We are rapidly becoming a nation of single people. The well-documented rise in cases of separation and divorce is lining the pockets of lawyers, and is also providing a growing market for the online dating site. According to a recent report, the number of single adults in the United Kingdom will rise to 15 million in 2011, while the online dating industry will turn over more than £1bn.
Finding love or friendship online is becoming increasingly popular for a generation of people too busy to find partners on their own. This adds up to a very satisfying and viable business opportunity which, as an added advantage, can be set up on a shoe string from your home - with just a computer for company.
What is it?
The modern dating site is, essentially, the successor to old-fashion dating agencies, which matched up members using interviews, profiling and special networking events. Whereas the old agencies often did a lot of the searching for their members, meeting new members before hand-picking their potential matches, the modern site allows users to do all the work, searching a database of other members and arranging meetings themselves.
In addition to the established market leaders, match.com and US-based eHarmony, the online dating sector comprises a number of niche sites, including FitnessSingles for health and exercise fanatics, Lovestruck for busy city professionals, and Uniform Singles, which is tailored to people in the military and emergency services – and those with a uniform fetish.
Julian Keenaghan is the founder of one such niche site, Tastebuds, which matches up users according to their music tastes. He believes there is still plenty of potential in the market.
“As well as the major players, you’ve got a lot of companies, like ourselves, offering a niche offering. It’s a very exciting place to be, and we’re still far from reaching saturation point.”
The cornerstone of an online dating site is the search facility, whereby users key in a range of search criteria – including age, income, physical characteristics and geographical location – and the site brings up a list of people based on those preferences. The initial search is often provided free of charge; according to a report published last year, only around 15% of users actually pay for their time on online dating sites.
Once the user has gone through the search results and identified potential love interests, most sites allow them to send an e-mail to their prospective matches, or talk to them with instant messaging; they will almost certainly have to pay for this service. Match.com allows its users to ‘wink’ at other members to show their interest, and several sites offer a similar ‘teaser’ facility.
Image courtesy of Adam Foster on Flickr.