As Facebook (FB) inches closer to entering the online dating market with a service of its own later this year, Tinder is making updates to its popular app — intended in part to change the long-standing perception that it’s just for casual hookups.
“We do have to evolve the brand perception, because I think that what’s really happening and people’s perception of it aren’t necessarily the same thing,” explains Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, who points to the numerous examples of “Tinder marriages” that have come about since Tinder debuted in 2012.
If anyone understands the nuances of the competitive online dating market, it’s certainly Ginsberg, who became CEO of Match Group (MTCH) in January after running Match Group North America for two and a half years. Match Group, which IAC (IAC) owns a controlling stake in, controls over 45 businesses, including Match.com, OkCupid, and PlentyofFish. Of those, Tinder remains the portfolio’s breakout property. When Match Group reported first-quarter 2018 earnings in early May, the company raised its revenue outlook for 2018 by $100 million to a range of $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion, largely because of Tinder, which saw revenues rise nearly fivefold year-over-year as more users ponied up for premium services.
But despite Tinder’s success as the most popular app among single millennials, Ginsberg suggests the app still has some growing up to do. To help “evolve” Tinder beyond being a “swiping machine,” as Ginsburg calls it, Tinder began rolling out new features earlier this year like Tinder Places, which lets users find potential connections based off of some of the places they go to — a bar, restaurant, or movie theater — as a sort of mutual interest. (According to Ginsberg, 96% of Tinder users who have tried Places continue to use it.) Meanwhile, Tinder is also experimenting with two-second video clips called Tinder Loops as another way for users to express themselves.
Early days for Tinder
“If you asked me from an experience standpoint, I think we’re still really early on,” Ginsberg says. “Tinder, in some ways, can be more one-dimensional. We had talked about on earnings calls that it was a bit of a swiping machine and that the experience is a little bit superficial. So what we’re trying to do is really create a much more robust experience. The hope is that what you see today is going to be very different than what you see two years from now, because it’s certainly not going to be just about matching — it’s going to also be about how we give people a better sense of who that person is. So when you go out on a date with someone, there’s going to be a higher chance of chemistry.”
There’s a reason, however, that Tinder exploded on college campuses when it launched and why it’s millennials’ dating app of choice: it’s simple, fast, and effective. Swiping for matches makes it incredibly easy to sift through and potentially connect with other people, regardless of whether users seek a casual or more serious connection.
“Well, what did you do when you’re 22?” Ginsberg adds. “This is the time when you’re meeting tons of people. Your funnel is big, because if you ask anyone, ‘Are you ready to settle down? Are you ready to get married?’ People are like, ‘Are you freaking kidding me? Of course, I’m not ready to settle down.’ … But what if you’ve met someone who you fell in love with, you adore them and then a couple of years down the road, you guys moved in together and you got married. This is sort of the challenge. This is that time in your life when you’re meeting people. You’re exploring.”
Tinder, it sounds like, is exploring its future right alongside its users.
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