As of 2015, the online dating industry is worth more than $2.2 billion, and continues to grow year over year. Many see developing a dating app as a lucrative business venture. How much does it cost to develop a dating app similar to Tinder? – many of you want to know. Yalantis has up-to-date experience developing successful dating apps both for iOS and Android and we decided to share our expertise to help you develop an engaging and addictive dating service.
Whether you want to build a Tinder clone or something fresh and innovative, we are going to start our analysis by categorizing the most popular apps already on the market.
Types of Dating Apps
All dating apps can be roughly divided into four big groups:
Matching algorithm-based dating apps are powered by offline matching services or matching algorithms that base their choice on personal survey information. This is how eHarmony finds matches for their users.
Traditional dating apps are mobile versions of “old-school” dating websites, replicating features that their web versions have. For example, OK Cupid, a well-known dating platform, now also has an app trying to compete on the app market.
Niche dating apps target specific groups of people. For example, The League is a prototype dating app that is “elitist” and only allows selected people to register, favouring those with advanced degrees and career-oriented young professionals. The concept behind The League is the idea that people tend to date people from their own social circles. The app only allows doctors and lawyers – or any other “white collar” professional – to register as a primary selection process. Other niche dating apps market themselves as “women-friendly” (like The Grade and Antidate) and focus on shielding their female users from harassment by letting women make the first move or by getting rid of “creepy” dates who do not use their real personal details.
There are also numerous niche dating apps like Bristlr, a dating app advertised as “connecting those with beards to those who want to stroke beards.” In the world of dating apps everyone can find an app that is ideal for them!
As a result of our analysis we have come up with SWOT infographics that describe major challenges and opportunities for dating app development.
How do dating apps make money?
- Subscriptions: users pay a fee for using the app for a certain period of time.
- Ads: apps generate money by selling space for ads to third-party companies.
- In-app purchases: users buy in-app currency, icons, smileys, etc.
- Premium plans: users pay a fee to unlock additional features.
Dating apps typically generate revenue by offering additional features in their premium plans. Let’s look at some examples.
Restriction of access to certain features in free versions is often used as additional motivation to make users pay for premium plans. Tinder is a good example of how you can motivate more users to go premium by choosing a crucial feature of your app and only allowing premium users to enjoy it. In the case of Tinder the “undo” feature can return you to the profile of a person you previously swiped.
Charging money for additional features in an app typically works when there is significant brand recognition and users are already loyal to a particular app – Tinder Plus was introduced after Tinder had already gained serious popularity.
“Extended” features serve the same purpose as “restricted access,” but in this case users pay for additional functionality. For example, in the free version of the Bumble app female users have only 24 hours to initiate contact, after which they “lose” the match. If users buy premium, then male users of the Bumble app can “extend” the match so that female users see it for another 24-hour period.
Unfortunately, dating app developers often struggle to earn revenue from their dating apps.
Why is it hard to make money on dating apps?
- Dating apps need to continually acquire new customers in order to be profitable. However, it is difficult to constantly grow the user base.
- Most dating apps face an imbalance between the number of male and female users: sometimes it is completely out of proportion with women making up little more than a third of users.
- Most people who want to use a dating app are not brand loyal and are likely to use two or three different apps simultaneously. You have to compete not only to acquire users but also to keep them.
- If your dating app actually works, then you will gradually lose clients over time as more and more people find “matches.” Dating app success also depends on being trendy; a lot of dating apps are popular when they just hit the market, but then they start to gradually lose users.
We analysed user reviews both for Android and iOS apps and came up with a number of features that are desirable and not desirable in dating apps.
We also looked into what features can help you improve essential KPIs for dating apps, such as engagement and revenue metrics: these metrics often define what you have to concentrate on while developing a dating app.
How to Increase Engagement Metrics in a Dating app
There are three essential KPIs when it comes to engagement metrics in dating apps: session length, number of pages accessed during a single visit, and retention rate. What can you do to make users engaged with your dating app?
