OPW - Sep 19 - Here's the video from the last IDEA webinar. See it, or read it here.
Things are changing quickly in the dating space. I encouraged RealMe to run this survey and analysis to help us get our heads around how things are changing for the dating industry, in 6 aspects. FTI Consulting ran a 3,300 person strong survey and performed the analysis.
In this webinar you'll get the answers to the following six questions.
- What is motivating online daters now?
- What new dating behaviors are emerging now?
- What is the new norm?
- What is contributing to the disparities in dating behavior?
- What gaps are influencing changes to dating behavior?
- Where's the opportunity?
Mark Brooks: Hello everyone. I'm Mark Brooks and welcome to another IDEA Webinar. Today, we're going to talk about dating trends. RealMe has been very kind for sponsoring a study that has gone out and is quite considerable in its findings. We have Dan Healy who is going to be running through those findings with you today. He's the Managing Director of FTI Consulting. We also have Courtney Kovacevich, the VP at RealMe, and Neil Davis, who's the Chief Business Officer at RealMe. Just as a reminder, IDEA stands for Internet Dating Excellence Association. Our goal is to grow the industry and help it achieve its long-term potential. Without further ado, let's jump in. I'm going to hand the baton over to Dan.
Dan Healy: Thanks very much, Mark. The research was conducted the 19th of May through the 21st, right after the worst of the pandemic, certainly from a UK perspective, in terms of the lockdown. We wanted to see how the attitudes and behaviors of people in the US changed. This research we conducted was with just over 3,000 members of the US general population. We conducted the survey online. We made sure that the 3,303 participants were the right proportions to the census information in terms of age distribution, the agenda, the location, and even how they voted in the presidential election.
The reason we do that is it tends to dampen down the overenthusiasm of people doing online surveys.
We looked to make sure we had the right proportion of people who voted. and didn't vote. It was not so much about who they voted for. We know that it's a good census of population. We made sure that we've got the right proportions of those people who are sort of more likely to get out and do things, you know, so that when we do talk about the results, we're saying that they are representative of the adult US general population. So that's very important, certainly for market sizing purposes. We wanted to know how widespread these behaviors are, and we avoided any bias.
With the 3000 participants, we then screen them to make sure that they've been using online dating apps and websites since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I don't remember exactly what day we picked, but I think it was probably the beginning of March anyway.
We're able to get an idea that these are active users and can talk about their behavior since the beginning of it. We'll see that huge lifestyle and arguably business change that should have been taking place as well and how they're responding to it. The survey took approximately 15 minutes for them to complete, and they're able to do it on any mobile device or laptop to make it as convenient for them as possible.
We're presenting just a glimpse of some of the results today, which we thought might be relevant for you guys. Please get in touch if you'd like to delve into this behavior, the attitudes, and these different groups we've identified in much more detail. We can certainly do that. For those with a statistical disposition, the margin of error was set to be plus or minus 3%. Where we see a 3% greater gap or difference in opinion, that's where we can say that it's indicative that it is significantly different as well. It's just a bit of background there.
We have about six different chapters. We've got Motivating Online Daters and New Dating Behaviors are Emerging. We've got the New Normal, What are the Disparities, What is Influencing These Changes, and Where are the Opportunities? So that's main ideas we’ve got to go through.
The first thing we're seeing maybe isn't too much of a surprise, but we're able to quantify it anyway. Loneliness is now a particularly acute motivating factor. I haven't been into my office since I came back from New York. I am living a life in this office here, obviously with other colleagues on Zoom and in Teams. It's incredibly transformative and it's fascinating. In no other time has there been something that's affected everyone around the world at the same time. Nearly 3 in 4 U.S. online daters have been spending more time on dating platforms during the pandemic and 3 in 10 daters now using the platforms say they are feeling less lonely. That’s a key motivator. Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, that is significantly increased. That is a key finding that we're seeing in the mix of everything else.
