Just when there seems to be a certain number of people who want to date online, they are bogged down as soon as they find out that most of the online dating sites these days are in such a deep mess. The assurance of this fact comes from reviewing certain online dating sites and also trying to find out what others had to say about them.
Let’s take 2 scenarios into picture. First, a miserable experience of a person who tried to use WooMe, and how he termed it as a rip-off. Second, a take on the working of Online Dating services that goes into nitty-gritties of how an online dating service should function and how the real scenario is going in the exact opposite direction. Sometimes, some dating sites take un-ethical methods in desperation.
The first story on WooMe will tell you on how Robin Wauters (through an advice from his friend) signed up for the service by uploading a picture of a horse. A person who does not upload his own picture and is expecting a date pretty soon is seen to be expecting too much too fast. But this is not the case with WooMe which apparently throws up tons of unsolicited mails, direct messages, pop-ups, live chat sessions and the like. Even with a fake profile Robin received several alleged profile visits by hot women.
Obviously, any horse would be happy to receive so much attention, but how do you expect the horse to reply back to all the messages? The fact is that most online dating sites have embedded in them a self-generated pop-up screen that prompts users to become a member. And this does not end with just one pop-up, the user has to go through the torture till she signs up and becomes a member by paying a fee. WooMe is a similar site that pops up a wholesome number of messages to anyone who signs in and drives her till the membership criteria is fulfilled. And all of this within just seconds of signing in as a free member.
Here’s the video of how Robin was repeatedly asked to become a member of WooMe by, apparently a hot girl, named Jen, who does not answer any question posed by Robin, but only prompts him to take the WooMe membership and benefit out of it.
It is also very surprising that an online dating site of this sort has received investments as much as $20 million from certain high-profile people and the existence of an experienced management team that includes CEO Stephen Stokols (previously BT’s SVP of Strategy and Business Development) and VP of Marketing Steven Sesar (who previously led business development efforts for Shopzilla).
As stated earlier, the second part of this article is based on the functioning of online dating services and how today’s sites are going in the wrong direction. Adam, in a review suggests “the existing online dating sites are all broken.” His intention was to work for a start-up online dating space, but ended up working against it. His review firstly gives some dope on how online social networking and dating should work. In the pointers the first bullet-point caught my eye wherein he says, “Meeting friends-of-friends is the best way to find cool people, because liking is transitive AND because the low social distances force people to be on their best behavior.” It is brilliantly true and I feel it is so with every person no matter which part of the world you belong to. Then he moves on to some of the challenges faced in this business.
One of the major online dating problems that not many websites is trying to work on is the social distance between 2 prospective daters. Although social distance is one of the challenges, another big predicament is the network effect, popularly known as the chicken and egg problem. Network effects can be your friend or your enemy depending on whether your product has reached critical mass. The most significant part of the article is the provision of tips for aspiring online dating sites on how to win potential markets.
Adam says, “I think of dating sites as the sum of three components: the business model, the back end, and the front end.” he revenue model is what needs to be genuine and not too taxing on users. Charging a hefty sum to users who want to send messages to his/ her prospective date is not very polite and also not a very good business idea. Although, you’d be giving up a lot of revenue you would definitely benefit from long term retention, word of mouth, and the overall user experience. The main motto of an online dating service website should not be to generate revenue but to actually help users find love, friendship and other relationships.
The backend part of the business needs to focus on getting the match right. The backend officers need to literally play the role of Cupid and hence be meticulous when they introduce a prospective date to a user. The front-end has to do of course with how the product should look like (as in the look of the website), how it speaks to a user online, how is it positioned in the user’s mind and whether the user finds it worthwhile spending more than a minute on the website. All these come under the responsibility umbrella of the front-end department.
If only WooMe applied Adam’s ideas, it could have helped Robin escape a disastrous experience.