LTR – Nov 2 - The proliferation of swiping has led to lower user satisfaction and created a significant burden of effort to find even a single date. Cohen-Aslatei believes that the industry should adopt an anti-superficiality approach to improve user engagement and success. Adam Cohen-Aslatei delivers an engaging discussion in the latest video in the LTR webinar series.
My name is Adam Cohen-Aslatei. I'm the CEO and founder of a company called S'More, which stands for Something More. We are the world's first anti-superficial relationship app. And I'm so excited to be here today to talk to you about why the next revolution in online dating is much less superficial.
A quick background on myself: I've been in the online dating industry for over 10 years. I built my first dating website as a grad student at Harvard, and then spent over five years working for the Meet Group with Geoff Cook. I also spent time running Chappy, which is Bumble's gay dating app. And then also spend time consulting in the industry for companies like the Spark Network. So, I've been around the block just a bit.
95% of all dating apps focus on image first. So, we live in a very image centric world. I think the industry really changed over eight and a half years ago, when Tinder launched the swipe. The swipe essentially is the concept of Hot or Not brought into the dating world. It's been quite fun to use, and we understand how sticky the UX and UI is and the product works. While it's fun, it doesn’t necessarily lead people into mass relationships. There are millions of people who have been in relationships because of them, but it is still grossly inefficient.
We've gone to a very superficial approach to dating over the last eight years with the introduction of the iPhone and with the introduction of the Android phones, as well. But a lot of things are just about to change and I'm sure some of you already noticed the change is taking place in our industry. Let's focus on what went wrong first and then let's try to fix it. So, let's break down the house. Here we go.
Focusing on image first has led to and contributed to some seriously negative consequences in our industry. For example, you have the hyper-sexualization of images on an app. So, women and men also feel now compelled to put scantily clad images of themselves on apps. Why? Because they know how to game the system. It literally is a game. The sexier you are statistically speaking, the more swipes in favor you have of yourself. But what that leads to and what that has contributed to in the world is a third of women now say that they've been sexually harassed by someone that they've met on a dating app. We, as a society, are hyper-sexualizing this concept, and it's led to some very negative consequences.
People are also not authentic. We, as an industry, talk about authenticity all the time, but 51% of people say they lie on their profiles. Women lie mostly about their body weight and their weight and their body type. And men are lying about their careers and their income. Also, people are overly airbrushed. 38% of people admit to airbrushing photos. 50% of people admit to using old photos. And there's a big chunk of users, 43 to 28%, admit that they've been catfished on dating apps.
Now we can do better than that. Plus, other negative consequences that have happened because of the prevalence of casual dating and swiping apps. In part, it has led to the decrease in self-esteem that people feel. Again, we're being judged just based on a headshot. People are starting conversations and ending conversations very quickly. We feel a sense of validation when we get a swipe on us. We have an increase in depression, again, with millennials. With Gen Z, those who use dating apps show an increase in anxiety.
Now what else is an issue? I hate to paint a negative picture, but 50% of online daters say that they are having bad experiences on dating apps. And by the way, over two thirds of people say dating apps make it harder to fall in love. We've heard about the cons of the selection. You go to a buffet and you want to eat everything. I do this in Vegas, right. I literally put everything on the plate, and it does not taste good together, but my eyes are huge, and I want to eat everything well. It doesn’t lead to better outcomes. It leads to far worse outcomes and a third of people on swiping-based apps never go on a single date. So essentially, they're using dating apps as soft-core porn, which is not the purpose of a dating app.
But let's be honest, swiping may be fun, and we've all done it before. It is addictive. It's exciting, and it's a fun technology. But it is grossly inefficient when it comes to how people are matching and ending up in relationships. If you take the typical man using a top tier casual swiping app, it takes the man 1500 swipes in order to land a single date. So, for the man, 1500 swipes translate into about 150 matches. He needs 150 matches to land a single date and a single date lasts for 1.8 hours. As an industry, we can all do better.
