Dating and social distancing hardly go hand-in-hand —even if they are sanitised. But it’s going to take more than a pandemic to stop romantics from trying to find love. Instead, they are changing the rules of the game. This is as per a report by the Economic Times.
Taru Kapoor, general manager, India, Tinder and Match Group, says, “We have witnessed a surge in activity on the app during the pandemic. In fact, it has been the busiest year in the brand’s history, ushering in a completely new decade of dating.”
When the pandemic was declared and the lockdown put into effect in March 2020, Tinder observed 3+ billion swipes on the app globally, OkCupid saw a 30% increase in messages sent and Shaadi.com saw a 30-45% rise in people signing up. For brands it meant one thing: Covid was not putting a stop to companionship. And they had to adapt, with virtual dating campaigns leading the way.
A nationwide Bumble survey revealed 40% of single Indians opted for virtual dates in 2021. Samarpita Samaddar, communications director, Bumble India, says, “We launched Night In — a virtual experience where two people can participate in an interactive game over a one-on-one video chat after matching within the app.”
Similarly, Tinder launched their Face to Face video calling (in-app) during the pandemic.
Shaadi.com took it one step further and launched Shaadi Meet — a secure video calling platform — and Weddings From Home, which allows people to get married online. “Meeting virtually takes the fear out of the equation,” says Adhish Zaveri, senior director, marketing, Shaadi.com. “We had couples who met during the lockdown and are now set to get married, with most of their relationship being virtual. Who would have thought that we’d see this in our lifetime?” he adds.
Able Joseph, founder, Aisle, who added two million users in 2020, also amplified virtual connections by launching ‘Rooms’. “This feature allows individuals to host a virtual ‘Room’ and begin an audio conversation with any other interested user for five minutes after which the host can choose to match or to pass,” he says Even offline brands have had to reposition themselves.
Vishal Vyas, member, Condom Alliance and assistant vice-president, marketing TTK Healthcare Limited, says that brands have taken to providing information so that unnecessary fears can be mitigated. “Skore launched the ‘Unhide’ campaign, which highlighted how one could meet new people by taking precautions.
This was supported by the launch of the Skore Protection Kit, which is a combo pack of condoms and masks.”
Surprisingly, these virtual dates and meetings have led to more intention dating. Nikita Ghogale, head, marketing, Vows for Eternity, says, “Conversations moved online and while everyone was sceptical to begin with, we have discovered that the online space leads to more meaningful conversations. The comfort of their own environment gives members the ability to open up and bring less judgement to the beginning of a potential new relationship.”
“People use video dates to get to know one another before meeting in person. This kind of ‘slow dating’ is bringing forward conversations that may have happened over two or three dates,” adds Samaddar.
Brands say that skipping the dinner-movie combo for an online date means that conversations have become longer, deeper and there’s a bigger focus on compatibility. “We saw 19% more messages sent per day in Feb 2021, compared to Feb 2020, conversations were 32% longer during the pandemic and we saw 11% more swipes and 42% more matches per Tinder member,” says Kapoor of their users and say it is central to some of the new campaigns they have launched. “We’ve seen a 763% increase in mentions of the vaccine on OkCupid India’s bios since March 2021,” says Sitara Menon, senior marketing manager, OkCupid India. “To make it easier for our users to find a potential match, we introduced the ‘I’m vaccinated’ badge and stack as an endeavour to help people make informed decisions.”
Bumble too is advocating informed decisions with the launch of their feature — Covid preferences. “It provides our community a large selection of choices to showcase exactly how they want to date during this time [virtual, sociallydistanced with masks, and so on], and what precautions they want to take for virtual or IRL dates,” says Samaddar.
Primary communication about online dating and matrimonial sites have always hinged on “meeting” the right person. But in a world where “meeting” itself needs to be redefined, brands had to look at new ways to keep people interested. Dheeraj Sinha, CEO and chief strategy officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia, says that as more Indians get vaccinated, the fear and apprehensions around meeting new people will subside. “The excitement and freedom of meeting new people will be a cultural fuel that brands will need to leverage,” he says.