Market tendencies
 

The dating industry offers products and services that help individuals in their search for long-term, romantic, and sexual partners. Dating is a very complex social activity, and should be understood from a psychological and sociological perspective. A product or a service offered by a dating company increases in value if it takes into account the whole complexity of the dating activity. It should respond to the needs of individuals that are engaging in dating, and these needs transcend the sphere of online dating.

The industry went from brick and mortar dating companies and independent matchmakers, newspapers ads, phone dating, and life singles events (speed dating, singles parties, etc) to Internet dating, as the technology made it possible. Online dating entered the scene, which is a new form of dating service that concentrates only on online dating events. Soon, almost all the new possibilities introduced by the Internet technology were implemented, harvesting various forms of expression and presentation, and means of communication. At this moment, companies operating only online are realizing that dating is not just an Internet business that should be run by an IT staff. To succeed in the future one needs to be specialized and to understand marital, romantic and sexual relations. The computer should be viewed only as a tool, and the Internet based services should be regarded as part of a broader experience that extends into the real life. At the same time, actors in the traditional offline dating understood the power of the technology, and begun to integrate it with their own services. The future is the integration of online dating and the traditional dating models. The distinction online/offline dating will fade away, as they become part of a whole integrated service. Specialists in human relations, and life dating events organizers constitute a crucial element in the dating business.

The Right One and Together Dating, the largest brick and mortar company providing dating services is now offering online services by introducing eLove.com. The arrival of the Internet opened new possibilities that could be applied for dating purposes, but it did not replaced the need for in-person assistance of matchmakers, and for singles events organizers. It seems that a well-integrated hybrid model is the most promising one, as it overcomes the limitations of both, only online dating, and only offline dating. Users can access a very large database of singles, browse very complete profiles, use very sophisticated automated matchmaking systems, and contact other users under the veil of anonymity; all in a secure environment that reduces misrepresentation. The same users can also get individual and personal assistance and guidance in their quest for love. Companies that operate only online will not disappear completely, whereas these operating with the hybrid model, and that can make a profit from it, are poised to gain market share.

The other important component of the dating business is real life dating events. A singles party, for example, offers a very different kind of environment, where people interact with one another in a natural way. Speed dating, singles vacations, It's Just Lunch, Airtroductions.com, DateAGolfer.com, etc. are examples of a hybrid model between online and/or offline dating and social event organizing.

As we mentioned above, dating is a very complex activity. Companies in this industry have to find a way to address issues from each dimension of this complex problem. Elegant solutions have been implemented, ones that don’t require large investments. A very good example is the association between Match.com and ClubMed. In this context, the Matchmaking Device System presents itself as a very clever way to connect online services with life social events. It enables online dating companies to develop a vast network of relations with social events organizers, because the Matchmaking Device System presents itself as a valuable tool for both parties. Furthermore, it connects users (daters present at the social event) to the dating company in a direct manner, and it puts the dating company at the center of the live dating event.

We also have to realize that the informal dating segment represents more then 60% of the real market. Less then 40% of single and looking Internet users in the U.S. are using dating websites. This means that more then 60% of Internet users, which are at the same time singles and looking, search for love in real life social events, through their social network, around their workplace, at the church, etc. Dating companies have to find ingenious ways to tape this vast reservoir, and to bring daters who don’t use their services to their websites. To reach daters, companies rely mostly on traditional marketing techniques, but other non-conventional methods can be much more efficient. The Matchmaking Device is present at life social events where daters are in action, and this is the perfect moment to present them with other dating alternatives, as their attention is focused on dating.

If you're shooting to become one of the mega-brands in the online space, I believe you need, aside from a major marketing budget, a very innovative approach to community that will solve some specific problems that even the large communities face” (Michael Jones founder and CEO of Userplane, a leading provider of web-community applications in the social software space). The Matchmaking Device System can be seen as a very powerful promotional item. It stands out at the event where it is used, owing only to it’s functionality. If well designed, it will stand out in the public eye, becoming a marketing tool. Judging on the success of Lovegety, a low coast social interaction gadget introduced in Japan (350,000 sold in the first two months, 25$ apiece), we can safely predict that that Matchmaking Device has great potential to become the “coolest” social interaction gadget. Moreover, social events organizers are eager to include it in their toolbox. Furthermore, the device itself constitutes an “innovative approach to community. It is a social interaction device operating in the real world; it is definitively a community binder element. The concept of community transcends the virtual world. The sense of belonging, and the strength of a community are improved as the interaction between members becomes more diverse, especially if it integrates real life events. The goal is to find ways to offer costumers a rich and meaningful experience. Internet-based dating companies have to find ways to connect with real life dating events. Evan Marc Katz says: "The quest for love has never been stronger [...] As a result, dating coaches and matchmakers gain traction in 2006. In addition, online dating sites galvanize to create more live events -- dinner parties, speed dating, cruises -- designed to increase customer interaction." -- Katz, founder of E-Cyrano.com, is a personal trainer for online daters who are looking for love. His site is evanmarckatz.com.

A relationship between two people is shaped by interaction. As technology became more advanced, we saw the progressive integration of more complex and rich means of communication and expression. It went from plain text, to sound and pictures, and more recently to video and video-chat. All these new implementations met only success, even if they ware regarded by some with skepticism. Giving members more freedom of communication, and the possibility of getting in contact by means other then those offered on the dating site, was initially viewed as counterproductive from a business point of view. Reality showed that members of online dating websites continue to pay their monthly fees, and talk positively about the website, in accordance with the benefits they take in return, and not because they are obliged to stay as members in order to maintain contact with their match. To an even further extent, those who integrated real life dating events to their services stroke the write note. Enriching the dating experience and providing a strong sense of community, this is the future.