When it was launched in 2000, eHarmony quickly made its mark as a new brand and new category in the online dating landscape: a dating site for the serious relationship seeker, particularly women. By focusing on women as its target segment, eHarmony made wise, profitable choices about its product and user experience to address this group's unique needs.
eHarmony entered an online market dominated by two well-established brands, Match.com and Yahoo, and it seemed to violate all the standard practices and conventional wisdom of the industry at the time. Unlike other dating sites, eHarmony decided not to allow users to search and browse their Web site for potential mates. Instead, it requires participants to complete an exhaustive questionnaire before they can receive any information about prospective suitors.
This process creates a much better user experience for eHarmony's target demographic in a couple ways. First, women don't feel like they are being judged solely on their looks. They perceive that they are being matched according to a complex array of compatibility criteria—not just superficial markers like age or income. Second, the entire eHarmony process is very time-consuming. It takes at least forty minutes to fill out the initial questionnaire, and users must court their potential mates through a series of essay questions and then write reviews of any contenders. By making the process so time-consuming, eHarmony has the natural effect of weeding out non-serious users and helping women to feel less vulnerable. This makes the product much better for the serious female relationship seeker who doesn't want to waste time on or take a chance with casual dating.
In the following eHarmony ad, notice how the company differentiates itself from competitors:
The result of creating a product suited to women seeking marriage or long-term relationships has had two huge financial benefits for eHarmony. First, they can charge much more and enjoy much better margins than competitors. Because the customer perceives more value in being matched with a "soul mate" than in just being helped to "find a date," eHarmony is able to charge more than other dating sites ($50 per month versus $20 per month). Second, eHarmony is able to generate revenue from women users much more effectively than other dating sites (many of which make most of their money on men): almost 60% of eHarmony's paying users are women.
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