Tim Schiffers is the CEO of the PARSHIP ELITE Group. Together with their shareholder ProSiebenSat.1, a German media company, they acquired eharmony. I interviewed Tim Schiffers yesterday about the future of this transaction. – Mark Brooks
What do you think of the term 'serious dating'?
When we look at the market for online dating, we see three main segments: dating, casual dating and matchmaking. When you are open in your intentions and are fine to see where things lead to, a flirt, a one-night stand or maybe a relationship, you would probably turn to a dating service such as LoveScout or nowadays Tinder. When you are clear about your intentions, and you want things to end up in the bedroom, you will opt for a casual dating service.
Customers of Parship, ElitePartner and also eharmony do not only have the clear intention of finding the right partner for a serious relationship, but are also willing to pay for a service that will help them find the right match.
Thus, intention and propensity to pay are crucial factors for "serious dating".
We think "serious dating" is a very good position in the market that cannot be attacked so easily. Classical dating services have come under pressure from apps such as Tinder and Badoo. This did not happen with Parship – it even helped us. With the rise of dating apps, online dating has become more and more normal for people, and as soon as they are looking for a serious relationship, chances are high that they will turn to services such as Parship or ElitePartner.
What will you do with eharmony?
eharmony is a pioneer. They are the inventor of online dating based on scientific methods and by now have almost 20 years of experience under their belt. eharmony is an extremely prestigious and established brand in the English speaking market – a market that has become more and more competitive. We feel eharmony has lost some relevance over the past few years by way of their communication and their approach to media and online marketing. In addition, their platform is not completely state of the art. Therefore, the challenge is similar to the one we faced when we acquired ElitePartner three years ago.
Will eharmony move to the Parship platform?
Yes, we are planning to bring the services together on one shared technical platform, the Parship platform. We have invested a lot into our technical setup over the past few years and are happy to harness synergies in that area, just as we did with ElitePartner in 2016.
This migration project is quite challenging and will probably take up to 12 months to complete. As far as marketing activities go, we are well on the way with a number of initiatives around brand, media, online marketing and CRM.
Why does the eharmony deal make sense for Parship?
First and most importantly, we share the same mission: Bringing people into happy relationships by believing in the concept of scientific matchmaking. That is what Parship and ElitePartner as well as eharmony have done for years; that is what drives every one of our employees.
However, there are also other similarities such as strong, renowned brands and the need for a focused, effective marketing strategy. In addition to the platform project I mentioned above, those are areas where we see the highest synergy potential.
Parship has lots of experience in this area. After a challenging time in 2011, my two MD colleagues Henning Rönneberg and Marc Schachtel together with our team did a fantastic job to turn around the business. Parship regained its leading position in the market and has since then gone from strength to strength. The acquisition of ElitePartner was an important pillar for this development. Working on exactly the topics mentioned above, we managed to strengthen their status as the upmarket choice for discerning singles, making the acquisition a big success from a business as well as a from a consumer point of view.
With eharmony, we are now in a comparable situation to where we have been with ElitePartner in 2016. We are very happy to take on this challenge and are looking forward to working with Grant, Erin, Stefan and their team at eharmony.
What's your thoughts on Facebook Dating? Are they a serious contender?
We always have a lot of respect for our competitors such as Match and Tinder, Badoo and Bumble or Spark. There are many players in the market that are doing a good job. Facebook has already tried to broaden out into a number of new areas in the past. With their generally broad approach, I see them more in the classical dating camp. They will certainly have to find a clear position on of how to deal with data and find a balance between being a service provider while offering a platform for advertisers. Overall, we welcome them as a new entrance to the market.
Tinder is a competitor, but not in the very serious segment of the market. They have brought online dating onto the agenda for more people, which is helpful. This could happen with Facebook dating, too.
Is Parship considering more international acquisitions/options?
We will be very busy with integrating eharmony, working with eharmony on marketing, CRM, and platforms. That is already a big piece of our internationalization; we are broadening out into the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. That's the perfect extension of our business. As you said, it's a match made in heaven. If we see something else that is a fit however, maybe there is another move.