OPW INTERVIEW - Sep 4 - eHarmony does beautiful mobile apps! Arvind heads the product group and here’s what he had to say about eHarmony’s work on mobile dating. - Mark Brooks
Let's talk about your pride and joy, the iPad HD app.
The eHarmony HD app was developed a little over a year ago. Our first iPad app was a very functional reproduction of what you would get on the site. We built an experience that was unlike any other dating app. It is warm and encouraging, rich and distinctive. When we demoed it at LaunchPad in 2011, Jason Calacanis said it was one of the most beautiful apps on the iPad in and out of the dating category.
What was the most beautiful part?
eHarmony has the relationship questionnaire that takes people 40-45 minutes to get through. We were able to get that down to 5 minutes.The other thing is we made it very visual and very touch oriented. We revamped the personality profile. We've turned it into a product that we call the “Book of You”. Your profile is literally a book, and we use the iPad basic gesture controls for turning pages.
How do you think eHarmony is vastly superior to a real world matchmaker?
We have compatibility, and I think matchmaking in the real world. It's largely done through intuition. We have an algorithm that is based on research that's over 30 years old. And then we have the size of our database. In general, your network is only as strong as the amount of people you have in it.
How many questions are on the mobile app?
There's about a hundred, down from 270 questions.
So knowing that you wanted to have that fast, smooth experience, HTML5 is out the window. You couldn't have really done HTML5?
There are more challenges. I think HTML5 is kind of in its infancy in terms of developers getting to know the ins and outs of it.
What's eHarmony's philosophy on geo-location?
I'd be a liar if I said that we're not thinking about geo-location. Our user base isn't exactly clamoring for it. So we have to do it in a way that is very responsible where people’s privacy is protected.
So how's the Android app different?
The Android app largely mirrors the iPhone app. I think there's one or two features that we don't have on Android yet, and that's just been a timing thing more than anything.
Is there much difference in the monetization between the two apps?
We do see two slightly different types of people that use the iPhone versus the Android. iPhone tends to be used more by women. But for monetization, we're not seeing huge differences there.
In terms of monetization, you've gone the Apple route. So how useful is Apple in leading people? eHarmony's advertising all the time. Do you really need Apple?
We are reaching new audiences with the product and we are able to do it in a very cost efficient way. So for the time being, it is something that we are keen on keeping.
Are you finding that you've got more marketing channels available to you now on mobile?
Absolutely. We are reaching a lot more people, and they're different people than the ones we were reaching just through TV, radio or print ads.
In terms of the development of the application, were you entirely in house or did you have a portion of the team external?
We've fluctuated. At the very beginning we relied more on outside vendors, but as mobile has become a more and more important segment of our business, we have moved about 80% of it in-house.
Are they in USA or abroad?
They are all in USA.
What kind of login ratio is eHarmony seeing on mobile now?
We're seeing around 30-35% of new customers coming from the mobile channel.
Are there any user behaviors that you've notice on mobile that surprised you?
Absolutely. We were pleasantly shocked, that we could get people to take a relationship questionnaire on a mobile device. The second surprise was the level of engagement.
You gather more data on users than most other sites. Why not suggest dates to people?
I can't say that we haven't thought of that.
What's your vision for eHarmony mobile in a year's time?
Geo-location will be part of it. I think giving people different ways to interact when they are in person also becomes pretty important. I think one interesting way to go is being people's dating allies.
At SXSW social discovery was a hot topic. I wonder if there's some potential for you to develop along a social discovery line?
There is and there isn't. A lot of people don't want those worlds to mix. It's hard to think that someone's going to say: “I need to find a hiking buddy, let me go to eHarmony.”