Voice assistants and dating. Is that a match?
Over a year ago, seeing a rapid growth of popularity of voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa, I started tapping into their development ecosystems.
Connecting people with voice assistant
Anyone who remembers the early days of mobile apps can see that there’s a pattern in how they mature over time along with the user adoption.
In the early days of app ecosystems there’s so much uncharted land to claim. It’s a risky business, as nobody tried to build anything on that land yet, but everyone around says it’s a good investment. The race between Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung and many others seems to prove it, trying to sneak in yet another device to our home.
So I started wondering — what capabilities are those voice assistants missing?
Connecting with like-minded people? Huh?
Finding a date? Say what?
Finding true love? Sorry, I can’t help with that yet…
Alright, connecting people or dating looks like an uncharted territory. Quick search for “dating“ in third-party apps catalogue on my favorite platform (in Google Assistant, you can search a directory of 3rd party apps here) and all I found at the time was one app of questionable quality… Perhaps I should build a better one…
Now get this:
Global Revenue in the Online Dating segment amounts to US$2,1bln in 2020. The average revenue per user (ARPU) currently amounts to US$8.92.
Take a look at these stats provided by Statista: link
All demographic data of online dating seemed to match with those known for voice assistant users. There’s proven, hungry market, happy to pay some money for a service. One thing didn’t make sense…
Why there was no voice apps from Tinder? eHarmony? Hinge? Why couldn’t I “talk to match.com”?
You can’t see me
Voice assistants are by their nature screenless. This single feature not only limits the user experience of a dating app (no pictures!) but also massively reduces a chance to earn money from advertising and selling extra features. It’s only a guess, but I’d bet that the online dating leaders are having plenty of conversations and are researching this topic, ending with the same negative conclusion: the return on investment is not tangible.
So the big dogs stay in the kennel — that’s great news for a tiny startup. It was the right time to get creative and put a little proof of concept together.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Starting from scratch means one thing — you choose the rules. If this is your land, you are the law. That’s how the idea for OnlyOne, the voice-first dating platform, became a reality. Instead of conforming to established online dating rules, I challenged them, offering a unique, fresh approach:
- Forming a real relationship requires intimacy
- Judging someone by their picture is not okay
- Having too many options makes it harder to choose
Take a look at OnlyOne website to learn more about how things work and what it really stands for: https://findyouronlyone.com/
I’ll spare you the details of the actual development process, matching algorithms and technology hiccups — drop me a comment if you’re interested in details, I’m happy to share more.
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In March 2019, I was ready with the Early Bird version of the Google Action (that’s how Google calls their Assistant apps), a promotional website and a Twitter account. The Early Bird version allowed users to be interviewed by the matchmaker and get to know the platform, but no matches were offered to the users yet.
This early release proved that people ask to find love on Google Assistant. And Only One matchmaker promised to help fulfill their need. The user base started to grow. So was the confidence about the voice-first dating platform.
In October 2019 a fully-working proof of concept was completed and went live. In addition to Google Action, I created a simple Chat Room app, where connected people can chat in a distraction-free manner.
For the first time, people could hear stories about each other and ask the Only One matchmaker to connect.
Just 2 days after launch, the logs showed the very first connected couple!
Three months later
It’s January the 2nd, 2020. Three months after the big launch of Only One. Time for a sobering look at the stats of the proof of concept.
Email signups: 2082
Active users: 905
Connections created to date: 13
The numbers aren’t too impressive — but they are promising. With no marketing budget and only my time invested in development of the platform, I take it as a successful proof of concept.
The most inspiring fact is that the numbers keep growing naturally and I’m happy to risk saying that it’s turning into exponential growth. The number of returning users keeps growing too, which proves that the platform is valuable to them.
The biggest challenge is the geographic spread of users. Majority of users come from the US, the UK and India — not the smallest countries… Vast majority of users stated that they’re looking for partners locally. That information plays a major role in the matching algorithm. Cross-referenced with a small number of active users results in a small number of matches.
On top of that, Only One uses Actions on Google push notifications to notify about new matches and messages. As the whole platform is still relatively new, not all users got used to those notification and Assistant flow yet, reflecting in poor user retention.
All-in-all — not great news, but promising and revealing a lot of problems caused by both the infancy of the voice assistant ecosystems, and implementation of the voice-dating platform.
Users of Only One can share feedback about the platform using Actions on Google directory or through the Chat Room app. So far it’s very positive.
“It provides me with a list of people that are forward thinking / progressive/open minded/courageous/single. People. In my eyes that is just amazing. To find people like that is difficult at my age. Thanks guys!”
“Great to be able to use my voice to find the perfect partner”
“It’s lovely concept to talk from one side and wait from another side”
“I like its simplicity”
Only One received 32 reviews, average score is 4.3 / 5. It’s the highest rating Action in category: Communication & Social: Meet New People and Communication & Social: Find A Date. (2nd Jan 2020)
If any of you reviewers are reading this, here’s a massive thank you! You keep this platform alive and push me to make it better.
Summary and next steps
The concept of meeting new people and finding a date with the help of voice assistant has proved to be working. The user base is growing and the overall feedback is very positive. Early releases uncovered a lot of errors and areas where things could be done better. Finally, there’s a whole topic of monetization. And the expansion to other platforms: Alexa, I’m looking at you. I’m sure to be looking into these areas in the next few months.
What started off as an exploration of new technology, turned quickly into a product with a chance to become a proper business in the future. Love is in the air.❤️
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Google Assistant users can try Only One by asking:
“Hey Google, talk to Only One”
Here’s a link to Only One website: https://findyouronlyone.com