The Changing Face of Online Companionship

February 6, 2018

The future of dating apps

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Like it or loathe it, the “holiday” invites us to shine a light on modern forms of courtship. The addressable market, to apply a corporate term to matters of the heart, is huge. A sizeable 30% of global millennials (and one in five Boomers) feel at risk of loneliness in the next five years (that’s more than the proportion who feel at risk of theft).  On hand to help is a social phenomenon of our time – the dating app. But unlike version 1.0 with its primitive swipe right/swipe left function, these tools have evolved to be more reflective of consumer needs. We see that a new wave of apps has made an attempt to emphasise real connections over casual encounters, or at least to separate varying intentions for the sake of its users. Some are even designed to help people create friendships or help them find networking opportunities. Dating apps, whether we love to hate them (or vice versa) are shaping the way that people find companionship, platonic or romantic.

41% of people disagree with the statement that “online dating sites/apps are a better way of meeting people when looking for a relationship than meeting people offline”. In a bid to challenge this view, we’ve seen a growth of niches within the online dating scene that attempt to improve the quality of online match-making.  Appetence, launched in March 2017, is an app that prefers “slow matchmaking”. Potential daters must chat and interact with each other’s messages. The more they “like” the messages they receive, the more of the other person’s profile image is revealed. A person’s profile image is unlocked after 50 “likes”. The premise is that by prioritising personality over physical attraction might result in more genuine relationships.

Another app that focuses more on inner beauty than outer is MeetMindful. Users begin by selecting two interests (alongside a simple questionnaire). Then the service reveals how many users also made the same choices. If they feel there are enough like-minded singletons to match with, they can then sign up via Facebook. This service would appeal to the 62% of consumers who  agree that to use dating apps successfully, “you need to put in time and effort”. The figure rises to 76% agreement among those that use dating apps/ sites weekly. MeetMindful app intentionally slows down the process, encouraging users to browse profiles consciously, demonstrating a new type of online dating style that attempts to separate itself from its hook-up culture stigma.

Only 17% globally believe that it’s acceptable to date more than one person at a time. But agreement rises to 50% among those active on dating apps. The stats are telling – in this cutthroat romantic landscape, whether consumers are scouting out a fling or hoping to find a long-term match, chat-based apps are facilitating this search.

One messenger service that is often overlooked in dating app roundups is WeChat. Through the search function that is filtered by gender, Chinese consumers have long been able to locate potential dates in nearby locations. And instead of the awkward process of swapping phone numbers, the app makes chatting and getting to know one another a seamless experience. Then there’s Bumble’s offerings, Bizz and BFF. The queen bee of the online dating scene, known for empowering women by giving them the first move when initiating contact with a match, has replicated this model for its professional networking service and friend-finder.

With 58% of global consumers agreeing that communicating through an IM service is as appealing as talking face to face, these multi-purpose platforms offer a glimpse into the potential future of dating and companion apps: a smart virtual space that facilitates every social need within the chat environment, capable of understanding the aims of its users, so that they won’t ever have to leave its ecosystem to find what they’re looking for.


Written by Emily Cullen

As Trends Manager at Foresight Factory my role revolves around spotting and quantifying new consumer trends, with a particular focus on Health, Beauty and Food innovation. I am also responsible for managing our team of Trends Strategists, and through this helping to ensure the smooth and high quality delivery of content to clients.