone call. When the customer is happy, everyone wins.
“We like to help our distributors come up with interesting offers for their customers,” Metz says. “If you need an artistic layout, an idea for a special niche market, or you even want to combine other suppliers’ products with ours, we’d love to work with you to wow and excite your customers!”