The Secret That Dating Apps Don't Want You To Know

As a dating expert and matchmaker, I am lucky enough to speak with singles firsthand, so I understand dating trends and behaviors. As an avid user of dating apps, I also have a sense of what’s working and what isn’t in the industry. Although I am a big proponent of dating apps in general, one fact has become evident – it is relatively rare that actual in-person dates are happening.

Of course, you’re arguing with me right now – no way Kate, I’ve been on three Hinge dates this month! I match with so many cute girls on Bumble! But let’s take a look at the numbers, using Tinder as an example, so I can explain:

The Facts:

Swipes/Day: 1.6 billion

Matches/Day: 26 million

Dates/Day: 214,286 dates per day

What do these numbers mean? Well, when you do the math, this data, which are reported by Tinder, mean that for every time you swipe, you are only going to match 1.6% of the time, and of those matches, only 0.824% are going to translate into actual in-person dates. In other words, 0.014% of swipes will become dates.

Of course, your personal numbers might be anecdotally higher. Perhaps you are better looking than average, or you’re wittier over messaging than most, or you’re just savvy at the online dating game. But even if you are say, 10 times better than average at converting matches to dates, you’re only going on dates with 8% of them. That’s a lot of effort for very few dates.

Yes, it’s true that dating apps have changed the way we all date, and the phenomenon is unquestionably a positive force, especially when it comes to introducing potential couples who would never otherwise meet. Online and mobile dating exposes singles to a whole new crop of people, and because of the scope, one could argue they are more likely to find their partner.

But are these people truly going on more dates than they otherwise would? Does the time it takes swiping and filtering through matches and starting conversations really convert to more relationships? A study at Berkeley found that among actively-looking singles, people who use online sites and apps are spending about 12 hours a week on average on those programs. What if those 12 hours were spent you know, meeting people in person?

As a marketer, it is difficult not to see the parallel between online dating and the marketing conversion funnel. Let’s say you swipe 1000 people, match with 100, start conversations with 10, and actually meet one person for an in-person coffee date. If the date is a good one, that effort was worth your time – it was a positive return on investment. But if that date wasn’t good – perhaps you showed up and she looked nothing like her picture – then that was a terrible ROI. It was a lot of work for one bad date.

However, if you were to walk up to a cute girl in line at a coffee shop however, you have already saved yourself the effort of getting to the match. You know she’s cute, you know you’re interested, and when you get her number, you’re already two steps ahead. And you just saved yourself twelve hours. The bottom line: it is almost always more efficient to just go up to cute strangers in person.

Dating apps are intrinsically designed to get you to spend a lot of time on them. Their business models are based on increasing user engagement and time spent on their apps, and they are actively trying to retain users – not get them matched. I recently spoke with a CEO of another up-and-coming dating app (not Tinder) who told me that their biggest business challenge as a company was that people weren’t keeping conversations going long enough to meet up in person, so he was concerned about user experience. It was ok though, he said, because people just forgot who they were talking to and kept matching, as long as the app was gamified.

So while I think there are many positive aspects of dating apps, it’s important to keep in mind how much work they are and how much time you’re actually spending on them. Keep track of whether you are actually going on more, or better dates, or if they might just be sucking time away from your real dating life. Try to use them in conjunction with a "in real life" approach, and judge which is the most effective for you. Because, in the long run, your love life isn’t just a game.