The Dating Funnel: Where Does the System Fail?

As a marketing professional, I firmly believe in funnel tactics. The theory says, to get a desirable outcome (a purchase, a website visit, a registration, etc.), a brand needs to reach people before they make a decision: Market to a broad base of potential users, be on top of their mind, and eventually, when the moment comes, nudge them towards your product.

If finding a life partner is your desirable outcome, what are the dating funnels? Not too different:

  • Meet many potential suitors (Awareness/Discovery)
  • Go on a few dates (Engagement/Consideration)
  • Then, hopefully, pick the right one! (Conversion)
But, if you look at the current dating apps ecosystem, most focus only on the Discovery stage, while leaving Consideration and Conversion entirely out of the equation!

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:

Awareness/Discovery:

I can see why all apps want to highlight their prowess here: traditionally it was a difficult problem. A study in Philadelphia in the 30s showed that more than 50% met their spouse within 20 blocks of their childhood home. That is not very many people.

But it was also 80 years ago. Increased mobility has solved for this problem. And in our 21st century, you can search for anyone you want on the web, by age, height, ethnicity. Dating apps continue to expand new ways to meet people: friends of friends (Hinge), proximity (Tinder, Happn), or common interest (Dine, HowAboutWe), etc.

While it is bad to have just one or two lonely potential suitors for each user in an app, after a certain threshold, the additional profiles won’t add much more value. User won’t even have time to look at the suitors. In addition, in active markets such as NYC or San Francisco, daters are on multiple apps, taking away whatever unique discovery niche of a specific app. Yet marketing for dating apps continue to sing this song, and app developers seeming to heed this road of little incremental.

Engagement/Consideration:

This is where I believe the market is most lacking.

Take Tinder for example. After discovering an ocean of guys, and signaling interest, what’s next?

Engagement/consideration means everything from your first interaction to the moment you decide whether or not to date:

Chat/Conversation: Matches don’t often equal interactions. Various apps try to nudge the 1st conversation with cutesy messages, and/or put an expiration date on the match (Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel), similar to a “Limited Edition” marketing tactic. It does not help much. Most online articles on this subject mentioned a chat rate of about 5–10% from matches.

Date Setup: Even if you are talking on the app, the current process of setting up a date is long and arduous. You message back and forth about what/where/when. Some apps ease away the what by suggesting an activity in advance (Dine), but no one ever offers to help with the big pain point of scheduling.

Users can go on for weeks before finding a suitable time slot. By then, many have forgotten who they are talking to, especially in the case of limited time matches where they cannot go back into the app to look at history (The League). Imagine this complicated process with multiple suitors. Many of my friends have resorted to creating giant Excel spreadsheets to keep things straight.

Why isn’t there a tool to make this easier? Some simple ideas:

  1. Time suggestions, based on your calendar and your date’s calendar, automatically pick up good time slots
  2. Event/location suggestions based on the suitable time slots (can be linked with pubic event calendar/Facebook)
  3. Calendar reminder for dates
  4. Notes for before and after dates with keyword clouds or spreadsheets

My friends would rejoice about these functionalities — and why would they not? They want to date, please give the non-fun logistics piece to a capable planner.

Conversions:

Here, as in the real world, there is no tool to help decide. After a few dates, the general advice is to listen to your heart.

This is also where previous generations fare much better. Although they have far fewer choices at the beginning, they also “convert” faster and at a higher rate. Your grandma might not have a few hundred matches on Tinder, but she and grandpa quickly decided to get married.

But we can do better than that, do we?

Imagine a Google Analytics dashboard for your dating life! (Image from http://www.ppc-essentials.com/the-google-analytics-e-commerce-dashboard-every-adwords-marketer-should-have/)

If dating apps were to involved in the Consideration process, it certainly could help here, too. In the future, apps can connect to your wearable devices, and confirm if you were indeed more excited to see Handsome Guy A or Handsome Guy B. At a minimum, data and dashboard are available. Notes, follow-up, timeline from dates, why is there no support in this space?


While dating apps are competing fierce and hard on the discovery process, I believe they will have a much chance of differentiation with the later stage of the process. Everyone is the CMO of their dating life, and the current landscape hasn’t offered the best tool for conversion yet.

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