1. Use matching algorithms but keep them concise. There are two different types of matching algorithms:
Survey-based matching algorithms where users provide information about themselves. Such algorithms suggest matches based on shared interests, hobbies and life-goals, and can be quite effective if they are concise and user-friendly. Curating suggestions based on user preferences results in fewer choices, but focuses on quality rather than quantity. Psychology tells us that people do not like to be overwhelmed by the number of available choices, so showing only a few matches that have been carefully selected for every user is a good idea!
Facial recognition-based matching algorithms are based on the assumption that we subconsciously choose people with the same type of faces. No dating app currently uses face recognition technologies (officially, at least), but enthusiasts have recently created a bot for the Tinder app that uses Eigenfaces for building facial models based on user likes and dislikes and then follows these patterns to search for matches automatically.
2. Another essential feature that will help your dating app provide more relevant matches is a set of filters.
These filters can be based on something simple like age, height and weight, ethnicity, body type, hobbies and interests, but it is always better to add something special. For example, if your dating app helps people meet each other in a particular type of public place like coffeehouses, those filters can be based on the common interests these people share – something as simple as a favorite type of coffee beverage. Reviews show that users respond better to personalised filters than they do to exhausting surveys so keep this in mind when you are developing a dating app.
One of the most useful filters for dating apps is geolocation. When using geolocation it is best to let users decide how big the area of search is going to be. Introducing geolocation with different areas of coverage – from very narrow (one building) to very wide (one city or region) will help you improve your retention rate because people will be able to discover new matches every time they enlarge their search zone.
3. A lot of users feel too shy or too intimidated to meet somebody they see in their office building or at their favorite dining place, but anonymous communication can sometimes help them break the barrier and chat with people they like.
Anonymity in dating apps is a double-edged sword – many users (women in particular) prefer to know that their date is a real person and want a background check, and the easiest way to do so is by connecting user profiles with social networking profiles.
At the same time people do not want their personal details disclosed. The best way out is to enable your dating app to provide partial anonymity where users see each other’s faces and names, but other personal details like place of work and study are not disclosed.
4. Implementing features such as profile rank encourages users to actively engage with your dating app. Introducing features like Tinder’s Moments – where new photos appear just for twenty-four hours – motivates users to add new content every day and to regularly check for updates from others.
5. Gamification of search and selection processes also increases user engagement with an app. Gamification can be implemented in various ways: through addictive tinder-like swiping features or by awarding users with badges when they complete all information in their profiles. Our animated screen that we call “Koloda” is our open-source implementation of Tinder-like cards. You can check it out on GitHub and read more about it on our blog.
When it comes to retention, your goal is to make users come back to your app again and again. To increase retention, sending a push notification when a match happens isn't enough. You can also make daily or weekly suggestions of people that a user might like. This way they will get curious and open your app to check suggested profiles.
Once the first version of your app is released, you can use heat maps to analyse which screens are most popular among users, and improve the design based on this information.
- Pick the part of your audience that is the hardest to grow organically (in dating apps it is female users) and target them specifically. Make your app a female-friendly environment and it will drive more new users to your app.
- Pick a region to focus on – the entire country is too large to start with. Go for a city with a lot of universities, as students will make up a significant proportion of your target audience.
- It is extremely difficult to compete with dating giants like Tinder, so go for a niche dating experience – this way even people who are tired of popular dating apps might be tempted to try yours.
- Do not be tempted to create fake user profiles to generate a large database: users often report that facing fake profiles disappoints them and decreases their level of trust in an app.
- Start your marketing campaign prior to your app’s release and promote it through social networks or give out invites.
After we have talked about tips and tricks there is just one question remaining:
How much does it cost to build an engaging dating app?
Dating app development cost varies, but if you want to create a Tinder-like app, the following estimate would be quite relevant. Note that in our estimate we considered only the Android platform, but a version for iOS can also be developed at Yalantis.
You might also want to check out one of our case studies that talks about Entourage group dating app development.
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