Tinder Like An Economist: Conversion Optimisation Strategies

Has anything ever so quickly and fundamentally impacted the way we meet our lovers? It’s like a giant bazaar has enveloped the city where the market is every shade of ‘hey’.
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It’s the infomercial of the millennial generation: now you can shop from home, mesmerised by the glowing Rolodex in your hand, another buzz to add to the steady stream of notifications.

Tinder has been popular enough for long enough now to get what we like and what we don’t, to take a step back and see what it’s all about.

Has anything ever so quickly and fundamentally impacted the way we meet our lovers? It’s like a giant bazaar has enveloped the city where the market is every shade of ‘hey’.

I’d kill for a peek under Tinder’s kimono: what is the optimal dog to human ratio? Hot friends to babies? How many hetero guys swipe right on the occasional guy that pops up? What is peak swiping time / day? What features do the most common right swipes share – facial types, photo locations, descriptions? On the inequality distribution: what share of the market do the top 1% control? Oxfam needs to get onto this. People are suffering out there.

But alas I don’t have that data. So I’m going to make do with my own experience as well as others’ I’ve spoken to. Do with it what you will.

The Selection Process

Tinder is merely a distillation of existing trends. In its mirror to life we see who we are what we want all that much clearer.

Its selection process is a perfect example of this. It’s cut along gender lines, faithfully mimicking broader biological selection trends. Women are highly selective, swiping left until a worthwhile and agonised-over right swipe comes along. Men frantically spurt right swipes into the ether as if their sperm count depended on it.

Just like growing food delivery services cut through time and space to bring food to your door, so Tinder cuts through the time and space of meeting people ‘out’. It gets rid of the noise. When you’re out, the selection process is muddied: friendship group dynamics (you can’t leave your friend, it’s her birthday!), venue issues (what the fuck are they playing now?), mixed clientele (those old guys just bought us drinks? Great…) and being absolutely shitfaced does not, contrary to popular misconception, help one bit.

Tinder has deepened and reduced the friction in the dating market. Tinder provides for a sober, systematic assessment of your options. They’re laid out before you like watches in a hustler’s overcoat: gleaming in all their faux chic glory. No more 4am low hanging fruit lads. It’s a great way to up your quality. Ladies, no need to brave the gyrating creep or the stupid-drunk stumbling giant out at bar Who-Gives-A-Shit: you can peruse from the comfort of your own home.

Those chums with the same friends in every pic (memo: your hot friends don’t make you hotter), those headless abs / bikini shots? Out. Let me guess: you like travelling, family and friends? Mazel tov, what a unique snow flake. Excise all those pouting bathroom selfie ab shots with drugged tigers. Bam. Easy.

It’s a statistician’s wet dream

So here’s (just) the tip: it’s a numbers game. You need to swipe right enough to milk from the Tinder-verse a large enough pool of matches, of which a smaller portion will engage, a smaller portion will ‘click’, a smaller portion will meet up and only then will an outcome be achievable. Everyone has their conversion rate at each step. Tinder lets you know exactly where you stand and how well you can convert at each step in the process.

Tinder (3)

The obvious go-to optimisation tactic here is to cast the net as wide as possible: hence apps like Fire that do all that carpal tunnel inducing right swiping for you. With guys, I know I’m preaching to the converted: this is entirely consistent with men’s seed spreading instinct. It’s also the first reaction a finance major will have: options only have value. Swipe and then assess. Enlarge the first circle: even a small % of a bigger pool can yield satisfactory outcomes. We’ve all got mates who swipe as quickly as they can (aha! But now they gotta pay). This strategy makes sense initially, to test your conversation rate at every step, and to get a feel of the market and where you stand within it. Once you’ve got a reading, you can become more selective. With the luxury of sobriety and poverty of time, you may as well start with a pool of only the most attractive girls. You will have a conversion rate within this pool (granted, may be lower than in a more widely drawn sample). But you can now focus your attention accordingly.

tinderswiping

A friend recently noted that when he goes out he can now focus on having a good time with his mates. Meeting girls out is now just inefficient. Outings are fewer, and it’s not just because we’re getting older. I would love to see analysis of the impact on drinking volumes where Tinder is in highest use. Sure there may be more dates, but you don’t get plastered on a date like you do on a night out with the lads.

Looks vs chat

Tinder’s success is in its simplicity. Its simplicity has provided Tinder with the flexibility to marry men’s and women’s divergent preferences. Men are more aroused by looks (hence: porn. Otherwise known as the internet). Women are more aroused by the written word (hence Fifty Shades of Harry Potter). Sure there’s an infinite number of relative apportionment of importance to both – but Tinder allows you to play it as you like. Draw the lines on looks however you like and feel free to draw out the chat even after the other party has given you their number, Facebook and some techy Frankesteinian InstaSnapKikchat abomination – and then even written you into their will.

Tinder’s simplicity has given guys access and girls sufficient security in distance and selectivity to allow their respective preferences to cohabitate. Happy hunting.