OPW INTERVIEW - June 17 - Deepak manages all things mobile at Match.com. Match takes mobile dating seriously. For good reason. Did you know that in 2014 its predicted that there will be more people accessing the internet via their mobile phones than on desktops/laptops, according to Morgan Stanley. - Mark Brooks
How much of a priority would you say it is for Match.com to expand the mobile channel?
Mobile is definitely at the top of our list of priorities. We’re pretty much able to address any phone in the market that has a data connection.
What market observations would you say you’ve made that are driving the high prioritization of the mobile platform?
First of all, we’ve seen an increasing number of our site users turning to mobile phones as a means of accessing Match.com. So that has clearly been a driver for us.
We’ve also seen that there is a significant subset of users who have turned to mobile as their primary means of Internet access. I’m one of them. These days I always have my smart phone next to me and it has essentially become a laptop substitution device in several instances.
Which platform is growing the fastest at this stage?
The Apple iPhone platform has been a blockbuster for us. We launched an application on this platform in March 2009 and initially it was intended to be an engagement platform. People would log onto Match.com and discover we have an iPhone application so they would have the option to continue using Match.com on the phone. Also, we’ve noticed that a very large number of iPhone users who have never been to Match.com are discovering us on the iPhone platform. So we’re very happy with the outcome.
So in terms of both traffic and rate of adoption, iPhone has been growing very fast. If you were to look at the trends, both Android and Blackberry have very good traction as well.
I’m also seeing some evidence that the conversions from registrants who are paying members, on the iPhone platform specifically, is almost an order of magnitude greater than on the likes of WAP phones. Is that one of the conclusions you’ve drawn?
Yes. Because the iPhone platform has a much better user experience, in many cases it replaces site usage. So we do see that people on the iPhone perform better than people who are purely on a web-based experience.
You must be pretty excited about the iPad and the new iPhone with the camera facing forward.
Yes, I think both present opportunities for us. iPad already runs our iPhone application as it is. The site works very well on the iPad as it is, but we’re actively looking into building a more targeted application.
The front facing camera on the iPhone is something that we’re still trying to formulate a strategy around. I can’t say that we have a very clear vision on what we would do with that new functionality.
Hopefully people are going to get more comfortable with using a phone with the front facing camera and that could really usher in a new era for internet dating.
What are your thoughts on advertising to drive traffic to your mobile products?
When we started out on the iPhone platform we were getting a lot of organic growth. People were coming into the app store and discovering us under the social networking category. That continues to be the case and there are a lot of people who find us on the app store and that is because of the high number of downloads we get.
It has to be a great way for Match to effectively capture the younger demographic and more importantly position the Match brand favorably as a hip mobile brand for the youngsters.
Mobile definitely attracts a younger audience. According to Pew Research Center’s report on millennials and their phone usage, 85% of millennials sleep with a mobile phone next to them. So we clearly see that the audience that we attract on phones are younger.
Match.com has been using Trilibis for quite a while now. It’s a couple of years now, isn’t it?
We started using Trilibis in 2007, so it’s been a while.
How is that going? What do you use them for and why?
Trilibis fills a critical niche for us. Next to the iPhone or Android, there is still a very long tail of older phones out there which are still very popular with our user base. This is a very large portion of the mobile traffic that comes to Match.com. While that traffic is getting replaced by the smart phones, it is still very significant that we will want to have a presence on these older phones. The problem Trilibis is solving is that the resolution, formatting and the layout on these devices are very fragmented.
What kind of revenue is mobile throwing off at this stage? I noticed that 2-3% of Meetic revenue was from mobile products. Can you give us any indication how that fits with Match?
I don’t have a percentage number but I can tell you that mobile is one of the fastest growing channels when it comes to acquiring new users.
How about SMS related revenue? How much of your revenue is from subscription and how much from SMS?
All of our revenues are from subscriptions. We don’t monetize SMS. We provide SMS as a free utility so it’s an opt-in model wherein you can sign up for SMS Alerts.
How engaged would you say the mobile users are versus your online users?
A typical mobile user views twice as many profiles as compared to someone who is just using the site.
Have you seen much rollover from online to mobile users?
Yes, a lot of our users start with the online experience and then they download our application and use that as a complementary channel to access Match. That is really what results in the higher number of profile views.
I’ve heard that the mobile users are in some cases willing to pay more for the convenience than they would on an online dating site for the mobile version. Have you seen any evidence of that?
Match treats mobile as another channel by which people are able to access the Match service. So we don’t really make a distinction between mobile users versus site users. I guess that question doesn’t really apply to us.
I seem to be hearing a lot about virtual gifts in the mobile space, especially with the younger demographic. What is Match’s position on virtual gifts in the mobile environment?
The virtual gifts model doesn’t fit with the current Match model. The Match model typically involves people browsing user profiles, communicating with members, winks and emails, and possibly culminating in an offline meeting. So just the way the service is set up I don’t really see virtual gifts fitting into the current model.