Mark’s Secret Match Habit

I’ve got a secret. I’ve been window-shopping for mates on the Internet. I logged on, posted a personal profile, and started receiving recommended matches via email. Don’t tell my wife; she’s been busy taking care of our six-week-old daughter and would probably be upset. It’s all in the name of research. I promise.

It all started when a colleague of mine encouraged me to visit Match.com. She said I would be interested in how Match.com captures customer data and uses this information to find users a mate. Anyone who has read my columns or worked with me in the past knows I’m a strong advocate of using customer data (self-reported data, observed data, transactional data) to build relationships. Granted, those relationships are typically between businesses and consumers, not between consumers and consumers. My colleague knew I would be impressed by Match.com, particularly by the customized emails Match.com generates utilizing self-reported data.

When visitors arrive at Match.com, they have the option of registering. Innocuous registration information is collected: username, email address, birth date, and postal code. The site does a nice job of making the registration fast and simple, which is why over 150,000 new users register each week. A user can begin accessing the service at this point. However, registrants also have the option of posting profiles so they may use what Match.com calls two-way matching. According to the Web site, approximately 60,000 new registrants take the extra step of posting a profile. This is where I started getting intrigued.

The process of posting a profile requires the user to answer a minimum of 16 multiple-choice questions on topics ranging from physical description to social behavior. Those who are committed can answer over 50 additional multiple-choice questions outlining detailed likes and dislikes. Assuming the user answers the questions honestly, the result is an unparalleled personal profile.

At this point, the user answers 19 multiple-choice questions, again encompassing everything from physical description to social behavior, about the mate for which she is searching. A twist here is that each question is also assigned a level of importance — “not very important,” “somewhat important,” or “absolutely important.” This provides Match.com a method to weigh each of the responses individually. Illustratively, if a person feels strongly about religion but less strongly about ethnicity, he can select a religion and assign it “absolutely important” while selecting an ethnicity and assigning it “not very important.” Both variables will be used to find a compatible mate, but religion will have greater importance in the algorithm than ethnicity.

Finally, the user arrives at the moment of truth. It’s time for Match.com to find her a compatible set of mates. This is called two-way matching. The personal profile and profile of the mate for which she is searching is matched against the Match.com user database. Essentially, self-reported data is matched to self-reported data. This is most impressive when the matches are delivered in the form of a customized email. Users can choose to receive email from “Venus” as frequently as they desire (daily, three times per week, or weekly). Venus emails provide up to 10 new matches based on the two-way matching algorithms. Of course, if no matches are available, then the user isn’t sent an email. It’s exactly like Amazon’s New for You email, with personal profiles of other Match.com users substituting for traditional products.

I was so impressed with Match.com, I wanted to learn more about the service and its success. Tina Hodson, manager of strategic development for CRM, was kind enough to speak with me via phone.

“Two-way matching utilizing self-reported customer data has provided us a method to deliver truly relevant information to each and every member. It ensures that every communication delivers our members information — profiles of potential mates — that is matched to their individual interests, tastes, and preferences. We like to think this allows us to overdeliver on expectations and cements the member’s relationship with Match.com.”

The numbers back up Tina’s assertion. When compared to those who simply register, users who post a profile and participate in the two-way matching are:

  • 50 percent more likely to return to the Web site

  • 30 percent more likely to stay subscribed to email communications
  • 25 percent more likely to become a paying subscriber

Note the last bullet point, which is very important to consider in today’s economic environment. Subscribers pay $24.95 per month to initiate personal contact with other members through double-blind email or the newly launched Match.com messenger, or, if they commit to a multiple-month membership, they get a discount on the per-month rate.

Another benefit of two-way matching is the ability to send emails to consumers with greater frequency. According to Tina, “Members don’t view our two-way matching emails as onerous. In fact, just the opposite. They are viewed as valuable information. If we were to deliver hard-sell emails with the same frequency that we deliver the two-way matching emails, our members would revolt.” Again, the numbers back her up. The unsubscribe rate from hard-sell emails is 15 percent greater than the unsubscribe rate from two-way matching emails.

Swing on over to Match.com and sign up for the service. Observe how Match.com applies existing technology in a user-friendly interface to solve an age-old problem. Think about creative methods you may be able to use to capture customer data and, more importantly, use that data to offer customers the products in which they’re really interested. Remember: This is a secret, so don’t tell my wife.

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