Image via Bumble Blog
Since the dating app Tinder launched in 2012, Silicon Valley VCs have been flooded with funding pitches for apps that promise new iterations on its quick, ergonomic, minimal-effort matchmaking model. The market has been saturated with inventive new apps, from Bristlr, the app for dating bearded men, to Align, the app where one is only presented with astrologically compatible prospects.
Yet amidst all the noise in the online dating marketplace, one app has managed to break through and become a market leader. As other apps respond to increasing competition by creating buzzy gimmicks that narrow their user base but drive downloads, Bumble has instead focused on broadening its value proposition to drive greater engagement and brand loyalty with its customers. So how did they do it? Keep scrolling to find out.
Find a unique proposition with broad appeal
Founded in 2014 by the co-founder and former VP of marketing of Tinder, Bumble is an online dating service that prioritizes the experiences of women. Like Tinder, when both parties swipe right on each others’ profiles, they are notified of the match. Yet for heterosexual pairs, the woman must be the one to initiate the conversation. This allows women to set the tone of the conversation, with the aim of cutting down on unwanted sexual comments and harassment. To reiterate their commitment to its users’ comfort, the company regularly, and often publicly, bans users who are shown to be harassing their matches.
This women-centric positioning seems to have resonated with consumers. Since its launch, Bumble has amassed 22 million registered users and reports over 70% year-over-year growth. In 2017, Bumble turned down a $450 million acquisition from Match Group, the owners of online dating services such as Match.com and Tinder. It is reported that majority owner Badoo is currently seeking a buyout that would value the app at $1.5 billion.
Transform from a short-term service to a long-term partner
Yet, there is an inherent tension in the dating app business model. According to a 2017 Statista study, 84% of dating service users are interested in finding a relationship, or, in other words, a majority of users are hoping to delete their dating apps in the near future. While success stories create word-of-mouth publicity for the app, this also mean that users often have a short shelf life and rarely develop the long-term engagement so critical for brands and their growth. In a crowded market, this could prove a liability.
It is at these challenging points in a company’s growth that shrewd, strategic brand thinking can transform a company from a transactional service provider to a trusted partner and regular value add in users’ everyday lives.
Today, Bumble appears to be doing just this, as it broadens its value proposition from that of a short-term dating solution to an all-encompassing portal for social connections. In the last two years alone, the company has expanded its offerings to allow users to swipe and match with potential platonic friends and networking connections through its Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz services. Starting last year, the brand began experimenting with pop-up “Hives” in major cities that serve as safe spots for first-date meet ups, networking events, and talks. They have also teased upcoming projects, including Bumble-produced video content and the creation of an editorial branch.
Stay true to your original proposition
But as Bumble grows, its ability to evolve its brand while still remaining true to its key values will be critical to determining whether it can successfully create lasting relationships with its consumers.
Thus far, Bumble has stayed true to one of its core brand tenets: creating a space that prioritizes women. Just like the regular Bumble service, women using Bumble Bizz must be the one to initiate conversation with their potential contacts in order to reduce sexual harassment by men and create a more welcoming space for women. Similarly, the events at the pop-up locations have included panels on female entrepreneurs, and the future editorial content is intended to highlight stories of women’s empowerment.
While it is too early to say whether Bumble’s repositioning will be fully successful, its journey from a dating app to a relationship-building hub highlights a broader need for brands to prioritize authentic, lasting relationships with users over transactional, short term services, especially in crowded marketplaces.
By Greta Jenkins