We have been able to bring millions of users together, millions of love seekers together. We've had millions of romances, millions of marriages, but we can do much, much better and tackle the problem head on. Also, the industry is shifting quite quickly, and this is the way it's shifting. So, user behavior has changed quite dramatically over the last eight years, since the emergence of Tinder. Relationships now people who are looking for more long-term relationships than casual encounters. This began to change in 2018 and now long-term relationships are what people are looking for first and foremost on dating apps.
If you look at the data behind why, there's a few reasons why this may be the case. Firstly, 50% of all millennials are single. Completely single. And the oldest millennials are turning 40 in 2020, so they spent eight years swiping and there are helplessly single. Also, Gen Z are more inclined to want to be in a relationship than millennials were at the same time at the same age, in their own life. Most users on Bumble and Tinder, which are two of the most popular casual encounter apps, say they want something more. They want more than a casual encounter.
Now COVID has magnified this issue that we talk about. Why? Because, when you're just dating a million people. There's an infinite inventory. You can go on a date every single night when you're in COVID and you're under quarantine. You start to reflect on the things that you don't have. You may have an amazing apartment. You may have a great job. You may have a great set of friends, but you are home alone. So, it starts to help people reflect on what they've been doing incorrectly and maybe helping to try and change their behaviors.
And we're starting to see this happen in the dating world. In fact, there's been a huge increase in dating app usage over the last four to five months, especially with relationship focused apps. It’s very important to point that out. People are saying that they want to be in longer-term relationships as opposed to casual relationships. Then why are we still swiping? The antithesis of a relationship app is judging a book by its cover. Right? But this continues to be the number one mechanic in our industry. That is until now this is going out the window and is being replaced. And let me tell you what it's being replaced with.
So firstly, the average person makes a swiping decision in under three seconds. There is no way that you could know if a headshot, if that person is going to be compatible with you just based on the way that they look. And in fact, most people aren't reading bios. People tend to read bios of profiles when they're unsure. If the person is hot enough, then if it's a maybe. Then I'm going to look through the bio a little bit more. And that's where the whole industry is about to change.
The new normal is this anti-superficial dating approach. Now some of you may have heard of anti-superficial dating or less superficial dating. The concept of anti-superficial dating is about getting to know a person before deciding if you like them. It's an intentional relationship approach where you're again, not filtering someone just based on the way that they look.
And why is this important? Because in 2020, there's a very large group of users, and we've mentioned the data before now, that are using airbrush photos. They are using outdated photos or they're using photos that are simply not of themselves. So, the experience is one that is not that pleasant. Solving the challenge of getting people into relationships requires a different way of thinking. And that is the anti-superficial approach.
Now, before we get into the anti-superficial approach, let's talk about some things that we, as an industry need to change before we get there. First, there are some very popular premium features on dating apps, mostly on swiping apps, which really does prove the fact that people are making decisions based on little more than a selfie. It is based on little more than a headshot. For example, this concept of a backtrack or a rewind, many apps have it. It literally proves that I'm swiping by people so quickly and judging people so quickly based on a headshot. But wait, I think they're still hot. Let me go back. This is one of the most popular premium features. It's not designed to get people into relationships until we change our user behavior. We're not going to be in relationships because we were taught by apps. Judge people simply based on a headshot, first and foremost, as the number one screener.
Other things that we need to do as an industry to get past the superficial reality of dating apps is think of the concept of race filtering. Race filtering is something that exists on many apps, including many in the Match Group. And the way that most people use race filtering is to filter in for white men and for white women. Now what happens then is the races that get the least amount of exposure on dating apps are Black women and Asian men.
So, what happens is they have less enjoyment on the app because they have less exposure on the app, less activity on the app, and they leave the app. But what it means for society as we have less experiences with different ethnicities together. So, our understanding of this, those ethnicities, is significantly diminished.
My thoughts and my, my wish for the industry is to get right rid of this concept of having ethnic or race filtering and let people connect on something more. Let people have that magical conversation, right? You may never realize that you will end up with an Asian man or an African American woman, because you never really gave them a chance. And now this magic can happen.
So, in our industry, there's been a massive shift in user behavior taking place. First, we've been swiping for over eight years. So swiping is fun. It is quite engaging. But now there's fatigue. Right? What else? What is next? There's also been a bit of a backlash over vanity metrics. Many of the large social media sites, including dating sites as well, don't show you the publicly available likes on someone's profile because it leads to anxiety, feelings of negative negativity and depression, et cetera. And then, of course, we've been demoralized by the photos that we see.
