In just a matter of months, dating has quickly (and successfully) transformed to a fully virtual industry. 94% of OkCupid users recently said they plan to continue dating virtually, while 70% of Hinge users are open to phone or video dates. But, while many match-making apps, like OkCupid and Hinge, have navigated their way through the challenges of social distancing, the need for continued innovation is imperative, as the habits and interests of dating app users have further evolved. Today, dating apps are discovering updated ways to operate and profit in these unique times.
Dating Apps Prove Profitable In The Wake Of Social Distancing
Despite the challenges social distancing brought on during Q1, several major dating apps saw significant growth in users and revenue. Match Group, whose dating platforms include Hinge, Plenty of Fish and Match.com, saw spikes in usage across all its dating brands, generating more than $544 million in revenue — a 17% increase year over year (YOY). Additionally, the average number of daily messages sent across all Match Group platforms in April was 27% higher compared to the last week of February. “We are confident that demand for human connection will never dissipate and remain committed to fulfilling that need,” Match Group stated in a Q1 earnings note.
Fellow dating app Tinder ranked as the highest grossing non-game app worldwide for March 2020, bringing in more than $76.8 million in user spending. The app grew direct revenue by 31% YOY and average subscribers by 28%. Bumble, on the other hand, reported a rise in “quality chats,” meaning the length of time two users spend communicating and the length of the specific messages have both increased. This spike in users, revenue and overall time spent on dating apps is enticing for advertising partners during a time when many media outlets are feeling the effects of lost ad spending.
Dating App Activity Among Young Female Users Stands Out
Since the start of the pandemic, Match Group reported a noticeable increase in activity among users under the age of 30 across all platforms. Throughout the month of April specifically, this demographic showed a 35% increase in daily messages sent.
Similarly, the biggest increase in usage and activity on the Tinder platform also came from users under the age of 30, with daily average swipes increasing by 37%. Usage and engagement among female users in particular saw a major jump, with the app noting the shift in female behavior is “an extremely positive development for our ecosystem.” Overall, across the majority of dating apps, new users and subscriptions are stronger among women than men.
Dating Apps Are Launching New Products & Embracing Digital Marketing Strategies
While many dating apps have benefitted from increased usage among users, experienced marketers know the habits and demands of consumers, especially in today’s climate, are ever-evolving. As a result, many dating apps have launched new initiatives and marketing tactics to fit the current environment and prepare for future shifts.
- Bumble recently teamed up with Airbnb on a digital campaign to provide virtual first dates to users stuck at home. As part of the collaboration, Bumble is sponsoring a contest that gives 100 users a chance to win an online experience such as wine tastings, cooking lessons, escape rooms and more. Bumble also introduced a “virtual date badge” to user profiles, indicating the user is available for a video chat. Every time a person uses the badge, Bumble pledged to donate $1 to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Fund.
- Tinder announced its plans to launch a video-chat feature for virtual dating by the end of June, allowing users to go on virtual dates amidst the pandemic. The “one-to-one live video” feature would be one of the largest feature introductions for the brand.
- Taking a different route to improving user experience, Hinge launched Hinge Labs, a program providing evidence-based insights based on behavioral data from users. Through the program, Hinge will interview users who have found their matches on the app, access machine learning (ML) to uncover user behaviors that led to relationship successes and conduct experiments to determine app features that have the greatest impact on making strong matches.
Dating App Brands Are Distributing Marketing Spend More Strategically
Match Group recently shared it has “very little committed” in terms of its future marketing spend, as the brand wants to be able to quickly adjust as the environment continues to change. “Given the favorable marketing environment for our brands, and given the continued strong engagement with our products, we expect to continue to spend where we see opportunities, even at the expense of some short-term margin compression,” said Match Group.
According to Match Group, in the current environment, “TV viewership has risen significantly, but advertising rates have been declining, which means TV has become more efficient.” The same is true of online ads, but out-of-home channels have proven to be less effective.
Looking ahead, marketers must analyze marketing returns, adjust spend accordingly, and, most importantly, be prepared to adapt quickly when needed. The demand for human connection will, however, always remain, creating a constant need for dating apps in one form or another. Across the board, the hope for each of these apps is that the industry’s ability to quickly pivot and launch a slew of new features will help sustain interest in this new style of virtual dating.
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