Dating apps will now offer COVID-19 vaccination badges. Match and Match Affinity CEO Hesam Hosseini joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.
AKIKO FUJITA: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Well, could vaccines improve your chance at love? Online dating company Match is making that pitch to get more and more of their users vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s part of a partnership with the White House as President Biden looks to reach that goal of 70% of Americans being vaccinated by July 4.
Let’s bring in the CEO of Match and Match Affinity, Hesam Hosseini. We’ve also got Yahoo Finance’s Melody Hahm joining in the conversation. Hesam, it’s great to talk to you. Walk me through how this partnership came about and what exactly it means for those users on all of your dating services.
HESAM HOSSEINI: Thanks so much for having me. So on Match, we’re launching a vaccinated badge in partnership with the White House that allows our members to disclose their vaccination status. And in exchange, they get a free perk on our platform. It really started with our belief that we have a platform that can actually have an impact here. And specifically, for a lot of us, seeing our peers get vaccinated could actually be a lot more effective than seeing a celebrity, for example, endorse vaccines.
So let’s put it this way. Is it more effective to see The Rock post on Instagram that he got vaccinated– and all credit to him for doing that– or that cute guy or girl that you’re talking to on Match saying that they’re vaccinated? We think that your peers could be a lot more effective.
MELODY HAHM: That’s an interesting proposition, Hesam. And when you think about this vaccinated badge that people are opting in or out of to show on their profile, can you disclose at this current moment what percentage of folks have actually chosen to do that? And also, if you’ve had any backlash and if you’ve had any negative commentary saying we don’t appreciate this new feature?
So the feature is launching actually in a week. So we announced the feature last week, and it’s launching in a week. And look, for us it’s really about user choice. And they can choose where they want to disclose it or not. Again, this is not a person of authority, a celebrity, a doctor coming in and saying you have to get vaccinated. It’s really about our members choosing to disclose that. And we think that if enough do, that could have a positive impact on their peers and other singles on the platform.
MELODY HAHM: Of course, we see an uneven vaccine rollout globally. You sort of reference– and of course, looking at Q1’s results from Match Group at large– a lot of this recovery is coming from North America, namely the United States in particular. Tell us more about the global picture. Of course, it might be easier– we have an oversupply in some areas in the United States– to get vaccinated. But that’s not the case in the rest of the world, right?
HESAM HOSSEINI: That’s right. So we have a global footprint. And we are seeing different trends across different countries. The initiative that we announced with the White House is obviously a US-focused initiative. And those are the brands that I’m focused on. And our future is launching in the US for now, given in our current environment we’re seeing 50% of folks vaccinated, a lot more on our platforms. And we think that if members are able to disclose their vaccination status, that could go a long way.
ZACK GUZMAN: Hesam, it sounds like you’re putting a lot of weight on the influence of some of the users on your platform, if you’re going to be comparing the cute guys and girls to The Rock. I appreciate that. I enjoy the confidence here.
But when it comes to other enthusiasm you’re seeing, other measures of kind of users’ pent-up demand for getting out there on dates, we were talking to the CEO of hinge also discussing things that he’s seeing on the platform as well to that point. What have you seen to back up the idea that people really want to get out there and start using platforms like these, not just to meet but actually get out on dates?
HESAM HOSSEINI: So you know, it’s been a very interesting year this past year to be single. And we’re actually seeing two parallel trends. So for some, the pandemic was really a moment of reflection. And as they’re getting back out and starting to date, they’re really looking for something meaningful.
For others, it was a year with, frankly, a lack of intimacy, and they’re looking for something more fun and just more casual dating this summer. And when we saw those trends, our reaction at Match was, if you’re looking for something casual, that’s totally cool. Just don’t come to Match. Match is built for meaningful relationships. And for those that are looking for that, we’re here. But if you want to get out there and date casually this summer, that’s totally cool with us. Just come to us in three months when you’re ready.
AKIKO FUJITA: I mean, how does the use case change, though? We were talking about this in our morning meeting today about whether, in fact people are still going to go online to try and find the match and then meet in person, now that they can. When you look across all of your brands, which platform do you see getting the biggest bump?
HESAM HOSSEINI: So we’ve seen great results across the portfolio. You guys referenced our Q1 earnings. We saw 23% year over year growth in revenue. And our non-Tinder brands, including Match, combined saw 30% growth year over year.
And Match specifically, we saw a double-digit bump in user engagement when the pandemic first started. And in the last few months as the country has opened up, we’ve seen an additional double-digit bump in stats like messaging on our platform. And again, as we look at the summer, we do think that we’ll see additional tailwinds with users getting out there.
One of the interesting trends that we’ve noticed actually is with our video dating feature. So we were one of the first apps to launch video dating as a safe way to date during the pandemic. And the usage of that feature has actually held as high today as it did during the pandemic. So I think it’s just a great example of a tech shift that started with the pandemic but is here to stay.
MELODY HAHM: Tell me more about the ecosystem at large and how you plan to broaden your vision perhaps even post-pandemic. I’ve spoken with Whitney Wolfe-Herd, the CEO of Bumble, quite a few times talking about the multipronged approach, right? Finding your best friend, finding business partners to network with, in addition to your romantic love interest. Are you envisioning with Match more of those sorts of investments going forward, especially now that we’re coming out of the pandemic?
HESAM HOSSEINI: At Match our role is really to help you find the one, find a meaningful connection. And we’re actually doubling down on that. This summer, it is a mixed bag. Some are looking for casual. Some are looking for a more serious relationship. But we actually predict that come the fall, we’re going to see the biggest cuffing season ever. And Match’s role will be even more important in the fall.
And just in the last year– I’ve been a Match over a decade. And in my experience, I haven’t seen our business provide such an essential service as it has in the last year. Folks were isolated and lacked human connection, and we provided a platform that was able to keep them connected and provide meaningful relationships, even during the pandemic. So we’re doubling down on that, and that’s all we’re focused on.
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, Hesam, it’s been a tough year for singles out there. Not speaking from experience necessarily, but let’s just say it’s been tough. When we talk about the revenue here, though, I mean, we keep hearing that more and more people are looking to spend. I mean, have you seen a boost in terms of people doing so on Match? And what kind of, I guess flexibility, in terms of pricing power do you have now, if it is to be the most powerful cuffing season of all time?
HESAM HOSSEINI: Yeah, we have we have had a historic year at Match. Our business trends have been at the strongest levels in the last five years. Pricing isn’t an area that we’re focused on. We think that for us, it’s really about staying nimble, staying ahead of the trends, and for our members, providing the most valuable service.
So for example, we talked about the vaccinated badge. At the peak of the pandemic when folks were hesitant and still wanted to get out there but not sure how to stay safe, we launched a feature that allowed them to disclose their dating preferences. So are you still wearing a mask? Are you distancing? Is a hug hello OK? Getting that awkward COVID talk out of the way.
And as we look forward the next few months, a lot of singles are hesitant to get back into one-on-one first dates. That can be a high-pressure environment if you haven’t dated for the last year. So we’re actually revamping our events, where you can have a more social setting, it’s a little bit more lighthearted, and get back out there without the pressure necessarily of a first date. So that’s really what we’re focused on, is staying nimble, staying ahead of the trends. You know, things are changing month to month, and our job is to understand what our members need and to stay nimble and provide a great service for them.
AKIKO FUJITA: Well, Hesam, I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with single friends who are just eager to get out there this summer. So it looks like you might have a lot of users joining the platforms, if they’re not already on it. It’s great to have you on today. Hesam Hosseni, Match and Match Affinity CEO. And of course, our thanks to Melody Hahm for joining in on the conversation.