eHarmony, the OG dating site that focuses on lasting relationships through compatibility, has today announced that it’s ready to hear about what the kids are calling it these days.
Under new CEO Grant Langston, who has been at eHarmony since before it launched, the company is taking a fresh look at its product to ensure that it’s keeping up with the times.
“At eHarmony, we’re about helping people get together for reasons that really matter,” said Langston in an interview with TechCrunch. “Science tells us that our product works, and we don’t want to change that. But the way we deliver it feels a bit dusty to me.”
The most important change comes in the form of onboarding.
Since 2000, the company hasn’t changed the way it brings on new users. That is, all new users go through the eHarmony questionnaire — complete with 149 multiple-choice questions — before they’re ever allowed to see their matches.
New users will now be able to get on the site and check matches without completing any of the questions.
Given that eHarmony made a name for itself using this questionnaire (and the compatibility scores that are generated from them), this is a big move. But Langston says that it’s much easier to evangelize compatibility and the power of the questionnaire to users who are already ‘under the tent’ then it is to send out emails to folks who abandoned the questionnaire halfway through on-boarding.
The hope is that, once on the platform, users will see the benefit of answering all 149 questions in the form of the people they match with.
Obviously, this opens the door for more casual daters to prowl eHarmony. But Langston says that the site has notifications and opt-outs for folks who only want to be matched based on eHarmony’s compatibility scale.
It’s also worth wondering if this is merely a short-term push for sign-ups, and whether or not new users will actually go back and take the quiz once they’re on the site.
Another big change for the company is the revelation of compatibility dynamics between two people who have matched.
For 16 years, eHarmony has been doing research on happy couples and unhappy couples, hoping to determine what separates the former from the latter.
Langston put it most simply in our interview:
“There are some important factors you can see across couples,” said Langston. “Most of the time, there are factors you can see are similar in happy couples and dissimilar in unhappy couples.”
However, eHarmony has never revealed any sort of compatibility score for its matches. With today’s revamp, eHarmony will now show users who have matched an entire table on their compatibility. The table will include various characteristics and dynamics they have a higher score on, as well as those attributes they don’t have in common.
“When you matched with someone on eHarmony, it looked the same as a match on any other dating site,” said Langston. “Now you have a lot more information to understand if you should reach out, and if your match is compatible in ways that interest you.”
The final change for eHarmony comes in the platform’s messaging system.
eHarmony messaging has always been more akin to email than to instant chat, with prompts to help you get a conversation going or help you ask the right question.
While those tips and tricks will still be built into the messenger, the chat will function more like FB Messenger or iMessage than email, with instantaneous, back-and-forth communication on tap.
These changes will roll out slowly across eHarmony’s markets, starting with Australia, on desktop and mobile web first and then natively on the mobile apps.
But while these changes are meaningful in the landscape of online dating today, CEO Langston knows that it takes more than feature changes to gain back supremacy.
“The first thing people are surprised to hear from us is that the general Tinder shift was a great thing for this industry and our business,” said Langston. “Twenty-somethings used to think online dating was ridiculous, and the new crop of swipe sites has changed that.
Langston reminded me that eHarmony’s largest demographic is now 25 to 35 — it used to be people aged 35 to 45 years.
But competition is fierce, especially considering that Hinge has pivoted to take on eHarmony’s role with a younger demographic as “the relationship app.”
“You don’t get to just say you’re the relationship site,” said Langston. “You have to build up a knowledge base that helps people find a better relationship. We’re not selling shoes or vacuum cleaners; we’re giving people better lives through better relationships. We’ve done the research and feel good about our process, and if someone wants to offer that service, they have to do the research and prove they can achieve the same outcome for people.”
Langston also said that he’s has been weighing the issue of same-sex couples on eHarmony since he took the reigns. eHarmony has staunchly resisted letting gay people on the site, and only propped up a same-sex site called Compatible Partners after a lawsuit forced the company to do so.
“The world is changing,” said Langston. “I have seen competitors that have 15 genders listed as options and 10 orientations. The world isn’t the same as it was even three or four years ago. So we have to think about if it’s time to make that change.”
Under new leadership, eHarmony is clearly ready to make moves in this brave new world of online dating after years of serving up the same exact product.