Has the pandemic permanently changed the way we date?

Has the pandemic permanently changed the way we date?
The Bumble Inc. (BMBL) app is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration as the dating app operator made its debut IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration
Prior to the pandemic, it was common to physically meet up with someone, but now people are more comfortable with video chatting before going out into the masked-up, wild.

Who are the major players in online dating?

  • According to research published in April of this year, there are two big players in the world of online dating in the United States.
  • Tinder still reigns as number one, with an estimated 75 million users on the app every month and over one million monthly downloads.
  • Tinder’s biggest competitor, Bumble, maintains around 42 million active users, and it is far more popular among women. That same month, Bumble had over 560,000 downloads.
  • Following Tinder and Bumble in third place is Hinge with over 390,000 downloads and Badoo with under 210,000.

According to Tinder, what’s changed?

  • A report from Tinder published in March from data pulled between January 2020 to February of this year showed that the pandemic really changed the way people interact in the online dating landscape.
  • For example, in the US, conversations were 32% longer on average than they had been pre-pandemic.
  • Not only that, but people matched 42% more than they were matching before COVID-19 lockdowns, and zoomers would update their bios three times more often than before the pandemic, millennials, two times. These frequently updated pandemic bios would include things like politics, Netflix shows, etc.

Has Bumble said anything?

  • According to Alanna Lauren Greco, Bumble’s associate director of editorial, “If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it is that more people know what they want in a partner and are less likely to compromise.”
  • In research conducted by Bumble this year across 8,500 Bumble users in countries like Australia, India, Mexico, Philippines, United Kingdom and the US, over half (59%) of global users on the platform say that they’re now more upfront about what they want and what they’re looking for.
  • Not only that, but research shows that because the pandemic has reportedly made many of us (53%) a lot more comfortable being “consciously single,” close to 55% of singletons around the world are now being more mindful about how and when they date.

What are dating apps doing differently?

  • Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest changes to the online dating scene is the initial meetup.
  • Prior to the pandemic, it was common to physically meet up with someone, but because of lockdowns, people are now more comfortable with video chatting before going out into the masked-up, wild.
  • “Historically consumers were reluctant to connect via video because they didn’t see the need for it,” said sociologist and former Tinder and Bumble employee Jess Carbino to AP News. So, “online dating apps like Tinder are leaning into that.”
  • Not only is Tinder leaning into the video landscape, but Bumble is also making some changes to accommodate this new world.
  • For example, Bumble have now started a “Trivia Night” game mode for users that match and offer the ability to send voice memos to each other.
  • “While swiping left and right has meaningfully changed how singles connect, we think users want more control over that experience,” said Citi senior analyst Nicholas Jones to CNBC. “To maintain a healthy and engaged network, (Bumble) will need to continue to innovate to provide users the experience they are looking for.”

What’s next?

  • It seems like there are several significant changes occuring in the online dating scene as there’s a greater comfort with video calling, more transparency among users as to what they’re looking for and shifts in how users intially meet.
  • “Gen Z is using Tinder on their terms; bios alone don’t always tell enough of the story to get to a Like or a Nope,” Tinder said in June.
  • Both Tinder and Bumble are well aware of the changes that need to be made to keep users interested, and they are looking to accommodate the upcoming generation of romance-seeking zoomers.
  • “We are really trying to give them the tools to do that and make the experience better for the more serious and intentional types of relationships that our users are talking about,” Bumble President Tariq Shaukat said in a recent earnings call. “So, a lot of what we’ve done in Q2 as well as the plan for Q3 and Q4 is really focused on activities like that in addition to new monetization features.”
  • So even though economies are reopening and travel resuming, it seems as if the pandemic has left some long-term changes in the way we date online, as well as offline.

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