67% of current online daters are less okay with being single during this time. And 64% feel more worried about finding a partner. You can see the graph on the right-hand side and the questions we ask of how strongly they agree or disagree. You can see that there’s a proliferation of the dark green and the light green, representing about 7 in 10 almost, if you add them up. They spent more time on dating apps and websites than before, at 34%. We didn't see a particularly huge increase in the number of people, or growth in the number of people using apps. But it's very much about the time they spend on them. That seems to be an interesting piece there. People reported feeling more disconnected from family and friends. That's understandable. They are more worried about finding a new partner in this new environment, and less okay with being single at this time.
They're the four key findings that we've got, and they all seem to be going hand in hand. It instantly makes sense with what we know of what's happened to their lives. The last topic was, if social distancing stays in place for another few months, more than half of online daters say that this will make them use dating platforms more frequently. You can see 55% saying they'll use it more frequently, 17% saying no impact. And we've got 27% saying less frequently. Maybe perhaps they’re optimistic about finding the right partner within this time period as well. Who knows what they're thinking in that regard as well?
The dominant finding there is over half are thinking that they're going to be using it at a high frequency. And I think that some, certainly in terms of the stickiness, functions, and features on these apps, are going to be key to keep them engaged because they want to spend more time on them.
Now, what new dating behaviors are emerging? We've got nearly two in three current users saying they are now less picky when liking or swiping. So, maybe they are understanding the app and how it works and maybe they're going for the volume rather than quality. Who knows? This links in with something I’m going to say later about photos and it's the difficulty of believing some of these photos that people are using. If they're fairly representing them or not there. People are being less picky. Three in four online daters are now having longer and more meaningful conversations. And I think that's reflective of some of the apps and some of the more engaging features they've got, such as video. On some of them at least.
My daily commute used to be about four hours a day. So, in theory, if there was someone like me, I could you have four hours to kill perhaps? Particularly if it's raining, what are you going to do? I do more work, but others maybe pop on dating apps. The last one is 69% of current online daters say they now use video chat features more frequently. And I think it's a point of using it more frequently, or even just using them because they're now appearing on more of the apps as an option. 5% was saying none of the above. It wasn't sort of like say the 4 in 10 people selecting all these features. 95% of online daters are selecting at least one of them. So, there was some crossover, but they're just spread out across the board when they're responding to this question. I think that it's a feature that is ubiquitous for this user group now.
What is the new normal? The new normal, the new reality, or phase that’s sort of gone through this seismic change since March as well. We've found misrepresentation in online dating is the new normal. We did find this in our earlier research that we did in 2019. And for me, it seemed to be such a huge percent. It was 57% back then. I believe that was the US population. But now we're looking at it from a view of online daters and it's particularly high. 75%, three in four, admit to having misrepresented themselves in their dating profile, believing it is important to look their best online, even if it means distorting reality.
And that's a statement. We got them to say whether they agree or disagree. These online surveys are done anonymously, even if it's incriminating themselves as well. We get some fascinating insight when people don't feel pressured by someone on a telephone. When they answer on an online survey, it does yield some quite startling findings because there's no incentive or disincentive to not tell the truth. That's a stark finding.
25% admit to having used older photos to make themselves look younger. 20% admit to having used photos of other people, which is unbelievable. I don't know if they ever intended to meet these people or they just like the social interaction. But it is together with the 21% admitting to having exaggerated their height or age. I imagine height would be a little bit harder to hide if they did meet these people in person. 21% present themselves in better light on dating apps than in social media. There is a distortion. There is a bit of a disjoint between the two as well in terms of online sources and I won't go through all the others.
You can see it's ranging 17% that have exaggerated their wealth or lied about marital status. And that's an interesting thing. We did ask about the marital status and we can cross reference what they're saying and the profiles as well. It's fascinating when we do slice it down by the age generation. It gives you a little bit more inkling of the generational differences as well. We've got something on that later.
Why the disparities? Now, I just might need you to concentrate a little bit more. This is a bit more of a theory here. A lot of writing here. It's called OCEAN theory, and it's an acronym. You’ve got the openness; you've got conscientiousness and agreeableness. We’ve got extroversion. The “n” used to be neuroticism, but that has changed in the last few years. It was deemed to be more associated with a certain group in society. They got rid of the neuroticism. Now they call it emotional stability. That's why the acronym doesn't quite fit with the ocean anyway. But the theory still exists. It's just the label, but you can certainly see what's behind each of these definitions. I won't go through all of them.
