How are things going after the acquisition?
The deal closed 1st Nov and its still very early. Things are going very well and the team is happy We're in the same pool as Parship. They have a lot of knowledge and we have a few things we can teach them. Different groups of people are sitting down from eharmony and Parship, marketing, customer service, etc, and seeing how our methods compare. Even though the US and Germany are both very prosperous countries there's a lot of differences. They have developed anti-fraud measures based on the threats they have. We have different threats and different systems. So that's been good to compare. We've taken on a couple of their employees in L.A. to teach them our ways. I feel very positive about the changes.
Where will eharmony be based in the future?
There's a lot of conversation about this going on. We have a long term lease on the L.A. office. Both sides are dedicated to keeping the USA and London offices going. There will be changes. i.e. with the tech stack. We've been around almost 20 years and have the benefit of momentum. We've had the same mission the whole time. That's good. But the code is dusty. And I'm very interested in how we might use some of their tech stack. I think it will be very helpful for us to update our technology.
How will the products be melded?
There are definitely parts of their product that I really love. We had a personality profile for years. It's what we built the business on. We ran the personality profiling feature for 10-12 years and it just seemed at a certain point people were not so interested in it, so we dismantled it. Parship has a really awesome personality profile. Its visually appealing and delivers some immediate value as users get into the service.
From a product viewpoint, noone will notice any difference in the short term with eharmony. We're working on the back-end right now. We've got to do a lot more from a cost and technology standpoint.
What do you make of Tinder being repositioned officially as casual, and Hinge being fully acquired today, and positioned in eharmony territory, meaningful relationships?
I know Justin, and I'm happy for him. When we look at the dating space there are a number of companies we keep an eye on. Bumble is a competitor. Hinge is certainly a competitor that we keep an eye on. We're focused on doing a better job of what we do. Any time Match tries to do something, they have enough firepower to make a dent in the marketplace. But we want to be where people are that want a meaningful relationship.
Where do you see eharmony in a couple years, for 2021, from a visionary standpoint?
We're focused on what our users want. The world of what we can give them is vast. There have been so many swings at features that on paper make sense, in the dating industry. i.e. video. The industry thought they'd move into video, and enabling people to share video. But that just hasn't proven to be true. Video is not the primary thing online daters want. We've looked at DNA matching. There's a lot of people that think that DNA and personality are connected. Obviously you could also match people genetically for someone to marry for genetic compatibility to have children with. But where does that become creepy to users? This is research we haven't done, and frankly I'm not very confident about DNA matching. We think people want to go on more dates. We've talked about how to guide people through our product and onto more dates. We think technology can help with that. A.I. can give us so much more capacity. When people come into eharmony and take our questionnaire, we observe their behavior and it often doesn't synch up with what they said they wanted. If you look at the matches they interact with, that is often a world quite different from what they said they wanted. We observe that and adjust to it. But some people feel they're being spied on, in some weird way. This is a set of computers that are guiding their future matching. So this is going to be something that as society gets more comfortable with A.I. they'll be more willing to let us help them in certain ways.
Tell us about your new Happiness Index
Last year we did some research about happiness in relationships. We're interested in how relationships are going. So we decided to do annual research on relationship happiness. It's on over 2300 people who are statistically representative of USA adults. 83% say they're happy in their relationships, and 1 in 10 say they're not happy in their relationships. The thing that accounts for their happiness is not surprising. People who are similarly educated, politically aligned, and have similar religious affiliations are happier. People say opposites attract, but it really isn't true. Having someone similar just creates a lot less friction in your life.
One of the things that was most surprising from the study, was that intent had a lot to do with happiness. i.e. People actively looking for someone to form a relationship with. If you're the kind of person that is looking for a long term relationship, once you get into a relationship, you generally have a happier relationship. When someone who is negative about wanting a relationship forms a long term relationship, they're less happy. Being intentional about wanting a relationship really helps.
Also interesting... We are in the business of trying to find desirable people. Understanding what makes someone desirable is a pretty important thing to us. This study asks what makes a partner desirable. We assumed physical attraction would be the number 1 thing. It's in the top 5, but it's not 1, 2, or 3. Those things are intelligence, and emotional stability, and being happy! Being with someone that is just a happy person makes your relationship a lot happier. It's important to be with someone who is happy, and smart, and stable, more than physical attraction.
Why are you doing this research?
We feel like we need to know what's going on. Government do research, academics do research, and companies do research. Bit governments aren't doing this kind of research. Academics are focused on using students for surveys, which doesn't help us. So we stepped in to do research.
What else did you learn?
We learned couples who are more in tune with social justice movements are also more happy. So we have the MeToo movement about women being treated more fairly. Men have reported that understanding the MeToo movement has helped them in their relationships. It's interesting to watch things change. People who embrace for example relationships where they have equal power, vs where one person is more dominant, are more happy. Unfortunately, only about 50% of couples have equal power. Half have a more dominant partner.
Does this vary with age?
This research looks at a very wide range of ages. We see the Gen Z group (where the oldest is 24) have much higher levels of equality in their relationships. It will be interesting to see what happens as this group gets older. Gen Z, as a group, is more communicative, equal and adventurous.
I should note, over 2300 people were in the study and were not eharmony users. A random selection consistent with US demographics. To be in the study, participants had to be in some kind of relationship, and the study was done across all age ranges and sexualities. Also interesting, 44% of couples have some kind mental health issues. - Mark Brooks