By Olena Medynska

31% of US respondents have been using dating apps more often since the COVID-19 pandemic. Key market players such as Tinder and Bumble confirm an increased number of users and a more significant length of chats. Dating.com Group, which is behind numerous dating sites, says the global market grew 82% in March 2020.

This is a clear signal to developers and tech enthusiasts: The online dating market is changing and offering new opportunities. In this article we will discuss the following issues:

  • How the pandemic affected the market
  • Features implemented by industry leaders
  • What is the future of mobile dating apps?

Influence of COVID-19 on the functions of the dating app

When joining a dating application, most of the users want to find someone they can meet in real life. However, the pandemic has changed the rules. Centers for disease control and prevention require people to self-isolate and be three feet apart in public places. The World Health Organization calls kissing the fastest way to spread COVID-19. All of this makes it quite difficult to find a partner for life.

Dating platforms that don't want to be left behind have quickly adapted to the new reality and offer original features and products. Below, we will discuss how the most popular online dating apps are dealing with the pandemic and the future of online dating. You don't have to develop a unique or complex startup if you want to break into the niche. Learn how to build, market, and find your audience a dating app.

Tinder

Tinder has been downloaded 340 million times since 2012, but only 6 million subscribers pay for the golden membership. While the number of new users and messages has increased 10-15% during the lockdown, people are unwilling to pay. Because of this, Tinder and many other dating apps have made changes in pricing policies to encourage people to stay inside and connect with others far away.

For example, Tinder's Passport feature, which lets you pick any city to find a match (instead of using your location), is now free for everyone. The Tinder U program for students allows remote matching with other academics while campuses are closed.

bumblebee

Bumble, the second most popular dating app after Tinder, has also made some changes. The developers are working on new features to be added to the dating app, such as: B. Video and voice calls. When physical interactions are limited, people are more likely to make phone calls and video chats.

The company has implemented virtual dating badges that indicate that a person is ready to video chat. In addition to Tinder, Bumble has expanded the distance filter, and now users can find matches anywhere in the country, not just nearby areas.

hinge

Although Hinge is a less popular dating app, it has been in the market for over 8 years and has loyal users around the world. The differentiator is that users will receive a notification with a perfect match once a day based on the Gale-Shapley algorithm. To stay afloat during the pandemic, Hinge added the "Home Dating" option to start video chats. Their developers are also working on a Date Ready feature that will allow users to indicate if they are open for phone-to-phone sessions.

Lots of fish

Plenty of Fish was launched in 2003 and had 90 million users by May 2017. It's completely free to find matches and send messages, although some features are only available in a paid subscription.

Although Plenty of Fish uses Tinder and Bumble's winning strategies, it offers a unique solution in times of quarantine. A live stream option was recently added which is free. With this feature, users can broadcast videos and viewers can tune in. It is also possible to exchange messages with other viewers or with the host.

After significant success in Asia, the livestream feature was launched in the US in July 2020 and became popular fairly quickly.

OkCupid

OkCupid is known for the many personal questions that are used to find the best match. These questions include favorite movies, political views, and thoughts on controversial topics. When the coronavirus started, OKCupid added new questions regarding virtual dating. These are questions like "What is your perfect virtual match?" Or, "What dating habits will you stick to when the ban ends?"

The company decided to follow the lead of the market leaders and allowed searches to be “anywhere” instead of being limited to a specific location.

Last starts

Developers and companies don't want to miss a chance to enter the market, so new applications are launched regularly. Quarantine together is one of them. This app was launched on March 15th and quickly became popular.

After registration, users will have to respond when they have washed their hands. If the answer is positive, they will be matched with another user. After 15 minutes of texting you can start a video chat. While Quarantine Together only has basic functionality, it's refreshing and people love it.

The future of the online dating industry

Couple on a datePhoto by Cottonbro from Pexels

As the pandemic continues, users and developers are wondering what the dating will be like when the lockdown ends. Will relationships change? Will people vote online instead of offline? Psychologists say that social life can change significantly: people may be willing to learn more about potential partners before meeting in person. It can also motivate them to choose fewer partners.

How can these insights and predictions affect the future of dating apps? Companies believe that people prefer online matching because it doesn't take time or money. You don't have to spend hours getting ready and hundreds of dollars paying a restaurant bill. Before the pandemic, dating was costly in big cities like New York. Virtual matchmaking can save users hundreds or even thousands of dollars in clothing, transportation, and gifts.

Video chat

Executives believe that more apps will offer video content and communication. Appointments can be video chats as a phase between texting and face-to-face meetings to evaluate whether a person is worth the money and time. Match.com spokesperson Hosseini believes video chatting is a great opportunity to see if two people have a spark before deciding to spend a few hours in person.

This technology can also help combat the "idealization bubble" common in online dating. "Idealization bubble" means overly optimistic and overly positive ideas about a person you have never met. It usually goes away when you see a person's behavior and manners in real life. Video chat can be a great way to burst the idealization bubble.

After long months of lockdown, people want to feel the human contact and share their news and newly acquired skills. Most likely, they will do this through apps and social media. The most convenient is to use video chat.

Quality of the content

Another trending feature is broader content. Before the pandemic, users could write a few lines about themselves and share the rest during a meeting. In times of lockdown and isolation, people prefer to write longer descriptions. Many dating applications have started adding extra bars and sections to help users learn more about themselves. To manage larger amounts of data, developers are applying the latest machine learning and AI technologies to tag text, images and videos.

There's no straightforward answer to how the pandemic will end, but it is clear that there will be partial restrictions in 2021 as well. Restaurants and bars will be half full, while social distancing will become the norm. People will look for interactions and turn to dating networks.

Final thoughts

The dating market's annual growth rate is 9.5% and is expected to reach a total value of $ 2.5 billion by 2024. There's no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the rules and businesses need to find new solutions to stay competitive.

However, this is an excellent opportunity for developers and companies planning to get into the industry. Follow the market trends, be innovative, hire a team of experienced developers and you will become part of this fast growing market.

The post The future of dating apps and what does coronavirus have to do with it? first appeared in Home Business Magazine.

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