As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, online daters are having longer conversations and adopting an option that has previously not been popular: video dates.
Match Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207178501/composite MTCH +2.16% and rival Bumble are seeing a boost in the number of messages exchanged between daters on their platforms as well as a growing interest in built-in tools that allow users to hold video calls without exchanging contact information. Match Group owns a variety of dating properties including Tinder, Hinge and Match.com, while Bumble is known for its namesake service launched by a Tinder co-founder.
“Whether it’s for work or for fun, everything has become digital and distant,” said Nick Kallail, an alumni-network and marketing manager in Kansas who recently did a video date with a woman he met on Bumble during the coronavirus outbreak.
By connecting over video chat, Kallail was able to chat with his date, who lives nearby in Kansas City but has been hunkering down with her parents in Washington state due to the virus. Kallail experienced some first-date firsts, including when his date’s mother stopped in to chat during their conversation and when both parties agreed that it was fine to wear comfortable clothes for their digital meeting.
“She said, ‘Do I have to change out of sweats?’ and I said, ‘Of course not, I haven’t worn adult pants in weeks anyway.’”
Even those who bypass dating apps are turning to video dates, according to Barbie Adler, the founder of Selective Search, an offline executive matchmaking service. She said that periods of extended time at home tend to make her clients more determined to find love because they start to desire connection more, and she’s encouraged them to try video or phone dates during the public-health crisis.
Adler advises clients to find a setting for their video dates that faces a light source and that doesn’t show any clutter in the background. While it’s fine to do a video date from a desk, she recommends that people adopt comfortable body language so they don’t look like they’re giving a job interview. And though she tells daters they don’t have to look too formal, she also suggests that they wear something they would consider wearing for an in-person meeting.
One creative client sent a bottle of his favorite wine to his date and they each drank from their respective bottles during the video session. Others have decided to go for walks separately but at the same time and do phone dates.
“Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation,” Adler told MarketWatch. She expects that daters could form deeper connections through their virtual dates than they might have if they had jumped into quick conversation before making plans for an in-person dinner.
For Match, the rush of stay-at-home orders brought on by the novel coronavirus outbreak has prompted a change in strategy, according to a Tuesday filing and letter from the company’s new chief executive. While the length of Tinder users’ conversations has increased by 10% to 30% since the virus began impacting the dating landscape, Match services have been struggling to attract new users (especially those older than 30) and paying subscribers in countries hit hard by infections.
The company has responded with a quick “pivot” as it tries to add video capabilities to more of its services. Users across the Match properties seem to be coming around to the feature after showing some skepticism in the past.
Read: This couple got coronavirus on a first date — and they’ve been quarantining together ever since
Chief Executive Shar Dubey said Match had begun rolling out video chat on two of its services, Plenty of Fish and Twoo, and that usage had “exceeded our expectations.” The company now plans to roll out one-on-one video-chat services on its namesake Match.com service in early April.
“We have offered video chat features in the past and seen low usage, but we think this time user behavior is likely to change more permanently,” she said.
Dubey pointed to subscriber declines of about 5% in Europe since the start of the crisis, though the impact has been more pronounced in countries that have been hit harder by the outbreak, like Spain and Italy.