Swiping right on insight – A closer look at the dating game

Name, occupation, height, interests, values, photographs. These are just some of the metrics used to decipher the value and compatibility of an online dating profile. It’s a virtual market place for people of every kind to swipe their way into a loving (or not so loving) relationship.

Online dating has been an increasing phenomenon since the Match.com birth back in 1995. At the start it was an unusual activity pursued by a minority, but it has since exploded into a mainstream cultural phenomenon with enough scope to touch every age group, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious background, size and shape with access to internet. The answer as to why this has happened is simple: they work. Friends, lovers and even business associates – if there is a connection to be made there is a service that can provide it. Let’s take a deeper look into the world of online dating and see what the data can reveal about the hidden audiences.

The Background

In 2017, as much as 40% of people in relationships were current or past users of Tinder, 15% of couples who met on a dating service had been seeing each other for over a year, and 13.6% were  already engaged or married. Match.com boasts that 1.6 million people in the UK met their partner on the site. Factors such as login frequency and previous relationship history are just some of the ways in which algorithms and machine learning techniques can reveal the most likely pairings for lasting relationships and with a little help from big data, the matching process gets smarter.

Gaps in the industry

‘With these inevitable inaccuracies how can a service provider truly understand the nature of their customers?’

One of the setbacks of this data rich industry is that data is generated via questionnaires and personal profiles. This provides only a partial picture of a person’s character. As service providers, it is crucial to know more about the user’s background. A profile may boast an interest in evenings out and nightclubs but a look at the background data shows instead, a greater focus on online gaming and fantasy football.

With these inevitable inaccuracies how can a service provider truly understand the nature of their customers? The answer lies in understanding the passions and motivations that drive this audience. By knowing this you can understand what differentiates you from your competitors, what kind of audience your service is attracting, and how you can best accommodate the unique values of your audience. Starcount used its social clustering methods to take a closer look at the canvas.

Social Clustering

Social data – or, to be more precise, Starcount’s unique method of ‘social clustering’ allows us to analyse the passions and likes of social media users and cluster them together into different segments based on similar passions, using our pioneering platform, The Observatory. This method is different to, and much more effective than, ‘social listening’ (if you would like to understand more about the differences and why social clustering works better, read our guide here).

Websites vs Apps

When looking at the insight from the Observatory, the immediate differences in audiences are obvious: online sites such as eHarmony and Match.com have top passions around Shopping, Holidays & Travel, Coupons & Saving Money and Coffee & Tea. Whereas, Zoosk, Grindr and Tinder show passions of Shopping, Radio Shows and Babes & Hunks.

A key insight from the data is the overarching need for convenience that the Tinder audience exhibits. The Tinder audience follow brands like Uber, ASOS, Netflix, Amazon, Domino’s and Airbnb. These are all modern brands offering door-to-door service and ultra-convenient smart phone apps. This is reflective of the quick and convenient nature of the app itself. The eHarmony audience have top brands including Kit Sound, Woods of Windsor, Baylis & Harding, and Flicks & Tricks.

‘The passions and motivations of the Tinder audience are focused around lifestyle advice, social media and online deliveries.’

These less well-known brands reveal an interest in fine quality products with a greater focus on comfort and quality and less on speed and ease. eHarmony also has a much greater affinity towards brands than the Tinder audience who are more focused on influencers.

The passions and motivations of the Tinder audience are focused around lifestyle advice, social media and online deliveries. With top influencers like Julie Spira, Rachel Riley, Dapper Laughs and UNILAD, dating tips and comedy vloggers are key passions. The eHarmony audience show different interests and follow stars like Bintu, Chris Osburn and Emma Campbell displaying interests in cooking and beauty products. In this case, the eHarmony audience reveal themselves as active seekers of experiences and possessions of value as opposed to consumers of entertainment and ‘fuss-free’ services in the Tinder audience.

The fastest growing passions for the UK online dating audience.
The fastest growing passions for the UK online dating audience.

If eHarmony can tap into this market and offer a data led approach to dating whilst aligning themselves with brands that offer products and services of this nature, they will be able to reach the hearts and minds of their audience despite the significant obstacle of a lack of convenience. And, with a reported 42% of people using Tinder already in a relationship, there is a dangerous minefield that eHarmony can help navigate with its background and personality checks.

Competing for Customers

‘The nature of eHarmony and reputation for creating long-term relationships attracts a female audience.’

eHarmony, one of the pioneers in online dating, seems to have saturated at around 750,000 paid subscribers and 10 million active users. Tinder on the other hand has surpassed 50 million users. eHarmony currently has a one-star rating on Trust Pilot, its usability and high costs make it difficult and time consuming to use, but there is clear potential to tap into a specific kind of market who are looking for something different to what Tinder, Grindr, and Zoosk are offering.

eHarmony and Bumble are the only dating services to have a majority female social media following and at 67% and 62% respectively, it is convincing (this is compared with 38% female audience for UK dating services in general). It seems that the nature of eHarmony and reputation for creating long-term relationships attracts a female audience.

‘With its ever-increasing complexity, the world of dating services is more and more reliant on big data.’

If eHarmony want to compete in this market, they must be aware of the differences in their audience and accommodate them effectively. This case is not unique – an accurate understanding of a customer base is essential for all apps and dating services in this highly competitive market.

With its ever-increasing complexity, the world of dating services is more and more reliant on big data to manage and interpret customer trends and tailor services. Whether or not big data will be able to find your true love remains to be seen but it has proven to better your chances. What kind of connection are you looking to make? Keep swiping.

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