What Can Product Managers Learn From Dating Apps?

by drjim on May 2, 2016

It turns out that making dates happen is a big business

It turns out that making dates happen is a big business
Image Credit: Jerad Hill

I can only speak for myself, but during the course of my career I have been the product manager for a number of very boring applications. You know, business-to-business stuff. Back in the day as I worked on my product development definition, how I dreamed of being responsible for a product that had millions of users and was associated with something that was more interesting. It turns out that this dream has now come true for a large number of product managers out there: they are responsible for dating apps. This market is growing and making your app successful has become very hard to do!

The Dating App Market Is Very, Very Big

The good news about being a product manager who is responsible for a dating app is that the market for your product is currently very, very large. Dating websites are expected to bring in US$12.7B this year and dating apps are expected to bring in US$628.8M. Get this right and you’ll really have something to add to your product manager resume. That would all be great news if it were not for the fact that Apple’s iTunes app store currently has over 500 different dating apps in it.

Dating app product managers are facing two very large and very real problems. The first of these problems is that their customers are very fickle. What this means is that they often subscribe to multiple dating apps at the same time and feel no real obligation to use just one. Additionally, when a dating app is successful and matches one of their customers with just the right person, that person stops dating. This means that they no longer need the app and they end up just going away.

None of the firms that offer these dating apps are really all that large. Just to make life a bit more challenging for product managers, a lot of these companies are always on the lookout for other companies that they can either purchase or merge with. The uncontested leader in this space is a company called IAC / Interactive Corp. They currently own a number of the dating apps that you probably recognize: OkCupid.com, Match.com, and Tinder. It is estimated that they own roughly 22% of the market.

It’s Hard To Stand Out In The Dating App Market

If a product manager wants his or her dating app to be successful, they are going to have to take steps in order to make it stand out. Different product managers are taking different approaches to making their products be successful. Some take a mass market approach where they try to appeal to everyone who is dating. Dating apps such as Match.com and eHarmony are examples of this method. Others are trying to corner niches in the market. Grinder and Her are for gays and lesbians; Ashley Madison is for people who want to have an affair; and GlutenFree Singles speaks for itself.

The greatest single expense that these product managers are trying to deal with is the cost of advertising. Each one of these websites is free to join. Most apps are generating revenue in one of two different ways. The first is by displaying ads to visitors to their site. The second is by providing paid features to their existing customers. These features are designed to help them find the right person to date quicker.

One new tactic that dating apps have started to use involves trying to get their users to use them exclusively. The way that this works is that the dating app asks that a user agree to delete their accounts on other dating apps. They will then get a boost in the site’s algorithmic recommendation engine and they’ll get first access to the profiles of new members. We’ll just have to see how successful this new approach turns out to be.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager who is responsible for a dating app would be a great job. However, the market is crowded and the users are quite fickle. This is not going to be an easy job!

The market for dating apps is quite large with over 500 competitors all trying to capture the attention of people who are dating. Product managers have to deal with the challenge that customers probably use multiple dating applications at the same time. Additionally, when a dating app successfully matches a customer with a life partner, they will then leave the app forever. Getting your dating app to stand out is a challenge. Your biggest expense is going to be advertising. You may want to try to bribe your customers to only use your dating app.

The good news about being the product manager of a dating app is that your product manager job description will tell you that you’ll have access to a virtually unlimited market: there will always be more people who are starting to date. The stigma that used to surround this type of app has started to fade and now more and more people are using them. Play your cards right and you just might discover that you are managing a dating app that everyone loves!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If you were managing a dating app, how would you deal with all of that competition?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As product managers, I think that we all realize that in order for our product to be a success, it has to make money for the company. In order for this to happen, people have to buy the product for more than it costs the company to make and deliver the product. We product manager tend to spend a great deal of our time trying to create a product development definition that allows us to come up with ways to get potential customers to turn into real customers. However, perhaps we should be spending our time trying to come up with ways to lower the cost of creating our product. Over at the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA this is exactly what they are in the process of doing. Perhaps we can learn from them.

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