A Match Made in Heaven: How Once got Engaged with ‘Slow Dating’ and Smart Retargeting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past five years, you will have noticed the recent explosion of dating app usage across all walks of life. It seems like everyday now there’s a new dating app launched to cater for increasingly specific demographics. There’s dating apps exclusively for models, Christians, singles with the same astrological sign, Ivy League graduates, and now even— an app for cows that launched this week called Tudder.

Pew Research Center

Only time will tell if bovine matchmaking will become our new normal five years from now, but it’s this shift in social norms that have made dating apps become a more widely accepted way of meeting a future partner and today, as many as one in five relationships are believed to begin online.

As more and more people turn to technology to look for love, dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Once have seen downloads skyrocket and revenue grow to make dating services a $3 billion a year business. However, founders looking to enter the lucrative digital dating sphere face a number of unique challenges:

VCs Historically Swipe Left on Dating Apps

VC investment in the space has been on the decline in recent years, with smaller average rounds and fewer funded companies, according to Crunchbase company profile data. There are a number of reasons why VCs have such a hard time hooking up with dating apps, including the high costs of user acquisition and scaling marketing for new metro areas. But the main reason dating apps get no love from VCs is an interesting paradox related to churn.

Built-in Churn

When VCs assess apps to invest in, they tend to look for a loyal, active, long-term user base. However, dating apps present an interesting paradox in that every time they facilitate a successful match that leads to an IRL relationship, they lose two customers. Ordinarily, apps retain more of their users as they get better. That’s what lets them grow more consistently and build more predictable revenue. For dating, it’s the opposite — the better the app is at connecting compatible partners, the more users they should lose.

Thank U, Next

Dating app usage may be growing, but recent studies seem to suggest that people are falling out of love with the passive nature of swipe-based dating apps. Users are becoming increasingly frustrated spending up to 90 minutes per day engaging in the app but failing to have real encounters, with only 2% of matches actually meeting in person.

The Once Difference

Launched in October 2015, Once is a dating app that promises a focus on quality over quantity. Instead of mindlessly swiping through countless profiles each day, Once employs ‘slow dating’ to introduce each user to only one person, per day. The person you see on your screen also sees you on their screen, and if you both like each other, you start a conversation and see where it leads. If not, you wait until the next day to meet someone new.

In the competitive dating app space with user churn presenting such a big issue for developers, the ‘slow dating’ approach seems almost counterintuitive. Why encourage people to use your app less, when there are countless other options out there to lure them away? CEO Jean Meyer hopes the thing that keeps people joining Once (as more than 7 million already have, according to the Wall Street Journal) is the app’s dedication to building the best matches possible. “We’re trying to recreate the feeling of when you see two people in the street, and somehow you know they fit together,” Meyer says.

With such a big focus on quality and user experience, the team at Once knew that in order to tackle the unique challenges faced by marketers in the space, they’d have to develop a strategy to ensure meaningful and memorable engagement with the app to be able to maximize revenue.

The Strategy

Like many dating apps, Once monetizes with in-app purchases and by offering a VIP subscription service to users who are serious about finding ‘The One’. After finding success building their user base across Europe, Once began to expand to new markets including The UK & US. Since new user acquisition campaigns can be expensive and difficult to scale in new cities, Once wanted to ensure they made the most of their UA spend by running a retargeting campaign to encourage users to register after installing the app.

To start, the campaign targeted users who had recently installed the app with banner ads and interactive ads mimicking the rating function to remind them to complete the comprehensive signup to get started with the matchmaking process. After seeing success with registrations and positive growth of the user base in the new regions, the Adikteev account management team suggested Once begin to focus on generating revenue from their user base. After an in-depth exploration of the Once app user funnel, the team found that Once were missing out on revenue generating opportunities by not targeting active users to encourage them to purchase crowns and VIP subscription packages.

In order to optimize their campaign budget spend, Once leveraged Adikteev’s Audience tool. Audience is a predictive segmentation tool that uses machine learning to find the right people to target for your campaigns. After collecting in-app data from Once Dating’s tracking partner, we were able to compute the likelihood of the target event (in this case, a purchase) and build a global ranking of every user, based on their likelihood to complete a purchase. Using the Audience tool allowed Once to zero in on the users that were most likely to convert, ensuring no budget was wasted. The introduction of a mixture of ad formats to the campaign, including video & rich media also ensured their revenue targets were being met.


Leveraging the combination of rich media creatives and predictive segmentation, Adikteev delivered +230% ROI and an additional +6.3% revenue for Once.

The positive results prompted Once to allocate more spend to their app retargeting campaigns, working with Adikteev to continue the successful partnership driving engagement and revenue.

What Does This Mean for Dating App Marketers?

You’ll need to proactively promote engagement in your app from the beginning, meaning that from the moment you launch in a new market or to a new audience of users, you should have a strategy that will engage users to make sure your user acquisition dollars aren’t wasted.

Regardless of what your unique dating app is, by relying on insights from your retargeting partner or other industry experts, you can develop a strategy that will keep users coming back, driving revenue and finding love in your app.

If you’re interested in discussing your retargeting strategy or want to know more on the topic, contact your dedicated account manager or shoot an email over to contact@adikteev.com




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