The elderly, students and families were central to discussions around the negative impacts of the pandemic. However, there was one category that represents 20% of the population which was hardly mentioned, singles.

 

What happened to singles looking for their other half? Has the pandemic sounded the death knell for dates? How have the sector players reacted? Have brands seized on this shift to cater for isolated singles? An overview of the sector through 5 dates of a new kind:

 

 

1 – The Video Date 

 

The first lockdown could have marked the end of dating apps: why talk to a stranger you can’t see in real life?

 

In fact, the reverse happened. Apps have grown exponentially with nearly 1 in 3 French people connecting to a dating app between March and December 2020 (Ifop). On March 29, Tinder celebrated its one day record of the greatest number of  ‘swipes’ ever recorded.

 

This success may have been shortlived without video dates. The principle is simple. Instead of agreeing on meeting in person you agree to a video date; an evolution similar to Skype aperitifs and videoconferences.

 

The success of this new practice is amazing. Half of Hinge’s (dating application)  video dates last more than an hour and 65% of American users say they prefer using the app instead of meeting in person,  even after Covid restrictions have been lifted.

 

What brands to bring to your date:

Hinge and its Virtual Date Night Kit, for making cocktails. For each kit ordered one is offered to your partner for a remote mixology evening!

 

 

Airbnb has partnered with Bumble to provide online experiences for two, such as cooking lessons, virtual tours, escape games etc.

 

And in the future?

 

Video dates will no doubt act as filter before meeting in person. Another opportunity to reveal your personality and identity by letting someone into the home (virtually) or organising remote activities.  Brands have a real opportunity in identity construction by offering new online activities in a market that is far from saturated.

 

Even in full lockdown, the video date is not enough so in comes the supermarket/park date.

 

 

2 – Supermarket and park date

 

With places to hang out being limited, singles around the world have chosen to be creative in defying the rules.

Some supermarkets have understood this, tried but failed to capitalise on this trend:

 

 

For parks, Bumble has been practical by providing spaces that are designed for illegal dates while respecting social distancing.

 

 

The singularity of these dates? This is when the masks fall. Whereas before you met up in person at the beginning of the date, now it happens in two stages. The top of the face then the bottom. And it changes our relationship to beauty as L’Oréal’s campaign on TikTok LetsFaceIt obliquely refers to. It shows how to apply make-up concentrating on the eyes.

 

 

Out of this was born a new trend: ‘mask-fishing ‘ which means trying to appear more attractive wearing a mask.  We see profiles appear on dating sites that only include masked faces. However, this has been prohibited by some applications.

 

What brand to bring to your date:

 

 

For foundation enthusiasts, L’Oréal has created a foundation adapted to the mask.

 

And in the future?

 

As the masks fall or go back on, there is a change in how we perceive people and their emotions.

The upper part of the face becomes more important and brands can imagine  a new take on beauty with adapted offers!

 

 

3 – The No Date

 

For part of the population, going on a date in the midst of a global pandemic is frowned upon. In March 2020 England prohibited anyone not living together from meeting indoors;  a rule dubbed the “sex ban” by the media.

But there’s a new reason for not meeting in person; fear of the other. With the reopening of bars and restaurants and as public opinion has eased off, the fear of not meeting in person persists. . This is FODA or Fear Of Dating Again.

This anxiety of meeting new people affects a large number of singles and FODA concerns 55% of American singles aged 18-39. Indeed,  Tinder descriptions reflect this fear with  “anxiety” appearing 31% more often than last year (YPulse, 2021).

To overcome this fear, it is always possible to ‘retrain’ yourself in dating thanks to the TInder application, Creature Comforts. This is a real dating simulator from the use of the application to the actual date.

 

What brand to bring to your date:

The Tinder app offered 1,000 PCR tests for users to encourage them to meet up in person.

 

And in the future?

 

Covid has created proximity and relationship anxieties and this is likely to continue for many months. Whether it’s rethinking public spaces, self-esteem support (or for others) or events, brands have a role in adapting to this anxiety and rediscovered new found freedom.

 

 

4 – The Cuffing

 

Going against the grain,  the first lockdown prompted some singles to find a mate for the second lockdown. The traditional stages of dating went by the wayside creating a new type of relationship. Some media have dubbed this phenomenon corona cuffing, as in handcuffs.

While singles were one of the most affected by anxiety and depression the prospect of a second confinement boosted relationships. In fact, during the summer of 2020,  55% of respondents said they tended to accelerate their relationships compared to the pre-pandemic period (Match 2020). With 43% of young single Americans using apps to feel less lonely, others went further, by confining as a couple after only a few weeks of dating.

The Dutch government has gone so far as to recommend that single people find a “sex buddy” for their confinement, in an effort to preserve the mental health of the population.

It is deemed normal to have physical contact even for single people.

 

Which brands to find your confinement partner:

Unlike traditional applications based on physical appearance for matches, new dating applications are emerging that rate compatibility based on musical interests (Pom), sports (Fitafy) or artistic skills (Monet). Probably more suitable, if you find yourself locked up with someone.

 

And in the future?

 

Lockdowns have given rise to new types of couples. Through living confined 24 hours a day the barriers to intimacy were broken down at full speed.

One can imagine that this experience has led singles to seek deeper relationships. And initial studies show that 44% of American singles say that engagement is more important to them than before the pandemic (Kinsey Institute , 2021).

 

5 – The bar or restaurant date…only with Vaxxy

 

Everybody knows the classic date we’ve seen at the movies taking place in a bar or restaurant. However, the rules have changed a little on dating apps. It’s no longer about showing off in a bikini or tiger stroking pictures ; it’s your vaccine status that’s important.

While Vaxxies flood social networks with selfies of their swollen arms, vaccination has become a come-on. Indeed,  31% of English people say they prefer a meeting someone who’s is vaccinated and 28% refuse to meet someone who isn’t (YouGov).

Dating apps have jumped on the bandwagon and some are offering badges indicating the vaccine status to increase the matching odds (+ 14% on OkCupid) (OkCupid).

 

The US and UK governments have also seized the opportunity to communicate with harder-to-reach populations. They have created partnerships with dating apps to encourage singles to get vaccinated or put badges on their profiles. This is to encourage vaccination in exchange for SuperLikes and other bonuses.

 

 

Which brand (s) to bring to your date:

Axe, which offers an Axination kit for vaccinated people.

 

 

And in the future?

 

The vaccine risks becoming a discriminating factor in getting a date for those who cannot or will not get it done.

This means that a new layer of trust must be established over and above STD tests that  signal the beginning of a monogamous relationship. Being covid free is part of chatting with 17% of American daters (YPulse, 2021) prior to meeting in person.

Far from being put on hold, covid dating has simply been transformed by condensing certain classic stages of the dating process. The exchange of messages, mutual discovery, the status of the relationship and moving in. Dating applications have seized on these developments to develop new uses, becoming the first meeting places in France by the end of 2020 (Ifop).

However, other brands have been few and far between to offer alternatives to the singles market. An opportunity that it is not too late to seize!

 

 

Rachel Wagner, Senior Strategic Planner