From Online Personals Watch: Omnidate is conducting a study with Professor Dan Ariely into the effectiveness of virtual dating and is looking for dating sites to participate in this research. That’s a smart move to align with Professor Ariely. I’ve read his research and seen some of the demos of their virtual dating application, fascinating stuff and the professor is definitely becoming a known entity in the dating space.

The majority of my business is connecting companies with dating sites. I spend a lot of time getting companies ready to talk to business development executives at dating sites. Value proposition, pricing, features and functionality and many other areas must be addressed before a company is ready to put themselves out there.

Like many of my clients, Omnidate wants dating sites to become customers. The problem is, The ROI on virtual dating, both for singles and dating sites, is unclear. While getting mentioned in a research report is a good idea, it’s perhaps less effective as a business development tool when the company itself is paying(?) for the research. And then there is the issue of research as opposed to real life usage. Do you think any of the applications on Facebook with over 10 million installs would have shown up in a research report as a sure bet? No way.

Usually these types of research reports begin like this:

Company: Here’s a bag of money, go talk to a bunch of people and make sure they say good things about our brand and make sure high ROI is a key finding.

Academic: Ok.

Not necessarily the case here but you get the picture.

Ed. note: Omnidate is not paying for the study.

lamponfish.jpg Omnidate has chosen to put the future of their business in the hands of the online dating sites, much like how the lamprey eel feeds off of host fish. Instead of dating site partnerships, Omnidate should consider marketing direct to consumers, build out a Facebook app, etc. They *could* become a valuable traffic source for dating sites.

SpeedDate relied partially on acquisitions of Facebook applications to drive growth, and Woome relies on direct traffic. The numbers tell the story. Both companies have raised something like $15 million in total, which makes a big difference in terms of marketing and development.
Besides figuring out the channel situation, Omnidate needs to address issues with usability and user experience. All the talk about user engagement, age and gender data means little if people aren’t head over heels about the service.

Here’s what else needs to be addressed at Omnidate in order for it to get traction:

  • More fun things to do on dates: games, quizzes and music. License from entertainment companies.
  • Additional reputation and ratings features. Keep the scammers away.
  • Product placement for additional revenue streams. This date sponsored by Heineken.

Just look at the drop-off in the number of dating sites that use chat. If the experience isn’t fun, safe and effective people won’t use it.

There are lots of great ideas out there that don’t necessarily translate into successful businesses. Perhaps it’s an issue with timing, consumers simply aren’t primed for virtual dating. For example, I’ve been videoconferencing since 1994 and it’s only recently that the concept has become widespread.

I’m curious about your thoughts on the outcome of the study. What do you think they’re going to find?