We take the best academic papers and summarize them in plain English so you can improve your idating site, and help your users make better connections.
Title: People Are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates
Published In: Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 22, Number 1, Winter 2008
Authors: Jeana H.Frost (PatientsLikeMe.com), Zoe Chance and Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School), Dan Ariely (Duke University)
Full Report: http://duke.edu/~dandan/Papers/peopleAreExperienceGoods.pdf
Summary, In Plain English:
Summarized by Kathryn Lord, Romance Coach
These three studies take on users’ dissatisfaction with online dating experiences and propose a solution described as a “Virtual date.” The authors state that people are “experience goods,” judged by the feelings they provoke.
The first study looked at time spent in searching profiles, writing and responding to emails, and subsequent offline meetings. Results: 5.2 hours weekly on searching, 6.7 hours writing, and 1.8 hours in offline meetings. The ratio of online to offline time spent was 7:1.
Study 2 looked at what qualities the participants considered most important when looking for both a date and for someone to marry. , then the qualities identified were classified as either searchable or experiential. The participants listed more experiential than searchable traits for marriage partners (5x more) than dating partners (3x more). The more they were serious about living with someone, the more they were interested in what the experience would be like.
Study 3, taking the results from the first two studies, tries to improve the online dating experience. Could they design an experience that bridged the gap between online dating as usually practiced and the first offline meeting?
They did. Participants (one male and one female at a time) went on a virtual date for 15 minutes. The two could move around the space resembling an art gallery and comment on images or the experience itself. Participants liked the experience, writing comments similar to “this is strangely addicting,” “I’m having fun,” and “I love it.”
Afterwards, the participants also were shown the internet dating profile of another possible date, and then put into a speed dating situation where they would meet their virtual date and the person they had seen the profile of.
Results: Participants liked their virtual date partners more than they liked the person whose profile they had read. Researchers cited previous research that people who do traditional online dating show decreases in liking after face to face contacts.
Discussion: Online dating does a great job connecting people who otherwise would never have met. But the process is time intensive and participants do not like the process. However, virtual communities such as Second Life and World of Warcraft are drawing millions of participants, 20% of whom claim the online realm as their primary residence, and 29% of female gamers dating someone they met in a game. The average online game player spends 22 hours a week in his/her virtual world.
Kathryn Lord: Based on this information, you should:
- Recognize that even though dating sites provide a desired result, users find the experience of using the site to eventually meet a romantic partner a negative one and the results (meeting off line) often disappointing.
- Know that dating sites could do much more to guide singles through the process so the meeting experience could be successful, or at least not so aversive.
- Providing a more pleasurable experience online and a better one offline will attract singles and encourage them to stay on the dating site more hours rather than less. Better results mean happy customers and good word of mouth.
- Investigate ways to provide dating site users a bridge between searchable factors (age, height, education, etc.) and more experiential traits (sense of humor, courtesy, social skills, etc.) before the crucial first meeting in real time and space. The “virtual date” that the experimenters designed seems very good, though it could be enhanced, similar to a Second Life virtual reality. The two on the date encountering a set up that they could experience virtually “side by side” seems less anxiety-provoking than a “chat” or Skype-type video call that puts the two essentially across the table from one another.