What does it take to move a dating app from from 1 - 100?

Have you ever wondered what’s needed to take a dating app from small to huge?

We were asked that very question recently by a small dating app, so here we’re sharing our insights about the vital strategies that enable dating apps to scale.

It’s little over a decade since Tinder launched as the first dating app, and since then the category has exploded - globally there are almost 8,000 different dating apps and they’ve got an endless potential supply of diverse customers. Just existing in that category is a challenge, never mind actually achieving continuous growth. It requires constant attention to users, data, strategy and budget to beat the competition and scale. So what does it take to be a winner in the dating app world?

First and foremost, you need time and money

If you need more and more of any one thing, it will be money. Quite simply, without money (seed money, venture capital, angel, ad revenue, subscriber revenue etc), scaling to the point of significant market adoption will be very hard.  Yes, time (manpower resource) can help you scale, but doing so organically, without outsourcing to specialist agencies or partners, or significantly investing in first-rate internal teams, will make your growth slow-going.

You’ll need an effective and agile marketing strategy

“Marketing strategy” is a catch-all for the tactics you’ll need to build awareness, acquire users and develop long-term customer value. The big dating apps have both the budget and time (team) resources to invest in sophisticated marketing strategies that blend online and offline media channels, including broadcast advertising (TV, radio, outdoor etc), digital and social media, influencer and PR, as well as “last window of opportunity” tactics such as organic and paid app store investments.

Well-funded apps have the ability to drive both audience reach and frequency via multi-touchpoint customer engagements, which in turn, enables them to more easily acquire new customers.  Smaller apps that appeal to the general population will struggle to achieve cut-through in such a market; niche apps that appeal to diverse audiences or are location-specific may have a better chance of securing their corner of the market, being for the few, rather than the many.

So, all you need to do is drive people to the app stores?

Ultimately growth is about user acquisition, so driving people to the app stores is critical, but when they get there, in order to avoid being pipped at the post, dating apps must compete for visibility.  Just getting someone to the store isn’t a guarantee that they’ll choose your dating app.

As such, leading dating apps will be investing heavily in both their organic (app store optimisation/ASO) visibility, as well as their paid. The conjoining and management of these ever-evolving strategies requires skill, dedication and time, which is why brands might choose to work with a specialist agency like Redbox.

For smaller dating apps, competing for visibility and keywords will be a tough ask, in a market that has huge brand budgets. However, is essential to compete, because on the app stores there is an opportunity to beat bigger brands for users, if you’ve got a smart keyword strategy, You can read more about how dating brands on a budget can win the keyword race, here, in which our team has shared their valuable insights.

The Creative Game - how to be a contender

Example: evolve, test and launch product page updates!


Big-budget dating apps have the ability to create a broad portfolio of creative strategies for the app stores, which are likely aligned with their wider media investments and targeted at a range of different audiences too.  Some of these will be organic tactics such as in-app events and custom product pages on the App Store, and other tactics will be ad placements, often with a multitude of variations for keyword relevance.

Keeping up momentum for a wide creative strategy requires a lot of resources across design, campaign planning and creative testing; dating apps are required to think months ahead of time to maximise the search and conversion opportunity created by events happening external to the app stores, all over the world.

Apple allows every app to create up to 35 different custom product pages, which can be developed to be creatively relevant to different keywords; this is a proven way to gain double-digit percentage improvements in conversion rate. Custom product pages can be linked to search result ads, in Apple Search Ads, or linked to digital ads outside of the App Store, running on other media channels, such as Meta; all allowing brands to serve a wide array of product page variations to users, depending on what they are searching for.

Read more about the why and how of building a custom product page strategy for your dating app in our blog here.

As we’ve said, developing custom product pages requires resources (which means budget); but there are other ways to generate stand-out on the App Store, without big design budgets:  in-app events. Apple’s in-app events are hugely popular with dating apps (large and small); they deliver a more significant brand footprint on the App Store for relatively little cost; importantly IAEs are proven to be highly effective at driving user acquisition. Want to know more? This blog will help you better understand how to leverage IAEs for your dating app.

A look at Tinder's In-App Events

In-App Events

Overlook Engagement and Retention and be out of the race

There is proper marketing science behind keeping users engaged and active within the app. Analysis of user data is crucial for the success of any dating app, since it enables you to understand how users are engaging with your app - what’s working and what’s not (both technically and in terms of content). Successful apps use personalised notifications, in-app rewards, and exclusive features to make apps sticky.

Big apps will be closing the gaps between their marketing, CRM and development teams, to ensure that user insights are quickly actioned for better UX and ultimately, customer retention. By continuously working on the app product and improving their app's usability and features, big dating apps keep users coming back for more.

Improve ROI with successful Monetisation Strategies

Just like marketing tactics and retention science, big dating apps have mastered the art of monetisation, offering a range of premium features and subscription plans to generate higher revenue. The big dating apps use data analytics to understand user behaviour and preferences, allowing them to tailor their paid-for offerings to maximise revenue.

Smaller apps, on the other hand, may struggle to monetise because their user-base might be lower, which is simply less attractive for any in-app advertisers. However, as we mentioned before, if the app is niche and offers a highly targeted opportunity to reach a diverse audience, those users could be highly valuable, even if their absolute number is low.

Commonly we’ll see dating apps employ a range of monetisation strategies, including opening-offers, free periods, testing of price plans, paywall/content upgrades, feature upgrades, ad-free etc.  They’re also prompting the users during their app sessions, reminding them of paid-for features and benefits.

It’s crucial to continually test your monetisation strategies, to ensure the manner, offer and timing of your messaging is optimised towards revenue growth.

Having more users, delivers more users

Top dating apps have a large and diverse user base, which surely increases the chances of finding a compatible match for everyone on the app. This is especially important for users in areas where there is lesser population and where smaller apps may struggle to attract enough users to provide potential matches at volume. Hitting a critical mass of users will accelerate growth.

Additionally, a large user base allows dating apps to test and offer a wide range of features and services, such as advanced matching algorithms and personalised recommendations. Features and services are constantly evolved; those that work are rolled-out, those that fail are shuttered.  This is a crucial aspect of word-of-mouth success amongst users, which helps a growing app to become a name on people’s lips; for example, Tinder introduced the swipe feature, which revolutionised the way people browse and match with potential partners. Smaller dating apps can only aspire to do this with limited funding in place.

Need some guidance about how to spend that budget?

Whether you’re a heavy, middle or lightweight dating app, our team can build a strategy that will deliver growth, using a blend of the tactics covered here. You don’t have to be a multi-million dollar brand to succeed, but you do need to understand how those brands think, in order to outsmart them. We’ve got the knowledge, so ask us!

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