The digital love game

The digital love game
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Forget eHarmony and RSVP. Meetic is the world’s biggest online dating company. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in France, it has five million active users. Meetic’s digital marketing director Pierric Duthoit shares some of Meetic’s history and plans for the future.

Tell us a bit about being the digital marketing director for the world’s largest online dating company?

Making people happy is a nice job, plus working with the category leader in Europe, it’s interesting and challenging. Now that the internet is totally integrated in everyday life, we have found the right place to help people meet each other. People inside the company are young and dynamic. We’re no longer a start-up and, despite being part of a big US company, IAC, we have kept our flexibility and agility.

How many countries are you in now?

If we’re speaking about Europe, we’re in 16 countries, in 13 languages. Our EU HQ is based in Paris and we have offices in London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Milan, Stockholm and Munich.

We’re helping millions of lonely hearts every year. We have more than 800,000 subscribers, but we have around five million active users in our database. Over the past five years, Meetic accounted for 6% of all marriages in France.

Meetic acquired the European operations of Match.com in 2009. In 2011, IAC (which owns Match.com) bought Meetic.  How has that impacted on your business?

Match.com US and Meetic EU are like an old couple with a long love story, from first dates to the engagement in 2009 to the wedding in 2011. Match.com purchased an 81% capital share of the leading European online dating company, Meetic. This partnership resulted in one clear pan-European leader. We are now sharing the same vision, the same processes, the same tools and the same strategy with Match. We’re exchanging a lot of information about best practice. The acquisition has brought us a lot of new, fresh ideas.

You must hold a lot of data about your customers. How do you use this data to enhance the customer experience?

For many marketers, dating looks like the Garden of Eden. We have their ages, hobbies, pictures, location, etc. But we are very careful about how we use the data of our customers. We stick to a clear legal framework for keeping personal data. Then, we do not use the data of our users outside of our website. We have a business intelligence department working on optimising the user experience through algorithms based on users’ behaviour. So we try to be smart with the data of our users and also for our forecasts.

In your business you do hope that romance blossoms and relationships last a long time because you get happy customers. But that leads to a challenge –you must always be after new leads. How do you acquire them?

We are like Sisyphus. Every day we need to climb a high mountain to make sure our business will keep going at the same pace. When we do our job well, people don’t need us anymore. Our bet is that the more we make people happy, the more they will recommend us to their friends. It’s been like that for the past 10 years.

But recommendation is not enough when competition is fierce. So we need to acquire new registrations every day. We mainly use two major channels: offline and online. Both are mandatory in our business and include TV, radio, print and billboards. All these media are used to spread our messages and increase our brand awareness. This is more a long-term media strategy.

The digital part of acquisition is more focused on direct response and day-to-day performance. The flexibility and efficiency of online makes it a pure performance channel for the acquisition of new members. We use all the classic strategies like SEM, affiliation, display and partnerships.

What makes Meetic different from other online dating companies?

Meetic is the historic leader of dating in Europe. This means we have more than 10 years of experience in online dating and the biggest market share. Being a leader forces you to invest in many services to stay on top. Among these services, we increased our experience in data treatment to increase our knowledge of our users’ behaviour. A large team of analysts constantly helps the product and acquisition teams.

And because we are like Sisyphus and our users do not use our site for that long, we do not intend to use data about our users to reach them outside of the site, but more to determine the types of people who are interesting for us and how to get them on board. Thus we can create dedicated banners, landing pages, buy specific placements and keywords, and work with RTB and data providers to reach the type of people we want.

How have your digital and display strategies evolved?

There’s a big shift from former portals like MSN and Yahoo towards social networks. This means refocusing our expenditures and creative on new formats, new placements, new partners. In the meantime, we have to manage the decreasing traffic coming from older sources.

Mobile is becoming a strong source of traffic for us. More and more customers come and visit our landing pages through a mobile device. In addition, more and more search queries are done on a mobile. This means we have to be more efficient on mobile than on desktop where we have less room to convince people to come and visit us.

What is the future of online data and Meetic? Will we have a branch down under soon?

It’s becoming more and more common to date online and we’re on the edge of a new era, with more people connected everywhere and lots of data available to improve our messages.

As far as Australia is concerned, Match.com is already available in Australia. We both belong to the IAC Group – so we’re already down under.  

Pierric Duthoit is digital marketing director at Meetic and will be speaking at the ADMA Forum next week. 

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