LOS ANGELES — Among the online market segments that have undergone tremendous changes over the past few years, the casual dating arena has transformed from a primarily desktop-oriented activity to a mobile-driven pastime appealing to new audiences.
From an overuse of “creative” geo-targeted advertising that hurt the credibility of some operators who promised customers “these sexy girls in your town,” along with high-profile data breaches that have embarrassed married customers, casual online dating has had an uphill struggle over the past few years.
Going from a high-promise opportunity, to becoming a bit of an afterthought for adult affiliates seeking to monetize their traffic, the market segment survives despite its excesses.
While some leading dating companies have continued to see success, upstart apps such as Tinder have captured a large share of younger users who sought an easy, mobile-friendly hookup experience — but even this application has become outdated in the eyes of some, opening opportunity for others.
“Tinder might have taken online dating from fusty to fashionable, but there’s a new breed of dating apps on the block,” Katie Collins wrote for CNET. “They’re all about catering to niche tastes, breaking down taboos and being honest about exactly what you’re looking for right from the first swipe.”
It is an evolution familiar to old-school adult marketers, who saw the saturation of general interest porn lead to a wide array of specialized content and the introduction of the phrase “niche marketing” into porners’ lexicon.
“Niche, easy-to-use, often free services like 3nder are challenging the one-size-fits-all, old-school model of attracting a mass-market audience for a slice of a multibillion dollar pie,” Collins explains. “It’s not a simple case of catering to casual daters versus relationship seekers, but of attracting and catering to the growing numbers of users from emerging markets.”
Calling itself “an iPhone and Android app for open-minded couples and singles,” 3nder is taking the casual dating market by storm, with a focus on encouraging threesomes and other fun between users.
“It’s about basically exploring your sexuality whether you’re in a relationship or not,” company founder Dimo Trifonov explains, “but it’s known as the threesome app.”
Offering more than threesomes, 3nder targets all relationships with its open-minded app.
“While queer and gay dating sites and apps do exist, there’s still a need for something else. Something new and different that encompasses open sexuality and all the variants within this. Something with more space to safely roam into the realm of any and all types of sexual, gender and kink perspectives,” Trifonov says. “That’s where 3nder comes in.”
3nder gained notoriety from a lawsuit by Tinder, due to the latter’s claim of confusingly similar names, but even without the courtroom complications, 3nder was already poised to make a splash in casual dating circles with its forward-looking approach.
This includes the app making a transition to an app-free future, with Trifonov saying “the future is so open and fluid,” and noting his belief that apps will eventually disappear as phones become increasingly sophisticated.
“I think we will not need to swipe to like people,” Trifonov explains. “Phones will know so much about us — they will know whether we feel lonely and depressed.”
To get to this bright future, the app and its peers must succeed in the present.
“My product is still quite stuck in the present time, but it targets a future market,” says Trifonov of the sexually experimentive Generation Z users who make up adult’s next customer base. “With time we’re going to open up more and be open about who we are and what we want and what our desires are.”
For those seeking sex, friendship and more, beyond the bounds of traditional relationships, the new breed of dating apps may provide the key — and opportunity for affiliates and adult site owners alike.