But the less superficial approach to dating is quite interesting because what it means is someone's connecting on more than a pretty face, and on more than a headshot. What that does is that gets you away from the top of the funnel, which is just swiping past photos, and into conversations much quicker. And it's gamified, right? It still feels like a fun, exciting way to get to know someone else in a very novel way. And there's a ton of examples of apps that are doing this today. And we're going to get into some examples in a few minutes.
Also, the less superficial approach to dating is quite interesting because functionally it gets you into a conversation faster. And if the reason for you to use a dating app is to be in a relationship. Then of course, you need to be in conversations quicker in order to get that done. Well, in order to do that, you can't be judging a person based on a headshot. And finally, it is literally the greatest equalizer. When you get rid of the concept of racial filters in an app, what you end up doing is you become vulnerable.
You suspend your judgment in favor of a conversation. And that conversation may be with someone who you never in a million years imagined that you would be with. And because you gave that person a shot at love, pun intended, you're able to have new connections that can form today that never were able to form in the past because we don't have these concepts of race filtering.
So, when you think about the anti-superficial approach, I want to give you some concrete examples. So, you know what I'm talking about. It is not pie in the sky, but it's also not as simple to understand as a swiping mechanism because there's different ways in which apps use the concept of being anti-superficial.
So, one of the apps that I like is called Friended. They're an app that is 50% about friends and 50% about romantic relationships. And you can see a graphic of what that app looks like on the right-hand side here. Essentially, you are connecting with someone over a statement about themselves or the way that they're answering a question. You can see that their headshot is significantly minimized in this graphic.
There's another app that I love that's called Lex. It's a lesbian dating app and the way their approach to relationships is people are creating classified ads. So, we'll harken back to the days before dating apps and when people writing romantic notes in newspapers or ads for love. So, unless you're able to create this amazing note, and if someone connects with that person through that note and clicks on the ad, then they're able to see what the photo looks like.
Profoundly is another amazing example. They are one of the fastest growing dating apps in India. They're now available in the US. It's a chat bot and it lives on Facebook. Also, the app called Line. And what it does is it it's a chat bot that facilitates the conversation between two people that counts each other. And the chat bot decides at what point to reveal photos of the other person. And one other quick example that I'll mention here is MuzMatch. MuzMatch is one of the most popular, or probably the most popular, Muslim focused dating app in the world. They also have a swiping mechanic, but they let women blur themselves out. And the women decide at what point they want to be revealed to the man. The beginning of their relationship really focuses on what they have in common. Who are we, what are our values and what do we want to get out of a marriage essentially? These are all different anti-superficial approaches to dating.
Now, this is not just a niche concept, the concept of anti-superficial dating. I guarantee you, in two years, you will see in every major dating app in the US using it. Here are a couple of examples of mainstream dating apps that are already implementing it. The Meet Group has the product called Blind Date, where two people get to have this conversation without seeing each other. Now, in the case of that, the case of the Meet Group, it's a live stream where you can watch this taking place. That is quite fun and exciting, but the two people really do want to go on a date with each other.
And what happens when you have this concept of blurred dating? The data suggests that blur dating leads to much longer conversations and more a sense of the connection because of the intrigue of not seeing that person. Apps like Say Hello have a product that has a concept of blurred video dating. Bumble introduced the concept of blurred images when you send a photo inside of a chat. So again, the concepts are starting to be implemented throughout our industry.
But let me tell you what we're doing here at S’More. So S’More stands for Something More and Something More is the number one term that people use when they give feedback on dating apps. S’More also represents a layer cookie. Getting to know all the layers of a person sandwiched into the equality sign. So, it's for everyone. And it's held together by a chat icon or a marshmallow, which essentially shows you that communication is the key to any relationship and conversation. So, our brand ethos is you deserve something more. More than what you've seen on other apps and you deserve a real relationship and conversations.
