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Should We All Take Match’s Mobile Lead?

What we can learn from Match.com’s mobile strategy

14Feb

For brands that existed before the astronomical growth of mobile, adjusting strategy to become truly mobile first can be difficult. For dating websites, the migration to mobile is what gave them genuine mainstream appeal. The meteoric success of Tinder popularized the mobile dating app, and it’s the foundation on which most new dating products are based. For the more traditional dating services, this meant playing catch up. At the Mobile Innovation Summit last December in San Francisco, Match.com’s Director of Product for Mobile, Ramanand Reddi, talked the audience through how the dating company grappled with mobile and came out on top.

The company was founded in 1995, so it rode the dot-com bubble and was later challenged by the growth of mobile to put together a fresh approach. The parent company - Match Group - is far bigger than just Match.com. The Dallas company owns OkCupid, Tinder, PlentyOfFish as well as its namesake Match.com, with all dating companies now heavily geared towards mobile. You might not know this, but Match is technically the largest dating website by market share, revenue, and paying subscribers. The company has been something of a pioneer for the subscription industry for the past 20 years.

Match has fully felt the shift to mobile. In 2011, roughly 20% of registrations came on mobile, a figure that soared to 80% by 2016. Match is now clearly a mobile-first entity, particularly given that the younger generations associate dating services with mobile far more strongly than they do desktop. One problem for Match - and any company with both an app and a website product - is that its mobile users are split between the app and mobile web.

Ramanand explains that Match drew up metrics specific to the mobile world and began designing exclusively for that world. But this new mobile design had to have some link to the desktop product. Mobile features like location are great for drawing users to the mobile offering, but some must be reflected on the desktop offering to give the product some consistency. Every new mobile product at Match has been A/B tested, and their effect on KPIs.

For dating products, onboarding is huge. For Match’s desktop offering, the process was asking users to input their preferences, their personal information and their pictures until they had what Match called a complete profile. When this was transferred to mobile, the company saw huge drop offs. As a response, Ramanand and his team reduced the steps from 32 to 12, creating a mobile-specific onboarding process that was streamlined enough for users yet detailed enough to fetch the right matches. The result was about a 10% increase in profile completions.

But mobile optimization doesn’t stop at onboarding. Match also considered the first 5-7 minutes post-onboarding, and decided what was the set of features users should immediately land on. The company then looked at the profile screen on mobile, addressing the challenge of giving users enough information - on top of photos - to comfortably send a message to another user. They did this by asking users for more interests during the onboarding process and presenting them front and centre on a user’s profile. Where desktop products can be awash with features and information, mobile demands a more considered approach.

Another factor for companies to consider is the number of sessions users will have on mobile compared to desktop. Traditionally, desktop users of dating sites would have had one or two sessions a day. What this meant for Ramanand and his team is that the curated set of matches they had to pull up could be far more simple. When the number of sessions is multiplied, as it is on mobile, you can’t have the same results coming up 15-20 times a day. So Match had to produce not just an engaging first session, but further sessions throughout the day that ‘made sense’. Brands on mobile have the opportunity engage with their users multiple times throughout any given day, and presenting the same content or product throughout the day may not work.

Today, Match is looking incredibly healthy. On both iOS and Android, Match is number two in dating in terms of revenue. Its Android product has been particularly successful, after the engineering team completely revamped the app, taking it down from some 35MB to 9MB. They then A/B tested in partnership with Google, heavily increasing its numbers both in terms of registered users on Android and the percentage of subscribers.

Ultimately, Match.com’s shift to mobile has been slow and steady. Rather than getting carried away with the mobile revolution and abandoning their desktop product to throw everything into the small screen, the dating company looked to integrate the two. All brands can learn from this. Assessing how your business in particular can exploit a technological or behavioural shift is more effective than simply following it. Its integration of its mobile and product offerings has been seamless, and the experience across both is consistent and tailored. It’s not enough just to claim to have a mobile first approach - you have to do it right. 

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