The desire to meet and be in a relationship with other people is universal, but it seems that in some parts of the world lovers are more open to experimentation. Latin Americans, for example, have an intense and unique romance with dating apps.
Not even the SARS-CoV-2 – the new coronavirus – pandemic quenches the urge for virtual encounters among singletons. On the Dutch app The Inner Circle (TIC), the number of matchings and messages sent has already increased by 99% and 116% in March, respectively. The data is from all over the world; the company did not disclose specific figures for Latin America. “We are seeing a huge increase in activity,” said CEO David Vermeulen.
“Latin Americans are very active in the app. We see this in the number of ‘Crushes’ coming from these countries,” says Didier Rappaport, CEO of happn, another app of the dating segment. In happn terminology, which promotes virtual encounters between people who cross paths in physical environments, a “Crush” occurs when two people like each other and allow themselves to engage in a private conversation.
The happn system is being directly affected by self-isolation recommendations given by health authorities to curb the coronavirus spread. For this reason, the French company expanded the meeting radius from the usual 250 meters to 90 kilometers. “We are aware of our role in connecting people socially and, therefore, we decided to extend the radius to 90 km so people don’t feel completely isolated during the lockdown”, explains Rappaport.
At happn too, the pandemic has affected user behavior. The company says that right after officials request people to isolate themselves, the app first sees its usage drop, then, “after the shock moment”, it is resumed and, later, there’s an increase in the number of messages exchanged. A poll conducted by the app in mid-March revealed that 54% of users are willing to have a first date by video call, adapting the natural next step after virtual flirtation to the current health recommendations.
Like TIC, happn also does not give specific numbers for Latin America. It is likely that in the region the increase in usage of these apps follows or is even above the global trend. Historical clues, prior to the pandemic crisis, point to the receptive nature of Latin America to mediation of intimate encounters by apps.
On TIC, Latin Americans stand out because they invite more friends to join the platform than users in other regions. “This demonstrates that Latin Americans are enthusiastic and very open about the search for love,” explains CEO David Vermeulen. The app is accused of being elitist by some due to its screening process. It is not enough to fill out a form to sign in; you must be approved by the app. Vermeulen says the screening exists to “provide a safe environment for our members, with people they would really like to meet”. He does not disclose the share of rejected and approved candidates.
Vermeulen lists other characteristics of Latin America that differ from the global standard while using dating apps. Latin Americans are more active and less judicious in following up contacts on other digital platforms that precede the face-to-face meeting.
Rappaport, from happn, mentions another local characteristic: “In terms of taking the first step, this is done mainly by men in Latin America, unlike countries in northern Europe, for example, where women tend to be more proactive than women in other parts of the world”.
In Latin America, ICT is operational in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Panama. Happn is available for download in all countries. For both apps, Brazil comes first in usage. In addition to the huge population difference, Brazilians, according to the two CEOs, are even more receptive to these apps than their neighbors. “Since we launched in Brazil in April 2019, we have seen an immense growth in the number of users”, says Vermeulen. Brazil is already among the three biggest TIC markets.
Brazil was once the biggest happn market. Today, it is the second, with 12 million users, after India, which has 24.5 million. In the region, “Brazil stands out in particular”, according to Rappaport. The proportion of Brazilian men and women on the platform is the most balanced in the world. “Men and women are committed to using happn to meet someone in the country,” says the executive.
Not all distinctions are positive. Without going into details, happn’s CEO explains that “countries where the need for safety is stronger, Brazil and India in particular”, require the product team to think about specific features. All features, however, are launched worldwide, without distinction. “Our product is universal – just like love”, he declares.
TIC maintains the same policy of uniformity for the tools it offers. One of them, the ambassador program, was created in response to the creativity of Latin users, especially Brazilians. One of TIC’s distinctions is the events it organizes so members get to know each other. Around Latin America, many members were organizing side events, on the sidelines of accredited ones, which motivated the creation of the ambassador program, in which “networkers by nature”, who know the hottest places in cities and have cool ideas, can organize and promote events within the application platform.
## The cost of love
Brazil is one of the five largest markets for happn in revenue. This was the only business data that the two CEOs reported. Others, they do not disclose. The market, however, seems large: in monthly reports on app revenues made by the consulting firm Sensor Tower, Tinder, the industry heavyweight, has been a global leader for months. In 2019, according to the financial statement of Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, the app generated $1.2 billion in revenue. (Tinder declined to participate in this story.)
How do you make money from apps? Most work with the “freemium” model, that is, free to use, but with “super powers” in the game of seduction placed behind a monthly fee.
The Inner Circle’s starts at $20 which entitles you to know who saw your profile, read all messages and an “invisible mode”. At happn, the price varies depending on the country; in Brazil, the subscription starts at BRL 31 ($6). It entitles you to features such as removing ads, unlimited likes, “invisible mode” and restricting the display of profile data, such as age and distance.