And as an example, we don't have a single feature that's superficial. Our entire approach to getting people to connect is one that's 100% rooted in not judging a book by its cover. So, on S’More, you won't see race filters, you won't see age filters, and you won't see structured profiles. Most dating apps, I think every single one that I've ever worked for or seen, uses very structured profiles. Now structured profiles are great. It looks very organized and clean, but human beings pay attention to what is visually different. So, the only visual difference between two profiles is the image on top, which is your headshot.
That's what you're going to focus on. If you have unstructured profiles, like MySpace, which I hope some of you used. MySpace was a very popular social media site 10 years ago or more. But what was cool about MySpace was that your space and my space did not feel like the same space. So it allowed for this sort of discovery mechanic to emerge where I can listen to your voice, listen to your favorite music and your profile had different colors and different fonts. That is the way that's more is structured today. We also have a hundred percent verified profiles. We also rate your behavior. We're building up an app where every single feature was intentional to get you into a relationship in a way that doesn't have you judge a book by its cover. And again, that is the core ethos of Something More.
Now, what are the results from an anti-superficial approach? I will tell you; it is by far a much more engaging approach than a typical swipe app. As an example, the conversation links on S’More are about two times what the industry averages. In addition to that, the stickiness factor, how many people come back per day versus how many people come back to your app per month is also significantly higher than a typical swiping app. Retention also extremely high.
And in the case of S’More, we were named the number two best dating app in the US by AskMen. And our app is only eight months old. We're also a top 10 dating app by Mary Claire. On S’Maller, you will find 100% of people have verified profiles and 100% people have completed profiles. 92% of people have a behavioral score that is four or above. Why is that important? Because as we know it as an industry, men typically don't behave very well on dating apps. And unless you keep people accountable for their actions, you are going to have a tainted environment and ecosystem. So, we make sure that we have a behavioral score, which is the first thing you see, even before you see the image of a person.
The concept of less superficial dating is not an American-centric ideology or approach. It's one that's very international. Which I'm very happy and excited to share with you today because it's been very hard for a lot of the swiping apps to transition to more international markets. Especially those that are conservative because showing a lot of skin or focusing on image is really against their culture. So, when you have an anti-superficial approach where you hide images at the beginning and you connect on the soul of the person, it actually translates much better to countries like India, the Middle East, Africa, and even China. So, as you think about how to develop anti-superficial features and practices, understand that it's going to really help you as you extend your brand internationally.
So, what kind of features can you develop and really have people connect on more than a transactional approach? Right? Transactional means once I find my person, I'm off your app. Versus community, which is yes, I can use your app to find someone special, but even if I have that someone special there, I can still meet people in more indirect ways. These are some good examples of indirectly connecting people in romantic sort of environments, like a dating app. So multiplayer games, like trivia games between two people. That's a very good way of getting to know one another. Chat rooms, newsfeeds, forums, and other shareable contents that people can interact and react to are great ways of starting new relationships.
So, on S’More users report finding a compatible match in 50%, less time than on a casual app. On typical casual apps, the average user is spending two to three years finding someone on those apps. So, think about what that means for the time spent there. And think about the fact that we're not just trying to get people connected and leave our ecosystem. We're trying to get people connected and stay on our ecosystem. There should be other ways for people to connect, even if you're in a relationship to meet new people.
I hope I didn't paint a very gloomy picture of the industry. Our industry is in hyper-growth mode. Dating is not mature. Last year, as E-Marketer reported a few weeks ago, our industry increased over 18% in one year. Over 23% of American users are willing to pay for dating app features, whether it's a subscription or in-app purchases. If you think about the early days of dating, and Jeff Cook knows as well, Meet Me was one hundred percent advertising. You could not get a person to pay for any part of that app or any part of any app. Today, people are willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest more in these great experiences, which is a huge positive.
And remember, this is not coming from me. Michelle Obama literally said this yesterday on her podcast that you cannot Tinder yourself into a long-term relationship guys and girls, it takes a lot of work. But let's create apps that facilitate these deeper connections so that we can fulfill the promise that we set out to do. I will leave you with a quick snapshot of what S’More looks like and tell all of you to check out some more live Happy Hour. Video and celebrities are a very important part of our industry. And S’More started its own celebrity dating show on Instagram, which has become wildly successful. And it's a very important part of also brand creation.