You can see extroversion associated with warmth, rigor, gregariousness, assertiveness, and conscientiousness. They like completing things. They like order. If they say they'll do something, they'll do it. Agreeableness, trust, straightforward, altruism, compliance, modesty, et cetera. Emotional stability, which is what we were talking a little bit more, rather than neuroticism. Those that suffer, or claim that they're suffering higher anxiety, or a bit more angry, hostile, or depressed. You can see the various aspects that an openness, is very much of the fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas or values.
There's a series of questions a little bit like a psychometric test. And it was very short and concise. We're able to sort of profile internet users and dating app users along those scales. What we found were some fascinating pieces of insight. And there is a point to it as well, which we have later in the slide.
We found the four key elements where there was significant difference to the U.S. general population that we also profiled compared to dating app users.
Extroversion, on the top left, concerns where the people draw energy from interacting with others, or from solitude. We found that dating app users are higher on extroversion. They’re much more out there and want to engage with people more than the general population overall. They love that engagement with the others and interaction. Moving across to the right to agreeableness, they're significantly less. That's going to be less concern for one’s orientations towards others. They're not as agreeable as the general population. Without this sort of arguably getting on with others.
Emotional stability, which is the neuroticism, is considered a negative to be higher on this scale, which dating app users are. They're experiencing negative emotions of anxiety and other issues like that. They're also less conscientious, and significantly so. We have quite a big gap between the general population and the dating users. So lower on conscientiousness. They're more likely to be impulsive, not completing things and not as dependable, and aspects like that.
I think it's important to look at the personalities. They should see what is lying behind it and how you can leverage this in the commercial sense and influence the features. It goes hand in hand with this environment where emotional stability is something. A person is more likely to feel anxious about a situation. You probably must appreciate that and understand that they are using the dating apps to try and appease themselves. They also are extroverts.
They feed off the energy of others. You get an idea how different they are using apps compared to the general population. I think that's a fascinating way of profiling the users, as opposed to just the usual demographics, age, gender, and ethnicity. There is certainly a very interesting story from a personality point of view.
Personality traits contribute to dating behavior disparities. When we profiled the extroverts, we saw that if they're higher or lower than the average. We then classify them as one or the other. Then we looked at all their other opinions in the survey. This a little summary of some of the key findings. Extroverts spend more time on dating platforms and extroverts use video chat features more frequently. We've got the emotional stability, which is the neurotics. Online daters who have been profiled have less emotional stability and are more worried about finding a new partner during this situation. This is very much accentuated in the solitude for a lot of people's settings.
Under agreeableness, more users profiled as less agreeable, have lied, or exaggerated on dating platforms. Conscientious is due to their dutiful nature, high or high conscientious users are less likely to trust the profiles of people online. The last one is openness. Open respondents are more likely to have been using dating platforms to feel less lonely. It's some fascinating insight there. In summary, we have a lot more on that as well, should you want to talk about it in more detail.
What is influencing these changes? When we break it down by the demographics, that's something you would be probably more familiar with. The age generations were being banded around a lot. You know, we've got the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Zed. And I think when I presented last time, I said it was Zed. I know a lot of people might be more familiar saying it's Generation Z, but we'll call it Zed here anyway today.
The point we had said earlier, nearly three in four have admitted to having misrepresenting themselves on a dating profile, believing it is important to look their best online even if that means distorting reality. When you look at that by the generations, you see a stark contrast. Generation Zed is most likely to agree with that at 8 in 10. That’s almost hand in hand with Millennials. Then you start seeing Generation X significantly less likely, but still quite high. Where it has that massive tip over is the Baby Boomers. We've got only 3 in 10 agreement. That is a complete and utter contrast to the generations that followed them as well. And I think overall, we've got to 75%, three in four agreement to that statement. We find this in a lot of other research that we do. It's the age generations.
It is hugely significant in terms of people's attitudes and behavior towards things as well there, but it's not usual that we see Generation X also matching up so closely with Generation Zed. That's an interesting finding. You can see that tipping point in that the generation that slightly older generation influenced changes in dating behavior.
