A Product Manager’s Approach To Finding Love Online

Love can be tricky to find online – unless a product manager helps out
Love can be tricky to find online – unless a product manager helps out
Image Credit: Moni Sertel

Let’s talk about love, shall we? I fully understand that your job as a product manager probably takes up a lot of your time and you really don’t have a lot of time left over to think about such trivial things as love, but it’s all around us if you’d just take a moment to look. For that matter, love is a big business and nowhere is it bigger than the exploding world of creating a product development definition for online matchmaking sites. However, none of these sites seems to have come up with the perfect formula for getting the right people together. Perhaps we can use our product management skills to discover how to do this correctly?

It Turns Out That Dating Is A Market

If you allow yourself to get all caught up in the chemical / biological processes associated with falling in love, well then you’ll never be able to come up with a product that can help the love lorn find their perfect match. However, if you are willing to take a step back and instead consider the process of finding the correct life mate a market then all of sudden this starts to seem like a solvable problem. In fact, dating is not just a market, but it’s a specific type of market: a matching market. Get this right and you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume.

Other examples of matching markets are markets where patients are matched to organ donors, students are matched to schools, etc. In order for an online dating site to be a success, it first has to create a market that has a lot men and women who are seeking to link up with each other. The good news here is that the other online dating sites have shown that there are a lot of people online out there who are looking for love online. However, having a lot of people who want to use your online dating site causes its own set of problems. The most common of these problems is what is called “congestion”. Congestion in this context refers to a bottleneck that shows up in a system of exchange. An example of this kind of congestion occurs when men spam every woman that the Tinder app matches them with. This kind of behavior is to be expected in systems that permit you to match with people endlessly.

Another problem that online dating sites run into is that it is very easy for their participants to engage in what is called “statistical discrimination”. What this means is that people who are visiting the site are using stereotypes to evaluate possible matches. This happens when people read someone’s online profile and then infer things about them that may or may not be correct. Another problem is that try as they might, online sites can’t actually tell you if the person that you’ve been matched with is someone that you’d like. However, this is where computer algorithms might be able to be used. If Netflix can make movie recommendations for us based on what movies we’ve liked in the past, then dating sites should be able to make dating suggestions based on who we’d probably like.

Signaling Makes Finding A Match Easier

The problem of men spamming women on dating sites is a real problem. In fact, this is one of the most frequently heard complaints from women who use online dating sites. There has to be a solution to this problem. It turns out that there is. What needs to be implemented is a form of a signaling mechanism.

One way to go about doing this would be to provide members of an online dating site a limited number of “virtual roses”. These roses could be included in a communication that you sent to a person that you were interested in. The result of this was that people who received a communication with a rose attached were more likely to respond because the “spending” of the rose meant that the person who had sent them the note was truly interested.

Ultimately, if we wanted the people who were using our online dating site to successfully find their life mate, then we’d need to work with them so that they would learn how to avoid “romantic unemployment”. This is just a fancy way of saying that we need to get people who are using the site to lower their standards just a bit in order to increase the pool of people who might match with them. A number of studies of online dating sites has revealed that those customers who were less picky ended up finding their match much quicker than anyone else.

What All Of This Means For You

Love Is a many-splendored thing. In the world of online dating sites, many such sites exist, but so far none of them seem to have gotten the process of helping people find their perfect mate taken care of. As product managers who, based on our product manager job description, understand both products and markets, it sure seems like this is the kind of thing that we should be able to step in and help out with.

The first thing that any online dating site needs is a lot of men and women as customers. The good news here is that the evidence shows that there are a lot of people going online to find their one true love. Having a lot of customers is good; however, the unrestricted nature of many existing sites is leading to congestion where women are getting spammed by men. There are many different ways to prevent this from happening including providing limited amounts of signaling mechanisms. As product managers, we’d need to find ways to work with our online dating customers in order to boost their chances of success by not being too picky.

Considering that men and women have been successfully meeting up long before there ever was an online world, the arrival of online dating sites should just make this process more efficient. As product managers who understand how markets work and what customers want, we are uniquely suited to finding ways to make online dating sites more successful. Take some time and think about love. Perhaps you might be the person who creates the world’s best online dating site!

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

Question For You: Do you think that online dating sites should charge people for using them or should they be free to attract more customers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

p>I’m pretty sure that we all know and understand that product managers don’t work in sales. However, our career is very closely tied to the success of the product that we are responsible for. So, while we don’t have primary responsibility for selling our product, we are however quite motivated to make sure that the thing gets bought! This is why when we become aware that sales are not where they should be, the sales part of every product manager has to spring into action…