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Tinder gives love a bad name


The festive mood surrounding Tinder appears to be coming to an end. A scant fifteen percent of Generation Z views Tinder as a place to meet authentic people. On top of that, singles are complaining en masse of "swiper's fatigue." What can the world's largest dating app do to survive the future? We spoke with Marsha Goei, co-founder and Head of Product at Breeze, and Joy Corkery, Head of Content Operations at Latana Brand Tracking.

Ten years after Tinder first introduced the world to the concept of "swipe to match," the most famous dating app in the world is still growing. Its revenue grew from $47 million in 2015 to $1.4 billion in 2020. During that time, the userbase grew from 300,000 to 9.6 million. The recent COVID lockdowns gave the app, developed by dating giant Match Group, an extra boost. "Compared to February of 2020, users sent nineteen percent more messages during that time," the Norwegian-Dutch CEO Renate Nyborg wrote on her blog after her appointment last summer.

Nevertheless, the jubilant mood that surrounded Tinder during its early years, back when "swiping" was still a novel and hip concept, appears to be coming to an end. "Gen Z is ready to break up with Tinder," a headline in the LA Times said just last month, followed by a story about Snack, a new dating app that describes itself as "TikTok meets Tinder." Last week, Business Insider published an article about a new line-up of apps that are helping singles get together IRL after the pandemic. In short: the competition is hot on Tinder's heels. These competitors are trying to break away from the current concept - based on the standard set by Tinder - of what a dating app is, what a "like" means, what it means to have a "match" and what the codes of conduct are. The founders of Breeze are part of this race as well. Their new app does not let singles swipe on their own. Instead, it offers them no more than two optimal matches per day.

"For us, a 'like' means that you actually like someone or are interested enough in a person to go on a date with them," says Marsha Goei, co-founder and Head of Product at Breeze. "When you have a match, we expect you to actually plan a date with that person. We also disincentivise certain actions, for example by blocking profiles on the platform if they ghost their match." Instead of paying for these services with your data and attention, you pay a fee of 7.50 euro per date.

Swiper's fatigue
One of the reasons why Goei and the other founders came up with the idea for Breeze during their studies at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands was the phenomenon of "swiper's fatigue." A growing number of singles feels exhausted from using dating apps. On average, it takes a Tinder user thirty-eight hours of swiping and chatting before they finally go on a real date. Goei: "As you can imagine, many people will give up before they get that far." How concerned about this large-scale fatigue surrounding the concept of "swipe to match" should the dating app that invented the concept be? "Given how quickly consumers' attention and loyalty can fade away, this is definitely something that Tinder should be paying attention to," says Joy Corkery, Head of Content Operations at the Berlin-based tech and marketing firm Latana Brand Tracking. "By monitoring what consumers associate with their brand and tracking swipers' fatigue, they can take action before it becomes a major problem for them."

Informal relationship
The recent market studies that Latana Brand Tracking had performed show that no less than 88% of the respondents in this age category of Generation Z - i.e. people born between 1996 and 2015 - is familiar with Tinder. For comparison: 47% of the respondents have heard of the existence of Bumble, Tinder's largest competitor. However, the figures paint a different picture when it comes to brand usage. 31% of men and 20% of women currently use the app. Tinder's brand appreciation also leaves something to be desired. According to the study, 44% of this generation views Tinder as a platform for establishing informal relationships, which goes to show that Tinder's reputation as a hook-up app has really taken off. Only 15% views Tinder as a place to meet real,authentic people. "In other words: although most people of this generation are familiar with the brand, the things they associate with it may not be things that Tinder wants to be associated with," Corkery says.

These figures coincide with the results of the market research conducted by the founders of Breeze. "Many of the people of Gen Z that we talk to view Tinder more as a pastime and a form of entertainment than an app they can use to get dates. For example, a group of friends may spend an evening sharing a phone and swiping through profiles without actually engaging with anyone," Goei says. Looking at these figures, it is clear that Tinder has its work cut out for it, Corkery states. "I would advise Tinder to work on being a safe brand for all of its users. Adopting a strategy to reduce its association with fake accounts and increase the association with real, genuine people should definitely help Tinder stay ahead of the competition in the long run."

Hooked on their app
At the same time, the brand should not focus too heavily on the youngest generations, as there is plenty of untapped potential among older generations as well. "Older generations are more technically capable than many people think and they represent a market that should not be overlooked," Corkery explains. According to Goei, Tinder will have to make some fundamental changes in order to survive the future. "Tinder's revenue model is based on getting users hooked on their app, so they can show more ads and sell subscriptions for locked features. Everything is designed to keep people swiping - almost like a digital slots machine - instead of actually sending them out on fun dates."

GenZ on board?
As more and more consumers choose transparent businesses with honest revenue models, this is something that Tinder should be working on, Goei says. "I think the odds of them pulling this off are fairly slim." She believes it is an illusion to think that Tinder can get Gen Z on board. "I think every generation has a different relationship with technology and the major platforms and businesses. Just look at mainstream social media: my parents are on Facebook, I am on Instagram and my younger cousins are on TikTok. The market for dating apps is still relatively young, but odds are that the same principle applies; a different platform for every generation."

She also mentions Snack, which meets the needs and wishes of Gen Z by having users create a dating profile that consists of short videos. "If Tinder wants to appeal to Gen Z, they will have to implement different features. I personally believe that if they want to attract that audience, it would be better to do so via a different brand under the umbrella of parent company Match Group. They might try acquiring an existing player, like Facebook did with Instagram."

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