Do you present yourself the same on online dating platforms as you do in social media? So, the lighter color, the 35% for Generation Zed, in a better light in dating platforms than in a better light in social media. But for all of them, they're all much more likely to present themselves in a better light on dating platforms than their own social media. Arguably in social media, they interact with people that know them. So, it's harder to get away with it. Arguably, when they're in dating apps, they can get away with it because it's unlikely that they'll come across someone that might know them.
The next one, Millennials, especially likely to increase their dating platform usage if social distancing stays in place for another few months. You can see that result breaking down by the different age generations as well. 64% of Millennials will use them more frequently as well. Baby Boomers, not so. Not really. But it's certainly the others. Once again, it was quite high. Generation Zed was mixed. We've got almost just as many saying they'll use it more frequently as those who will use them less likely. It's Generation Zed there. The Millennials are the ones that are certainly going to be sticking at it and increasing their usage of it.
The next one, Generation X and Baby Boomers, find it especially important. They look up the profiles of people they are dealing with online. It arguably is Generation Zed and Millennials that seem to be exaggerating the reality of their profiles more than it seems with the older generation. They are much more interested in terms of looking at the profiles of people they're interacting with to find out. They want to match the perception and the presentation that they're seeing to the reality and just to get some verification in that way. But overall, even with Generation Zed with 65% that's 2 in 3. I'm saying they, but you can see that it really does pick up with that older generation wanting to have that insight if it is available.
Where's the opportunity? This is sort of leading from that last slide where we're talking about people's proliferation to change and distort reality. They want some sort of verification. We've got 80% of online daters who will be more likely to trust a dating app or platform if it offered background checks and verification, and they would spend more time on these platforms if they did. That's an interesting finding. If they're available, that would encourage them to believe and spend more time. It makes the platforms and apps stickier. They would be more loyal. They'd be spending more of their much greatly available time, swiping left or right.
Or it might be for usability. The same percent of online daters find it difficult to obtain data that goes beyond a person's dating profile, such as, you know, criminal records, lawsuits, and financial details. This is the challenge that they're finding. How do they get all this information? How do they get this relevant and sort of very personal information that they want to have on the person there that they're engaging with? 75% say background checks and verifications make them more likely to get a premium membership. We've got the last one at 98%. Virtually all online daters appeal to the idea of a reputation checker that pulls together all public information sources.
What we've got here is a question of how that could that possibly be integrated? When we look at all U.S. daters on the left-hand side, we've got 41% which prefer we do individual checks and verifications. The 43% would prefer it slightly more if it were included in the app site’s premium subscription. It's like a buffet style. 16% overall would not pay for either, but if you flip that around, that that is 84% willing to have it such that there's some sort of monetary exchange for that service. It's quite emphatic for that generation to be willing to pay for it.
Once again, it's, and this is interesting and it's worth further investigation, Generation Zed’s high propensity to pay. Millennials have the highest propensity to pay, which is 89%. Generation X is still quite high, but you can see it dropped quite a lot for Baby Boomers. 63%, would not pay for either.
And I think, you know, there's a lot of insight that we found decades ago that the older generation and their propensity to pay for things. And it's the opinion of value. If there's advertising and things like that, why should they pay for that? But I think certainly they would probably take a little bit more convincing. Approximately just over a third of them would pay it. It really shows a boost for the generations that are slightly younger than them, as well as their propensity to pay and the type of subscription that they would like.
Without further ado, I'll hand over to Courtney and Neil to take up the baton.
Courtney Kovacevich: Fantastic. Thank you, Dan. That was great. Neil and I are from RealMe. We're a reputation and background platform that works with dating apps to make their users safer. And last year we did an incredible study with FTI where we looked across industries at the need for a better transparency and access to information about people who others were interacting and transacting with. And then this year we saw an opportunity to look deeper into dating and trends that we were seeing generationally that we picked up on last year. Considering what was happening with the pandemic, we're so fortunate to have worked with FTI to put this together. And as we look at what's happening from a generational shift, that's been going on for a while.
