- Dating app Hinge had a surprisingly successful 2020.
- CEO Justin McLeod told Insider he expects to see more users looking for long-term relationships.
- He also thinks quick, preliminary video dates will become a permanent part of dating, post-pandemic.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Although the pandemic has put a dent in people’s dating lives, it’s also given a springboard to dating apps.
Hinge has been a popular alternative to the likes of Tinder and Bumble since before the pandemic, and far from killing the app stone dead, 2020 seems to have supercharged it. According to Hinge’s Q4 2020 results, the company tripled its revenues compared with 2019. Its global downloads rose by 63%.
Compared to its competition, Hinge is doing extremely well. App analytics firm Sensor Tower told Insider Hinge’s growth outstripped the five other most-popular dating apps: Tinder, Badoo, Bumble, Happn, and Plenty of Fish. Collectively, these apps’ install numbers only grew by 4% in 2020, according to Sensor Tower.
Similarly on revenue, Hinge’s success seems to have outstripped other dating apps, on average. Lexi Sydow, head of marketing insights at App Annie, said overall consumer spend on dating apps was up 15% year-on-year in 2020.
Insider spoke to Hinge founder and CEO Justin McLeod about how the company is planning to keep this momentum going through 2021, with vaccine rollouts getting people excited for the so-called “hot vax summer.”
Hinge users are looking to couple up
Despite Hinge’s growth over 2020, McLeod said the app had to deal with a peculiar set of “tailwinds and headwinds.”
While the app offered a welcome outlet for people stuck inside to flirt remotely, lockdown measures and colder weather still had an inhibiting effect. The app saw its biggest growth during summer last year, and McLeod is banking on there being another boom in activity this summer.
But while some have expressed a desire to make summer 2021 or “hot vax summer” a bacchanalian affair, McLeod predicts there’ll also be a trend towards people looking for more long-term relationships, based on surveys conducted on Hinge’s users.
“We’ve found at least a third of our users are saying that they have more urgency around wanting to settle down and find and a partner, and more than half of our users are actively seeking that long-term relationship,” McLeod said.
He believes the loneliness felt by many during lockdown could be driving this desire.
“I do think for a lot of people who maybe have been dating for a while and then went through the pandemic and went through it alone, they’re feeling the need for, I think, a partner and companionship more than ever,” he added.
This suits Hinge’s business model. Slating itself as the “dating app designed to be deleted,” Hinge markets itself as less of a hook-up spot than apps like Tinder (which shares a parent company with Hinge).
That doesn’t mean that users less laser-focused on a long-term relationship aren’t catered for on Hinge. McLeod said younger users may feel less urgency around settling down, and said the app saw its biggest growth last year among users in their early 20s.
Whatever users’ preferences, Hinge is planning to capitalize on the “hot vax summer” with new features, McLeod said, although he did not reveal any details. He did, however, highlight the video-chat feature, which Hinge added along with many dating apps during 2020.
“We’ll definitely think about how to make that a more interactive experience that really helps you get a quick spark check before you go out and meet up in person,” he said.
Pandemic or no pandemic, video dating is here to stay
McLeod thinks video dating will survive beyond the coronavirus pandemic, and predicted brief video chats before a first date would become a fixture in people’s dating lives for the next decade.
“No one is more of a proponent of meeting up in person and not spending time on screens than me,” he said. “But I do think that people will find that it’s just really helpful to do a five or ten-minute check that this person is worth meeting up with, before they go meet up in person so that they don’t waste their whole evening, walk in the door and realize like within two seconds that this isn’t the person that they actually want to spend their evening with.”
“I don’t think people will spend like hours and hours on video chat when they could be meeting up in person,” he added.
McLeod is confident about Hinge’s future, however this summer shakes out.
“In a way it feels like we’re the only app for young people that’s really serving this need of more intentioned relationships. I think some of the other ones, like the swipe-apps, are becoming even more explicit about being casual – because I think that’s very much how they’re designed,” he said.
He’s also unbothered by Facebook’s foray into online dating. Despite the social media giant’s resources, he doesn’t think Facebook will be able to poach Hinge’s younger usership.
“We haven’t seen them getting much traction, and I don’t think our target demo really uses Facebook. They don’t trust Facebook,” he said. “They don’t use it generally, much less for dating,” he added.