I just finished reading Dan Ariely’s latest book, The Upside of Irrationality, which devotes a very interesting chapter to online dating. In his book, Ariely argues that online dating should really be thought of as online searching, reviewing, and emailing. These are time consuming, relatively dry tasks that don’t leave much time for actual, in person dating.
This idea got me thinking about whether some dating sites make it easier than others for members to quickly perform the required “data analysis,” leaving more time to go on actual dates. Members could meet more dates in person giving themselves a higher likelihood of starting a new (hopefully successful) relationship. Examining Compete PRO data for the three largest dating sites: match.com, eHarmony, and Chemistry.com highlighted some interesting differences.
Match.com visitors spend about two minutes less per visit than do members at eHarmony and Chemistry.com, suggesting members are able to more quickly identify the men or women they’d like to meet in person. In addition, Chemistry.com members spend almost twice as much time on each page (about 75 seconds/page) during their visit compared to both Match.com and eHarmony (about 40 seconds/page).
The data analysis work required at Match.com appears less onerous and time consuming that at competitor sites. This difference is magnified by the huge advantage in average monthly unique visitors (and membership numbers) Match.com has over its competition.
It seems counterintuitive, but in the case of online dating sites, shorter sessions and less time spent per page might be the goal. However, online dating sites do need an active and engaged member base to sustain an attractive pool of potential mates. Match.com is winning this battle as well – their members visit on average 5.06 times per month, compared with 3.5 times per month for eHarmony and 3.14 times per month at Chemistry.com.
Ultimately, if you’re interested in joining an online dating site to meet someone new in person, it looks like Match.com is your best bet. The site has minimized the online analysis required, freeing members up to actually go on dates. The result seems to be a highly engaged and loyal membership base. How many of these dates end up in long-term relationships? This is the ultimate measure of dating success and definitely requires a combination of analysis, personal interaction, and luck!