Every morning I scan through the daily news stories about online dating and I’m starting to notice a fascinating trend. The industry is clearly setting its sights on the future. This happens despite all the business reports indicating that the virtual matchmaking in its current shape is still on the rise, and we are unlikely to reach a saturation point any time soon (for more on the subject, read SkaDate Dating Software recent blog-post about the market of baby boomers).
This is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First of all, the trend seems quite natural in the online world, except for online dating. The niche was always playing catch-up to virtual shopping, information gathering, working, socializing, playing, etc. The taboo stigma of the activity from the early 90s’ somehow is only coming off now. Remember how you always bragged about getting bazillion friends on MySpace, or buying special equipment to make Internet transactions easier? The majority of surfers used just as much passion to come up with cover-up stories just in case anyone asks where they really met their significant others.
The prevailing understanding of online dating just a meager decade ago was that it was reserved strictly for desperate people, who couldn’t possibly book a date in real life. Needless to say this is no longer true, to the point where we often use the Internet to check out the compatibility with a potential date before going out. Here is a barrage of accidental trivia to consider:
• Over 20% of all relationships nowadays start online
• eHarmony alone is responsible for 2% of all marriages in the US
• There are over 10 million single Internet users looking for a partner
• Studies show that relationships that start online have higher chances of success
• Online dating is a billion dollar industry
When consumers began to realize this information was no longer a marketing gimmick, but actual statistics, they more or less accepted the online dating as mainstream. This, in turn, immediately made the industry look for ways to expand its domination. The current strategy of covering the entire market niche-by-niche (read more about niches here) could now be sidestepped with truly innovative approaches.
It’s really a circle, you see. The invention of the Internet sped up our lives significantly, and now we are getting back at the tech with momentum – we can’t stop, so we are speeding up even further – soon there might be no time for random real life dating… It just takes too much effort and time from our other online-based activities – something many owners of e-dating services understand well.
Last week Washington Post covered a story of the New York based Cluique – a new network/matchmaker hybrid that is drawing a lot of attention on the East coast. The premise behind the service is brilliant if rather risky – instead of targeting a specific group of people it allows members’ immediate friends to recommend dates to each other. Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, in real life! See, that’s what I mean when I’m talking about circles.
But how did we get here? How could a cold practical business solution work its way into finally replacing real life interactions of the past? In my opinion, it does not matter how sensible we are becoming – people will still always need to rely on real emotional feedback for their relationships to succeed.
Recently I read a touching story that described how following the deadly New Zealand earthquake earlier this year, the country saw a surge in online dating. People want to be with each other – they want a comfort of having a partner. The powerful disaster made them realize that what matters most are the folks around them; and the consensus seems to be that the web provides the best possible way to reach and build this ever-important social environment. Is this an emotion-powered choice? I definitely think so.
All of this shows that people are finally beginning to recognize online dating as an integral part of their lives, not a throw-away trend. They also take it for granted now, which is excellent news for all of us. In addition to expanding the market, at last it allows us to shape the future of the industry firsthand, just like the rest of our virtual brethren have been doing for years. More importantly, though, on a real-life-humane level, we now have the responsibility to give people tools for making the aforementioned future an enjoyable place where they will not feel lonely.