Online dating is a huge industry, and regularly churns out over $2 billion in revenue annually. Whether it’s a site dedicated to a tiny niche or one that seeks to appeal to the dating world in general, it’s clear that online dating is a sustainable business model. In fact, with digitisation rising as we continue into the 21st century, online dating is likely going to become an even more important part of the business world.
But the question is, how are dating services making this money? What are the monetisation strategies that online dating websites, dating apps, and other dating services are utilizing to make their businesses profitable? As with any other business, there’s no one answer to this. Sites use multiple strategies. One of the market leaders, Flirt.com, has shared some insights with us on the business strategies behind online dating.
When you consider how to profit from online dating, it’s likely that this is the most obvious answer. Some sites market themselves as “free,” but only provide a very basic experience before allowing you to upgrade to a full service for a membership fee. On the other hand, some sites, especially those who market themselves as higher quality, use a membership fee from the beginning. To further entice buyers, subscription sites usually offer significant discounts when you buy in bulk – for many sites, customers can save more than 50% by purchasing six months in advance, as opposed to paying every month for six months.
Despite this, subscriptions alone are not a sustainable revenue source for dating services. Yes, around 275,000 people on Tinder are using their premium subscription service, but that’s out of 32 million users, which means that less than one percent are investing their money into it. Lots of people aren’t interested in those extra services, which means that online dating sites need some way to make money from people who don’t want to sped with them directly.
Affiliate Networks and Other Advertising
Affiliate networks have been around for a very long time, and they’re widely used by pretty much all websites for optimum monetisation. The core concept of affiliate networks is that people who trust a website will be more likely to trust ads that run on that website. If you combine that trust with a subject of interest to the audience, this can be an extremely effective model that can sustain a business, as long as it is used effectively.
It’s possible to fine-tune affiliate networks to capitalise on the money that they can generate. Many dating sites, for example, affiliate themselves with jewelry sites, boutiques, and other stores that offer romantic gestures. There are also a number of ways to collect basic information on customers so the ads that are shown actually line up with their interests. The more that ads match up with the userbase, the more effective, and therefore the more profitable, these tactics are.
This is actually a fairly new addition to the monetisation of the dating world, but has taken off as a concept. There are plenty of dating services, especially apps, that allow users to pay to send small gifts to each other. This may take the form of a digital bouquet of flowers, a small personalized card, or gift cards. They’re bought individually, and tend to be fairly cheap in general.
While some business owners charge very small amounts of money (for example, a dollar), then retain that, more flexible operators allow the receiver to benefit from the gift as well. Sometimes it’s monetary, crediting the receiver an amount slightly lower than the buyer paid. Sometimes it uses affiliate programs to provide gift cards. Whatever the benefit, the system clearly works, as more and more apps are using it every day.
Online dating is a huge market, and people love it, from start to finish. As the internet continues to enhance our lives and evolve in new ways, online dating is only getting more popular, which means the vendors have to innovate, coming up with new, interesting ideas for monetisation every day. Nobody is really able to predict what the new trend in monetisation will be in a few years, but it’ll probably be pretty interesting.
One thing that is also vital for vendors to monetise their sites is user growth. Dating sites are at an inherent disadvantage, since their business model functions on gaining users, then giving them incentives to leave the site by advertising items of interest. This means that dating sites need to be recruiting all the time. It doesn’t matter if you have enough users right now. If your site works as it should the majority will find significant others, meaning that your userbase will die.
Monetisation of dating sites functions along so many lines that it’s hard to say that one is more important than the other. At the end of the day, the key to success it to ensure that your userbase is constantly growing and your site actually works. Once you’ve done that, implementing monetisation strategies is the easy part.
Featured image by Fred Veenkamp