Dating apps: Are marketers missing an opportunity?

Dating apps: Are marketers missing an opportunity? Jenny Gonzalez is Chief Revenue Officer at Agile Wings. Agile Wings is a VC and accelerator firm. It invests and encourages growth in technology developed specifically for the growing dating industry.


Dating applications have become a key part of the technology ecosystem. Online dating was previously restricted to a core set of internet users, developed and incubated at a similar pace to social media, however, it is quickly presenting a unique opportunity for marketers.

Sometimes the dating sector is painted with the same brush as the more risque adult entertainment industry, however, this has in some ways actually made it more interesting for traditional marketers to examine.

Alienation over the years has meant specialist agencies, platforms and even bidding systems have developed separately to other sectors. The result is a highly technical and optimised industry focused on one simple target: growing user bases.

In the US alone, the online dating industry generates over $2bn a year, and according to HTC a staggering quarter of the UK population using smartphones has admitted to having a dating application installed on their phone.

The biggest player in the mobile space, Tinder, has been described as the best lifestyle app of all time. It has more than 50 million users, and claims to have made more than 50 billion matches.

Despite your views on the morality or professionalism of the industry (views that I will happily counter), the size and potential of the sector cannot be denied or ignored.

Turning a date into a marketing moment

Finding love and intimacy is one of the most basic human desires. It is for this reason that I struggle to understand opposition to the dating industry.

Admittedly there are plenty of risque dating sites out there, with very close links to adult entertainment and pornography, however, the mainstream sector, full of normal consumers, businessmen and women, students, homeowners, food lovers, and almost any customer profile you can think of presents an enormous opportunity to brand marketers.

Marketers regularly praise Facebook as an essential marketing channel. An impressive 50% of Facebook mobile app users check the app daily, providing some good ad viewability figures.

However, this figure is nothing compared to some of the most popular dating applications. According to Survey Monkey, 70.3% of Grindr users, predominantly gay and bisexual men, check the application daily.

You might view this as an anomaly, unique to the gay community as Grindr is the dominant app in that market, however plenty of other apps see higher engagement levels than Facebook.

Survey Monkey data also revealed that, Lulu, Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, JSwipe, Plenty Of Fish and Happn, all see over 50% of their users checking the app daily.

 Brands who regularly use customer profiles to target customers are missing a pretty big trick

The point is that these dating sites each present marketing moments. Our own data tells us that the most popular days for users to engage with dating apps is Tuesday and Wednesdays from afternoon through to early evening. What else might these consumers be looking to do in that time?

We know from our data they are looking to arrange dates and get out and meet people at the weekend, so might they also like a new outfit to wear or a taxi to take them home when the date is over?

Tinder founder and CEO Sean Rad himself commented that he sees the future of Tinder in advertising. It is evident so many users are heavily engaged in online and mobile dating, so presenting ads to them is an obvious opportunity.

Customer profiling

Whenever I attend mainstream marketing events, the customer journey is touted as gospel that we all must understand and map. To do this, marketing evangelists claim we need full customer profiles, gathered through data mining from a mix of sources from online and mobile cookies to in-store engagements and predictive analytics.

All of these then need to be processed and combined by a complex data engine, before an intelligent decision is then made. I listen to this and think that in the dating sector, we already know who all our customers are, their likes and dislikes and how to contact them.

When you go into a shop, you don’t particularly want to give away too much about yourself. Why should a retailer know your personal preferences? But the relationship with a dating site is totally different.

Ultimately the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it. If for example you’re into golf, or romantic comedy movies, you’re most likely happy to give this up as you will get something in return: a better matched date.

If you visit a shop a few times, you might not necessarily want to receive regular targeted marketing. In short, customer profiling through the dating sector gives consumers an incentive to hand over information of interest to marketers.

As a result, brands who regularly use customer profiles to target customers are missing a pretty big trick. A dating platform with a full set of pre-made profiles to target, broken down into likes, dislikes and preferences from favourite food to weekend activities, gives a level of unrivaled insight, enabling highly targeted marketing.

The dating industry has for too long been pigeonholed as an area full of sex obsessed men. But this stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether you’re a brand targeted towards the over 50s market, single parents, students (you get the idea), the marketing potential in the space is too big to simply ignore.

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