With the smell of roses and the taste of chocolates exchanged on Valentine’s Day still lingering on the palate, I wanted to share an article on dating services I found this week that surprised me. According to analytics firm Flurry, men dominate usage of mobile dating apps. It’s not even close; 66 percent of users of top dating apps for Android are men. For iPhone, the gap is a bit narrower: 55 percent are male.
That shocked me because sites like eHarmony have been trying for years to attract more guys to join. Though the ratio of men to women using these services may have improved over the years, these sites still are dominated by females. A quick glance at top dating web services shows that nearly all of them attract more women than men.
What’s going on here? How can the dating service gender gap be so huge and yet completely different, depending on whether one uses mobile or the web, and what does that tell us about the differences between the two channels?
I think there are several straightforward reasons that explain the dominance of men using dating apps. Demographics can tell us a lot. Though smartphone ownership is nearly the same among men and women, I suspect that there is variation among handsets. For example, purveyors of Android devices have advertised them more to men than women. Look at TV commercials like this one and you’ll be reminded at just how much testosterone has been pumped into the brand. If more men own Android devices, it stands to reason that more men are doing all manner of things with their phones, including downloading and using mobile dating apps.
Second, I suspect guys are more comfortable using dating apps than dating sites because of the privacy factor. It’s a lot easier to prevent awkward, over-the-shoulder observations when using a smartphone.
Third, a new generation of dating services without a legacy of having started on the web are available for guys to use. In fact, some of the most well-known web services have produced iPhone apps with ho-hum user ratings. eHarmony for the iPhone is a three star app (out of five), while Match.com and Zoosk each rate sports 3.5 stars. The category features much higher quality alternatives with names that aren’t quite as well known.
Regardless of the explanation, the fact that a gender gap exists in the first place lends credence to the notion that mobile and traditional web are two different animals. Companies with a strong web presence should not just assume that making everything smaller for a smartphone will result in the same outcomes. Going mobile requires a rethink of company strategy, target audience definition, and the content and services offered.
It seems as if the giants of the dating services world still need to learn that lesson.