YNOT – Growth in the online casual dating market has been dramatic during the past year, with both white-label providers and individual websites claiming membership increases above 100 percent. While the jump in interest may seem sudden, it really hasn’t been. Forces have been aligning to position the online dating segment for enormous growth since the dawn of the digital age.
Recently, though, several factors came together at once, causing a spike in membership rates. Lauren Barnes, senior partner manager at Casual.WhiteLabelDating.com, offered some explanations and perspective.
How has the casual market evolved over the past year?
In the current economic climate, staying in is the new going out. Spending $25 on a casual dating site to find a hook-up is a lot more economical than going clubbing every weekend. As a result, members are spending longer browsing the net, with more time to properly research the market.
The success of some niche casual sites can be attributed to an increase in the number of users who are moving away from clubs and instead looking online to explore their sexual fantasies. There are also plenty of opportunities to cross sell registered members to other niche sites which could be attractive to them, essentially monetizing the member a second or even third time and cutting costs per acquisition by quite large margins.
Another important shift relates to pricing: We’ve found that members are typically prepared to pay more for a casual dating site, especially in the niche market.
What are the up-and-coming casual niches?
Where there’s a market, there’s a way to make money. However, the bigger the pool, the more opportunities there are to launch multiple sites targeting the same niche. Domme sites have been doing well for a while, and dogging sites also have seen a lot of success recently. For example, there was a 35-percent uplift in month-on-month registrations for dogging sites on our platform in August alone.
Cougar sites targeting older women have been around for a long time and will always perform in terms of generating traffic as, essentially, there is an “older” woman for any member, no matter how old they are. This means that the target audience for cougars is much larger than it is for most other niches.
The Granny niche began to boom in late 2008 with sustained success. To put this into context: In August, the “older” niche market generated an impressive 21 percent of all our casual revenues.
Do you think “brand” has influence over a casual dating site?
In this market, there are new sites launching every day. It’s hard to make a splash in the market unless you have a decent budget, a large enough target audience and of course a domain name that will be recognized and allow for a brand that can be built upon. F-Buddy.co.uk is a great example of this. Not only does this site have a quality domain that references a term recognized worldwide, but the brand also has a very strong social media presence, using Pinterest and Twitter to enhance its personality and influence search engine [rankings]. The brand also ensures that all advertising messages match user experience.
The kind of influence that branding can have on a casual dating site is apparent when we consider that F-Buddy is now the fastest growing dating site in the UK and the second-largest casual dating site of its kind.
How do you see the casual market progressing during 2012 and 2013?
Brand quality is fast becoming a dominant factor in attracting high conversion rates and the propensity of users to pay for casual dating services. As consumers become more perspicacious to services available to them, other factors will start to influence spending habits, aside from mere promotional imagery featuring scantily clad women.
The popularity of certain niche markets, high-quality advertising and the efficiency of a service’s mobile platform are becoming defining elements in launching a successful site. In August of this year, our mobile platform saw almost 30 percent of registrations come from mobile users, demonstrating the level of influence that mobile dating holds in the ever-growing casual dating market. This makes it especially important for those up-and-coming niches where discretion is a must.
You’ve mentioned niches. What about geographical regions?
The casual white label experience essentially provides a database of genuine users looking to meet for no-strings fun. For that reason, it’s essential to provide users with a database of members local to them, rather than giving them the option of speaking to users worldwide who are realistically unreachable. With casual dating, we find that by providing users with those actively seeking a partner, our conversion and retention rates supersede other platforms.
Lauren Barnes is a senior partner manager at Casual.WhiteLabelDating.com, where she oversees international dating websites that channel millions in revenue annually. Barnes has extensive knowledge of niche dating and technology, with expertise in mobile and advertising. Launched in 2003, the award-winning company experienced a 138-percent increase in membership numbers during the first nine months of 2012. The company provides the software, membership database, customer care and infrastructure for more than 7,500 dating sites worldwide. Webmasters, affiliates and publishers provide the brand, design and marketing.