"screen size does matter. I don’t think that in the future we can read font 1 any easier than we can today. And you will need font 1 in order to get any detailed level of information on a watch sized screen." [talking about wearables]
Dating-Experts talks to CEO Heinz Laumann about the future of online dating and his casual dating part in it, C-date
Dating-Experts: Which feature(s) make your product an outstanding dating experience and how do you drive growth in this competitive market place?
Heinz Laumann: Key to our competitive advantage is the frank and honest questionnaire that customers fill out on registration. Many of our competitors hide behind social demographic questions, but our registration really focuses on bringing people’s erotic fantasies and internal desires to light. The result is good matching on issues that really count for our customers and high levels of user satisfaction.
Dating-Experts: The Online Dating industry provides people with plenty of options. Do you think your industry changed how people think about relationships over the course of the last 10-15 years? Do you think people tend to move from one relationship to the next faster than they used to before online dating existed? Is this a good thing?
Heinz Laumann: I believe that our society has changed a great deal, if not in the last fifteen, then certainly in the last 50 years. Our attitudes have transformed since the sixties, when the image of Ursual Andress strolling out of the sea in a tight white bikini (James Bond ‘Dr No’) caused a famous scandal. We have got much more used to erotic images since then and alongside this we have changed in terms of how we perceive and deal with our own eroticism. People no longer have to ‘switch off the light’ – so to speak - when they have sex. Instead, sex and eroticism have become part of our daily lives and not, as perhaps the Catholic Church would want us to believe, something just for procreation.
People have also changed their attitudes towards relationships and are more willing to switch partners. This is a very healthy thing. People tend not to stay trapped in long dysfunctional relationships, but instead get to break out and potentially live more happy lives than they did in the past. People are also getting married much later in life and many spend ten or fifteen years as ‘singles’ before they tie the knot. This does not mean that they don’t have any sexual life, but rather that they have more relationships and are seeking more sexual contacts.
These are changes we associate with Western countries, but they are happening all over the world, at different times and tempos. For example, many Arabic and Islamic countries still have very conservative attitudes to eroticism, but they are starting to look around at the freedoms Western countries enjoy and move in this direction. I see Arabic and Islamic countries as having very big growth potential for this reason.
Dating-Experts: Do you think that online dating has become more sexualized in recent years as it has increasingly switched to mobile? Have apps like Tinder made casual dating mainstream – even for women? And if so, do you think that this trend is likely to continue or will serious matchmaking stage a come-back?
Heinz Laumann: I think that mobile has changed dating as far as speed is concerned. You have much quicker access to people, but it is a shallower experience. Tinder is like walking through a big mass of people, but it is a lot of work for you to manually get to know them all and find out which one is for you. If you met with every one of your matches on Tinder, you would easily have 365 dates a year, but that would be very expensive and a lot of work. In this way sites like Tinder don’t really give the value expected from a dating website. It’s a question of class versus mass. Many people would rather have fewer quality matches than hundreds of random ones and in the future it seems likely many will wish to return to services that do more of the work for them.
Increasing female participation in casual dating is not something that started with Tinder. We have seen female ratios constantly on the rise since 2008. C-date offers women a degree of anonymity that they can’t get on these more public apps. We are very careful about who can see what on C-date and women remain in control of when other users can view their pictures or other personal details. This makes women feel comfortable and is one of the reasons we get a lot of women to women recommendations.
Dating-Experts: Do you and - if yes - how do you use and analyse user data / user behaviours (Big Data) in order to improve matching and become more efficient? Can you provide examples?
Heinz Laumann: Of course, we are a very data driven company. We look at all aspects of our user’s behaviour, especially indicators of their activity. Using a scoring system we identify our most active members and then match them together, greatly improving the quality of interactions for our most committed customers. This is just one example, but data mining for product improvement is a daily task for us. At C-date we call this our Constant Learning System (CLS for short).
Dating-Experts: What do you think is the next big thing in data use for matchmaking? What will dating firms be able to do in 3-5 years from now that they don’t do today?
Heinz Laumann: I don’t believe in the totally transparent user. I don’t think anyone wants this. There is no need to go deeper into the data in order to present someone with their perfect match. Ultimately we have excellent matching systems already and the computer cannot do everything. The final step in finding the perfect match will always rely on human interaction.
Of course some new features have been incorporated that make matching better. However, people don’t want to be screened in too much detail by dating sites. Dating sites exist in part because they provide anonymity. Otherwise, we could be all using Facebook for dating and tagging ourselves as ‘looking for a girlfriend’ or ‘looking for casual sex’.
So is there a data driven product out there in five years that we cannot deliver today? No I don’t think so, not in any transformational way.
Dating-Experts: In the last two years we have seen a rise of free dating apps, especially Tinder. Are you concerned that these free apps destroy value in the marketplace and re-define usual market prices?
Heinz Laumann: All these sites will eventually start charging. We can see this with Tinder starting paid for Premium services or Plenty of Fish doing the same thing. There are lots of free sites and applications out there trying to grab market share, but eventually the funding will come to a halt. It’s great that people are doing this and we can learn from the innovations that come with it, but in the end most dating sites cannot function on advertising revenues alone.
Dating-Experts: Do you envisage wearables changing the way people use online dating, the way smartphones did?
Heinz Laumann: No. I don’t think they will change online dating as smartphones have done. I do not see wearables as being a means to collect vast amounts of data that a user is happy to share. As I have said already, people do not want to become that sort of transparent user. I personally wouldn’t allow a service to upload data from a wearable device in this way, it’s too personal.
Also, screen size does matter. I don’t think that in the future we can read font 1 any easier than we can today. And you will need font 1 in order to get any detailed level of information on a watch sized screen. If and when holograms become a reality, this could change, but this remains a good few years away.
Dating-Experts: Are you preparing a mobile version of any of your sites specifically for the Apple Watch or other wearables?
Heinz Laumann: No. Not at the moment.
Dating-Experts: What do you feel are the most important success factors to ensure your dating service will still be a big player over the next 10 years?
Heinz Laumann: Company Culture and internal company organization is crucial. Every part of the organization has to maintain focus, flexibility and innovation within their specific field, but also work successfully together as a well-oiled machine. The right internal culture and structures are what leads to the kind of innovative thinking that can keep us ‘a nose ahead’ of the competition.