If you’re single right now, there is a pretty decent chance you haven’t been on a date in several months due to COVID-19. While social distancing is great for public health, it’s hurting the dating game. Some of America’s biggest dating apps like Match Group ($MTCH) and Magiclab have rolled out new features over the past few months to entice users and weather the pandemic. But will it be enough to keep users swiping?

Tinder was heating up, but its flame is starting to fizzle

Some apps saw a surge in usage at the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, on March 29, Tinder ($TINDER) saw a whopping three billion swipes, the third biggest usage surge since it launched in 2012. The company recently launched some new products to mitigate the possible loss of membership engagement due to social distancing measures. In April, the dating app opened up its Passport feature, which allows users to meet people anywhere across the globe. 

In May, Tinder launched a video date feature geared toward Gen Z users. The company recently surveyed 5,000 of its US members and revealed that half of respondents went on “video dates” in the past month. 40% of the app’s Gen Z users wanted to continue using video as a way to determine whether to meet matches in person, even in a post-pandemic world. 

Despite the positive engagement, a March statement from Match Group indicates fewer new users. “This impact is most pronounced among users over the age of 30 and varies by region, depending on the level of COVID-19 containment,” the statement reads. “In markets in Asia where containment has gone well, such as Japan and South Korea, our business has largely remained intact.”

Hinge faces controversy 

New user sign-ups have decreased across Match Group’s apps in areas where COVID-19 cases have significantly increased. In Europe, there’s been a 5% dip in new subscribers since the pandemic began. Countries that have been hit harder, like Italy and Spain, are seeing steeper declines.   

Hinge ($HINGE), a Match Group property, is advertised as a dating app that’s “designed to be deleted,” catering to those who prioritize long term commitments over quick flings. Hinge saw a 30% increase in messages from the first two months of 2020. Like Tinder, Hinge also rolled out a video date feature. But that hasn’t been enough to attract new users during the pandemic. 

Hinge saw a 454% increase in Facebook chatter as well, but not for a good reason. The dating app recently came under fire for blocking transgender actresses Laverne Cox and Trace Lysette.

The buzz around Bumble is growing louder

Bumble ($BUMBLE), on the other hand is taking it a step further. In addition to a “passport” feature and virtual video dates, the dating app now lets users send quick video and audio messages. Facebook chatter is particularly telling in Bumble’s case. Mentions of the company surged 554% over the past couple weeks. 

If public health officials continue to push us to stay home, Bumble's competitors will need to step up their game to draw and retain users. It seems part of the path forward for dating apps is to offer products and services other than a simple text chat for matches.

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