If the world of online dating feels too intimidating, Match’s new service AskMatch aims to help. The flagship dating brand from Match Group — which also operates Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and others — is first-to-market with a new service that puts a professional dating coach right in its app.
The coaches are not an AI chatbot, but actual people — professional coaches or certified matchmakers, the company says. Members who want to use the service can call them directly from the app for help with common questions. This may include getting assistance with setting up a good dating profile, or just asking questions about modern dating — like when to define the relationship, how to send a great message or how to deal with ghosting, for example.
The idea, the company explains, is to make online dating feel more personal. That’s an area where dating apps tend to struggle. People today can fail to make real, lasting connections through apps because — like much of what takes place online — there’s a layer of artificiality between people. Without face-to-face connections as in the real world, they end up browsing photos as if they’re shopping for a person, instead of really trying to connect.
But there are ways to break through the online barrier. A well-thought-out dating profile can help someone get to know you and kickstart conversations. The way you behave and chat in the app can create interest or it can repel — that’s where the dating coach’s advice could help.
“Our dating coaches are all about making dating personal again. In this tech-driven world, Match is focused on getting our members into real-world relationships, and that starts with investing in our relationship with our members,” said Match CEO Hesam Hosseini, in a statement about the launch. “This service is another way Match ensures our members have the best experience while they are dating—from saying hello to making a commitment—by offering an unbiased expert in their corner.”
The feature, which is initially available starting this month to daters in New York City, will roll out to other markets throughout the year. It will be available nationwide by 2020, Match says.
It’s also free for NYC members and as it expands nationally. It’s unclear how long that will be the case. But unlike Tinder, Match is subscription-based, so there are funds coming in to help with costs.
While Match is the first major dating brand to offer coaching, Match Group-owned Hinge had toyed with the idea a couple of years ago. It trialed an in-app personal assistant that would help you message matches and schedule dates. However, the assistant meant to save people from the tediousness that comes from using dating apps, rather than help you improve your own dating skills. It never fully launched. Other apps have tried and failed to make in-app coaching work, as well.
The launch follows a big redesign for Match’s app that the company says makes the app more visually appealing and helps users better connect thanks to under-the-hood improvements to matching algorithms. The app also added recently a feature called “What If” to create serendipity by connecting users based on things they both love.
Following the redesign, Match saw a 20% increase in four and five-star ratings, user likes increase by 20%, and messages are up by 10%.
But Match needed more than a fresh coat of paint — it needed a new angle to better define itself in an age where Tinder is dominating. The dating coach focuses on the needs of a slightly older crowd than those on Tinder — the 35-plus users who may not feel as comfortable dating online, and turn to a more traditional dating brand on their first go.