AI and the Rise of Meaningful Connections: Current Dating App Market Trends

25 Jun 2024

During the COVID-19 pandemic, dating apps experienced a surge in users. Match Group, which owns over 45 dating brands including Tinder, Hinge, and OKCupid, reported an increase in subscribers and downloads in its second quarter 2020 earnings report, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

However, many dating platforms now struggle to grow sales, attract new users, and convince younger generations to pay for subscriptions. According to The New York Times, industry giants Match Group and Bumble have collectively lost over $40 billion in market value since 2021.

Investors are now seeking innovation, prompting major companies to bring in leaders willing to experiment with new features, such as artificial intelligence, and strategies that would attract new users, especially the younger ones.

AI in the Service of Love

One of the most intriguing trends in the dating app market is the integration of artificial intelligence. Speaking at the Bloomberg Tech Summit in San Francisco, Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd highlighted how AI could enhance the search for connections. Herd proposed using AI assistants, or AI dating concierges, to reach out to potential partners, thereby expanding the pool of people each user can communicate with and increasing the chances of finding a perfect match.

“There is a world where your dating concierge could go and date for you with other dating concierges ... and then you don’t have to talk to 600 people,” Herd explained during her interview.

Startups are exploring how AI can improve matchmaking. Some apps use neural networks trained to identify the exact type of people a user is attracted to, making the dating experience more enjoyable. Liesel Sharabi, an associate professor at Arizona State University, noted that AI could help reduce "dating burnout" by making matches more accurate.

“Looking at AI, there are all kinds of possibilities for helping to make the decision fatigue a little bit less pronounced when you're just having to swipe through so many profiles, and also helping to make the matchmaking process better by just improving upon some of the algorithms that they've been using," Sharabi said.

Picture: MidjourneyThere is even an AI platform called Meeno that people can consult about their relationships. Meeno was founded by Renate Nyborg, a former CEO of Tinder. By creating Meeno, she aimed to address the increased level of loneliness among young people that occurred after the COVID-19 pandemic. Meeno was designed to become a chatting partner and an unbiased advisor to people who feel lonely.

One of the users, Andrew, shared his experience of using Meeno with Time Magazine. According to Andrew, Meeno didn’t suggest anything groundbreaking, but just the process of chatting with the app and reading advice on the screen that confirmed his own instincts gave him the confidence he needed to act.

There is another platform where AI can give relationship advice. On YouMatch, the AI is trained to analyze people’s personality types and consider their behavior on the app to offer personalized advice on how they should navigate their romantic lives and deal with different situations.

Beyond Romance: Facilitating Social Connections

The Chinese dating app market is booming, largely due to features that promote social connections rather than just romance. New “social discovery” features help users find friends and acquaintances with similar interests and hobbies. Apps like Bumble offer BFF mode for finding friends and Bizz mode for networking, while Tinder's Friends of Friends feature helps users find potential friends.

Picture: iStock

For many, dating apps have become virtual sanctuaries—a modern twist on the "third place,” a concept urbanists describe as a community space between work and home, The New York Times reports. These platforms allow users to explore hobbies, discuss popular topics, and meet new friends, helping to combat loneliness.

Shift Toward Serious Dating

In early 2023, Tinder released its international “Green Flags Study,” surveying 8,000 heterosexual men and women aged 18-34 across the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. The study found that 53% of men and 68% of women are seeking a romantic relationship, indicating that a majority of singles using dating apps are looking for something serious.

Hinge data shows that Gen Z singles are more clear and honest about their relationship intentions and expectations, with over half of users seeking a long-term, serious relationship with a deeper connection. This trend has led to a decline in “hookup culture”, which peaked with the rise of Tinder, and a growth in apps focused on serious relationships.

Picture: Alix Iby / Unsplash

To help users build deeper relationships, some startups rely on scientific findings and methodology. For example, YouMatch algorithms conduct each user's personality analysis based on the DISC (Dominance-Influence-Steadiness-Conscientiousness) methodology developed by American psychologist and Harvard graduate William Marston.

After determining their personality type and assessing their values and goals, the app matches people with a higher level of personal compatibility, giving them more potential to build a common future.

Prioritizing Users' Wellbeing and Safety

Young singles are increasingly prioritizing mental health and well-being. According to a Hinge survey, 97% of users prefer dating someone who looks after their mental health and 86% are more likely to agree to a second date if their partner is attending therapy. Nearly 60% of users reported taking time to focus on themselves before entering a relationship.

To support users' well-being, dating apps share content on mental health and dating ethics. Bumble, for instance, publishes articles on avoiding ghosting and managing dating burnout. Safety features are also a priority; Tinder's "Share My Date” feature allows users to share their date plans with friends and family with one click, just to be on the safe side.

Overall, promoting safe and respectful communication has become a central trend among both major and emerging dating apps.