How OkCupid is evolving with the changing needs of its users
Anukool Kumar, Marketing Director, OkCupid India OkCupid
OkCupid was founded in 2004 by Harvard mathematicians who believed the power of questions could lead to meaningful conn...
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How OkCupid is evolving with the changing needs of its users

OkCupid was founded in 2004 by Harvard mathematicians who believed the power of questions could lead to meaningful conn...
  • Dating has seen a phenomenal change during the pandemic and dating apps like OkCupid are helping simplify meeting and building deep connections with people online.
  • We chat with Anukool Kumar, Marketing Director, OkCupid India on the pandemic's impact on its business and how it is making sure its platform is able to evolve with the changing needs of its users.

The year 2020 had a profound impact on all our lives. As we were restricted to our homes, there was a transformation in the way we live our lives, buy, consume, watch, or even interact with people. With almost no physical contact with friends, families, technology came to our rescue. Businesses had to pivot quickly to stay relevant.

For dating apps, the game is all in helping build human connections. So when people were socially distanced, the challenge was to do find new ways of building that connect. Again, technology came to the rescue. We saw many platforms introduce new features that enhanced overall experience for people using these apps. Virtual dates became an acceptable way of dating. It also brought a lot of first-time users to these platforms.

For dating app OkCupid, the past one and a half years has been all about innovating and making it easier for people to connect on their platform and make the most of the experience. Last year, the platform rolled out its mobile app redesign globally called Stacks which is a new matching system that consolidates multiple discovery methods into one, making it even easier to find the type of person users are looking for.

We caught up with Anukool Kumar, Marketing Director, OkCupid India to understand the kind of impact the pandemic has had on the platform, the strategies it used to keep its users at its core and its future in India.

Excerpts:

Q) How have the last 1.5 years been for OkCupid as a brand? How did the pandemic impact your business?
In 2018, OkCupid was brought to India in response to a growing number of women looking for a serious relationship on their terms. The last few years have been so exciting for us as we’ve seen women discovering their independence and extending that security to choosing relationships that see them as more than just a horoscope or radius of a roti. The same holds for men in India who are seeking a partnership instead of traditional Indian gender roles in a marriage.

The pandemic then created two major changes that affected the business of dating apps and OkCupid in particular. First, with fewer avenues to meet people we saw a surge in the number of first-time users on OkCupid with more women than ever before actively opening conversations. The second was a change in mindset-with time on their hands to introspect on the sort of relationship they’re looking for, single millennials ended conversations missing a spark faster while engaging in old school courtship online blurring the lines of IRL and online romance. What this meant for us as OkCupid is that there were more moments of serendipity on our platform impacting business (currently and in the future) positively while making a tangible difference in the social fabric of India.

Q) Dating also evolved in these last 13-14 months. How have you as a platform been able to keep up with these changing times and evolving consumer needs?
OkCupid has always been a platform that empowers users to find their kind of love based on shared interests, quirks and beliefs. With over 3000 questions at the heart of the product and more topical questions added in a timely manner, we ensure relevant subjects that matter most to millennial Indians are addressed by the app. In 2021, a lot of the focus has been on expressing one’s intent to get the vaccine and match with someone who believes in the same science; we've seen a 763% increase in mentions of the vaccine on OkCupid India's bios since March 2021. Hence to make it easier for our users to find a potential match who believes in the benefit of getting vaccinated, we introduced the ‘I’m vaccinated’ badge and stack as an endeavour to help people make informed decisions, especially in their search for love.

Last year, we had also rolled out our biggest mobile app redesign globally called ‘Stacks’ which is a new matching system that consolidates multiple discovery methods into one, making it even easier to find the type of person you’re looking for. The new Stacks discovery experience shows matches in a focused, thoughtful way, and gives OkCupid daters the choice and control over who they could match with through a series of new categories including ‘online’ (to match with people who are online), ‘recommended’ (a stack of OkCupid’s top recommendations based on preferences), ‘nearby’, ‘match %’, etc. One of the key examples of this was the release of our first-ever global Climate Change Advocate Profile Badge and Stack in the weeks leading up to World Earth Day 2021, which was inspired by dating millennials on OkCupid who are passionate about climate change and believe in being advocates of the same.

Q) Have there been any interesting trends you have witnessed on the platform since the pandemic?
Dating has seen a phenomenal change during the pandemic with millennials increasingly taking their time to get to know each other, discovering love through long, profound conversations and digitally shared experiences. The quest for love has continued to increase, mirroring the need for human connection. We witnessed more and more millennials investing their time in forming stronger emotional bonds with their potential matches online before making plans to meet them in real life. There were also higher engagements with a potential partner, where the intentions are clear of wanting love by expressing exactly what they want in a relationship, also leading to higher unmatches that didn’t have any spark. The best parts of “courtship” or slow dating, is now the norm and it's proving to be a far more fulfilling connection. In fact, 85% of users on OkCupid believe it’s important to develop an emotional connection before a physical one, so the switch to virtual dates has allowed these emotional connections to thrive.