Within that is this huge increase in misrepresentation, both on dating apps, but also in general, as we're sort of putting ourselves out there in different social and community platforms. We consider the pandemic and its effect on daters and specifically certain personality and psychographic types. We thought that it was particularly interesting at these levels of loneliness and vulnerability, that daters are sort of suffering. We’re interested in how that's changing the way that they interact with people, the frequency that they're interacting and engaging with others, and this increase in need and use.
Within all of that, we wanted to make sure that we contextualized it with this increasing need for safety. When we think about RealMe being able to power better safety and security for dating apps, certainly it's all the data that Dan has walked through that allows us to understand these last couple of slides. It is this growing need, this growing interest, and this limited access that users feel they have in getting the information that is important. They want to know that the people that they're interacting with are real, that they are who they say they are, and that they don't pose a threat to the dating app users. Neil, if you have something to add to that, please do, but that's sort of a general summary of how we got here and where we see all this data informing how Real Me helps.
Neil Davis: Yeah. I mean, I don't think any of this, really at the core is a surprise to anyone. I think that we're all concerned about the safety and security and trust in the space. We all probably know innately that a chunk of our users is not being completely transparent in their profiles. We've found that that number is about a third. As Dan said, it tends to be more age related than anything else. For example, if I say I'm 28 and I'm really 38, that may be what people are putting up. I mean, a chunk of people was putting up images that are not necessarily them. I don't think that's an aha moment for anyone here. I think the aha moment probably is the fact that, the research is showing that users want to find out more.
They want to find out who they're looking at, who they're talking to, and in fact that those people are who they say they are. Maybe the most salient piece of this is the fact that people are willing to invest to find that out. Many people are pulling back on, especially during what we're going through right now, some personal investment and things like that. The fact that they're willing to invest to get real information and to understand that, not only am I who I say that I am, but I'm not a bad person. I don't have bad stuff in my background.
When we found out for one of our dating partners that, you know, 125 of their, of their users had over 20 or more criminal convictions, and one of them had thirty-eight criminal convictions. I don't even know how you can have 38 criminal convictions and not currently be in penitentiary. But short of that, it just provides this layer of trust and safety and security. There's probably a whole bunch of ways around it.
RealMe is no cost to dating platforms. It's a simple integration and literally as a one-page API integration. While there is a revenue stream to partners, it's secondary, in our opinion, to the increased blanket of safety and security. Because when your user feels safer and more secured, you've seen these user extroverts. They engage more. If they engage more, obviously you probably find that more engaged users churn less and then if they churn less, it then lifts the entire lifetime value of the platform.
Mark Brooks: Great. Thank you. Now, what does the RealMe solution look like from the user perspective? For a user that goes onto a dating app, and RealMe is on that dating app as a partner, what does that look like? Can you define that for us?
Courtney Kovacevich: We're working with dating partners in different capacities. The idea is to present information about a certain person that someone's dating or interacting with. That can be verification badges. That can also be users coming over and finding out more information on the RealMe platform. That also could be some type of integration into a premium membership offering. So, something that's mentioned in here is an additional incentive for customers on the dating apps to pay for more premium features. This would be part of that, but certainly there's flexibility and opportunity to define the way in which the RealMe platform is integrated and provides value and insights to the end user on the dating apps.
Neil Davis: We have integrated in with a whole bunch of partners. Whether it is an integration that allows you to check your own profile, or whether it's to ask someone to verify themselves. Then there's the ability, once verified, to have this verification badge, however that looks, that fits on your profile.
We can also work with other people's brand Bibles. Conceptually, it just lends this whole level of, "Okay. I know the person I am talking to is really the person I think they are."
Courtney Kovacevich: There's a simple initial step in this process, in that we can verify the users on a dating app and provide a verification badge, but simply on the backend identify any bad actors, as Neil mentioned a little bit earlier in the presentation. We help to make sure that the users that are on a dating app are real. We're seeing when we do these initial scans, about 30% of the users are fake accounts, which I think is probably a corroborating number to what the industry knows.
Mark Brooks: Thank you so much, Dan, Courtney, and Neil. I appreciate your time.