Young women fall out of love with dating apps

Dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble are exploring additional features and new brands to attract more Gen Z women in response to warnings that users are suffering “burnout” on matchmaking platforms.

Match Group, which has more than 40 dating brands including Tinder and Hinge, and Bumble, which also owns Badoo and Fruitz, have said they plan to boost content moderation and introduce other tools to improve women’s experiences.

Surveys have consistently shown a gender disparity among dating app users, while some women have reported concerns about receiving unsolicited material and violent threats while using the services.

Resolving these issues is crucial for the sector, as major players are under pressure to attract investors again. Shares of $7.8 billion Match Group and $1.5 billion Bumble have fallen more than 80 percent from their 2021 highs, wiping more than $40 billion and $18 billion off their respective values.

“Gen Z and women, and the women’s experience in particular, is our top priority,” Match Group CEO Bernard Kim said, responding to a question about Tinder during the company’s latest earnings conference call. . “They are literally the most critical demographic for all dating apps.”

Tinder, the world’s dominant dating app, has popularized since its launch in 2012 the feature that allows users to accept or reject potential partners with a swipe of a smartphone screen. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Bumble has positioned itself as a female-focused alternative, where women took the lead in starting conversations. Relationship-focused Hinge has branded itself the app “designed to be deleted.”

A recent survey by market research firm Mintel found that 47 per cent of men aged 18 to 34 in the UK had used a dating website or app in the year to December, compared to the 25 percent of women of the same age. A similar but less pronounced disparity was found among older respondents.

“Trying to engage young women is the biggest struggle for dating apps,” said Rebecca McGrath, associate director of media and technology at Mintel. “Significant gender bias means that men find it harder to find partners and, as a result, women are often bombarded, making the experience worse for everyone.”

The industry’s leading platforms have openly targeted women in their recent marketing campaigns. Bumble sparked outrage after its latest ad campaign, which directly targeted women who had retreated from online dating, was criticized for mocking those who were not sexually active.

The ads, which began appearing on billboards in April, featured slogans such as “you won’t give up dating and become a nun” and “a vow of celibacy is not the answer.” The backlash led Bumble to apologize this month.

“We have heard the concerns shared about the language in the ad and understand that, rather than highlighting a current sentiment towards dating, it may have had a negative impact on some members of our community,” a Bumble spokesperson said.

A Bumble ad
Bumble’s ads sparked protests after they appeared on billboards in April, prompting an apology from the company.

Match Group and Bumble emphasized their efforts to involve female users in their latest corporate earnings calls. “Our number one job is to help our customers find connections and improve women’s experiences,” said Lidiane Jones, who took over as CEO of Bumble in January.

In recent years, Tinder has lost users to smaller rivals, including Match Group’s Hinge brand, which is more popular with Generation Z.

The number of paid subscribers on Tinder fell to less than 10 million in the three months to March, a sixth consecutive quarterly drop. Monthly active users, most of whom use the app’s free services, have steadily declined since 2021, according to figures from Sensor Tower. Bumble also showed a first-quarter drop in the number of active users, data from the app tracking service showed, even though paid subscribers remained stable.

Monthly active users (millions) line chart showing falling users of dating app giants Tinder and Bumble

The decline in users comes as reports of so-called dating app fatigue increase. A survey by Bumble, for example, found that 70 percent of women using the app had experienced “burnout.”

In late April, Bumble launched an “opening moves” feature, allowing women to add messages to their profiles for potential suitors to respond to. The product, which the company said would “lighten the burden of starting a chat,” marks a break from Bumble’s previous model, which required women to actively initiate all conversations.

“We’ve seen rapid adoption (of opening moves) and positive feedback from women, who are the target audience for this product update,” Jones said.

Match Group has also explored tools to facilitate Tinder adoption, including an AI photo selection feature, currently in testing, that analyzes a user’s personal photo album and automatically selects those that best “show their personalities” for their profile. Kim said this would lower the “barrier to entry” to using Tinder.

Both Bumble and Match Group highlighted improved content moderation as a tool to improve women’s engagement and satisfaction.

A 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of women under age 50 who had used dating sites or apps had been sent a sexually explicit message or image that they did not ask for. More than one in 10 had received threats of physical harm.

Tinder said in February that it was expanding its own identity verification program, which compares a selfie video to a passport or driver’s license, as well as a user’s profile pictures. Bumble, which already offered a similar feature, said it had improved its “computer vision model for matching likenesses” in the first quarter to improve verification.

Match Group’s Kim said Tinder’s rebranding in 2023 was “expected to have some positive impact on users, particularly women and Generation Z.” However, he noted that growth in paid subscribers would primarily come from “product innovation,” which includes improving profile quality, moderation and the accuracy of its algorithmic matchmaking.

Tinder CEO Faye Iosotaluno said in March: “My goal is to make sure that if you’re a woman and you show up, you see someone you want to match with every time you’re on the app.”

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