Q) What kind of growth have you witnessed? Was there increased traction during the months of lockdown? What is your current user base?
At OkCupid, we have a growing consumer base of millions of Indian users, as we continue to help millennials find love. The onset of the pandemic resulted in an increased number of conversations on OkCupid as millennials look for more serious and meaningful relationships. Globally, there’s been an overall 30% increase in messages sent on OkCupid each day since 2020. In India, we witnessed a 26% increase in conversations with over 91% of millennials still looking to date virtually and find love. We also noticed that during the lockdown millennials were not restricting their intention to find love within a certain pincode and expanded the distance to match with their potential partner. In fact, those who removed geographical restrictions continue to see 10% higher likes.

Q) The last few years has seen the coming in of a lot of dating apps. How have you been able to differentiate yourself in space?
OkCupid was founded in 2004 by Harvard mathematicians who believed in the power of questions to lead you to meaningful connections. The app is built around an algorithm that uses answers to over 3000 questions to introduce daters to people on the same wavelength - their kind of person. We make sure the algorithm makes connections based on the answers and preferences shared by the users and these are further contextualised by location, gender identity, and cultural realities. Over the last 15 years the questions that form the heart of the app have constantly evolved to serve daters looking for love.

No other app tries to learn about your personality and preferences as much as OkCupid does, and our sophisticated algorithm makes the most relevant matches for users based on deeper things, like beliefs and interests, instead of just a photo and other parameters such as location. For that same reason, we have an intentionally long sign-up process of answering relevant questions to contextualize potential matches better. The algorithm considers your responses to questions, your preferences, interests and hobbies, and your profile to find the people you’re compatible with. This is the inimitable core of OkCupid and the reason why the app has led thousands of people to find their kind of love. OkCupid was also the first dating app that gave users the choice to use their preferred pronouns or create one to add to their profile along with 20 sexual orientations, 22 gender options and over 60 identities thus making it truly inclusive.

Q) Give us a sense of your marketing journey so far... From a marketing POV, what is your current area of focus? Going ahead, what will be your broad marketing strategy? Is Digital your biggest spend?
At OkCupid, the focus is towards creating a superior product for our Indian users to find love on their terms and our marketing efforts are directly correlated with that purpose. One of the biggest challenges the pandemic has caused is the hit that traditional media has taken. On the other hand, it has been an opportunity for digital media to grow. Digital content consumption is at an all-time high, which has led us to completely revamp our overall marketing strategy towards platforms that hold our audience’s attention. Our digital-first approach is not limited only to social media, but covers all platforms like YouTube or even podcasts. Our aim is to put our brand narrative out there - be it on a video streaming platform like Hotstar, or a music streaming platform like Spotify, or working with influencers to speak to our users on the app and connect with our target audience. The core of our strategy is to keep reinforcing the brand narrative of finding one’s own kind of love- across platforms and keeping our messaging consistent in all the engagement that we do.

Q) Where will OkCupid's next phase of growth come from?
From a marketing perspective, we are witnessing more and more people engaging in conversations around the kind of love they want. From an industry perspective, the pandemic has heightened digital content consumption and social media has managed to garner a lot of user engagement in the past year. Hence, our strategy is to keep reinforcing the brand narrative of finding one’s own kind of love across platforms and keeping our messaging consistent in all the engagement that we do. We will continue with our ‘Love Is’ campaign over the years to come, and continue to introduce features and questions on the app that make it more relevant to daters today.

Q) Has there been an increase in your user base from smaller cities or do users from metros still make a majority of your users?
At OkCupid, the bulk of our users in India belong to the age group of 25-35 years. These users are from metropolitan cities as well as Tier 2 and 3 cities.

Q) How are you making the platform more inclusive?
Since its inception OkCupid has been exclusively inclusive, respecting and celebrating every individual find their kind of love without fear of judgement. It was the first dating app to give users the choice to use their preferred pronoun or create one to add to their profile and expand gender and orientation options for users with over 20 sexual orientations and 22 gender options. This led to almost 2 million straight and queer users proudly displaying their pronouns on their dating profiles worldwide and find a meaningful match for themselves in an authentic way. In its endeavour to provide an inclusive experience for all daters, this Pride Month, OkCupid also made a global announcement to release over 60 identities for users to choose from an array of options like Bear, Bottom, Butch, Femme, Hard Femme, High Femme, Otter, Boi, Versatile, etc, to allow members of the LGBTQ+ community the option to signal who they are, how they identify and what they want in a partner. These identities were developed in consultation with staff and community experts, including the Human Rights Campaign, which is thelargest LGBTQ rights organization. This app development reinforces OkCupid’s message of ‘Find Your Kind Of Love’, and reminds people looking for love to never compromise.

Q) What is your vision for OkCupid in India?
Our vision is simple- remind single millennials that they deserve the love they seek and will find it. We live in a world that is filled with disappointment and despite the growing number of people seeking love there is also a growing sentiment that love doesn’t exist- not the romantic love that takes your feelings, beliefs and values into consideration. At OkCupid, we care about our users and are committed to helping users find their kind of love. For us, it’s all about giving our daters the value they look for and expect from the world on our platform. The pandemic has made us more careful of where we invest our emotions and time, and daters are no different. The fact that daters are coming on the app and actually finding love and the OkCupid love stories of all ages and types are a testament to this.