13 Feb 2017
Dating tech

Flirting with tech: how dating-tech can super-charge your love life

An extraordinary love affair: discover how dating-tech is embracing the power of love

V-Day approaches, cloaked in blood red and wielding a scythe of love as it scours the land for unsuspecting couples, spouting amorous incantations to woo the most hardened of souls. No, it’s not the Grim Reaper. It’s something far worse… Alexandra North explores how the tech scene is feeding the beast of Valentine.

This is no ordinary seasoned commercial monster. It’s a shapeshifter; beware the innocent Tatty-teddy disguise. It’s a parasite; it’ll feed off your neediness and choke you with clichés. It’s smart – and it’s getting smarter, thanks to the Valentine’s Day marketeers who spend the year scrutinising consumer behavioural trends, sharpening their merchandising prowess, and developing their multi-channel delivery platforms until they can unleash their hearts and flowers upon us.


Flirting with potential
In a world where physical relationships can blossom from virtual introductions, it’s no surprise that the tech scene is more than flirting with the potential that V-Day brings to the commercial bed. According to a survey by Bing, just over 50% of adults celebrated Valentine’s Day in 2016, with 28% of shopping happening online, and 35% of customers shopping both online and in store.

So love it or hate it, there’s no denying that February 14 is a master at generating profit. In fact, Bing’s survey showed that in 2016, consumers spent a record $19.7 billion for Valentine’s Day – that averages out at $146 per person. Though I’m yet to see who got my share. Even pets seemed to fare better, with Bing indicating that owners spent $681 million on their furry friends in the same period – that’s $26 per pet!

In trying to understand what consumers are looking for, the survey sought to ascertain which were the top searches leading up to the day. As published in, the results showed that ‘Etsy’, ‘Flowers’, and ‘Olive Garden’ topped the Desktop/PC chart, while for Mobile, ‘Jewelry’, ‘Valentines Day’ and ‘Engagement rings’ took the lead. Don’t get your hopes too high though – Christmas Eve is actually the frontrunner when it comes to proposals, according to tour operator Chillisauce – with this day accounting for 33% of proposals (from the guys) compared to 23% for V-day.


To tweet or not to tweet
Chillisauce – specialists in stag and hen weekends, took their Celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2017 survey to 13,000 Brits and discovered that technology led the way for the guys when they were asked ‘how did you approach your (would-be) Valentines?’ With a massive 48%, compared to just 15% for face-to-face interaction, tech was a clear winner when it came to plucking up the courage to approaching a would-be partner.

With texts, IMs and tweets taking over the art of communication, have we lost our ability to woo in person? Or is this simply what woo-ing looks like in the 21st century?

Delving deeper into the most popular Valentine’s approaches via technology, Chillisauce’s survey discovered that social media was the stand-out platform, with 39% of respondents choosing to tech up their relationships this way. Texts and emails came in at 15%, while dating sites brought in the rear at just 5%.

But let’s take a look at those dating sites more closely… Chillisauce asked, ‘If I was single, would I use an online dating website such as Tinder or to find a Valentine for 2017’. The results were pretty surprising, with 83% giving a resounding NO.


Appy ever after
Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, and out of sheer curiosity you understand, I was keen to dig a little deeper into some of the top dating apps out there. You know, in the name of work, of course.

Hinge was recently in the TechCrunch spotlight having pivoted from swiping to ‘stories’ in a bid to help people find real relationships. This focus on authenticity appears to ‘stand in contrast’, as TechCrunch states, given a new project the company is testing, which brings you Audrey, a personal assistant who’ll message your matches to you and schedule your dates.

Also announced this January in TechCrunch was Match’s new feature that aims to help its dating app users see who they’ve crossed paths with in the physical world and say ‘hi’ if they’re interested in chatting. This opt-in feature takes full advantage of location-based services on the user’s phone while still ensuring privacy. #KeepingTheWeirdosAtBay

I couldn’t rustle up a dating tech blog without mentioning Bumble – and so it’s hats off to this crew for actioning a ban on underwear-clad selfies. Let’s face it, we all have laundry days, and they’re not pretty.

But aside from the big players, what caught my eye was the development of niche dating apps, and when I say niche, I really mean ‘niche’. They may not be new to the tech scene, but this is one evolution that I’m loving and hating in equal measure. Here’s a handful that might just tickle your fancy, or not:

Bristlr: for bearded men and for those who go wild for whiskers
Sizzl: how crispy do you like your bacon? A sizzling way to meat Mr/Mrs Right
Wingman: let your mile-high fantasies take off
Women Behind Bars: to find the woman of your dreams, of course
3nder: Tinder for threesomes – kind of speaks for itself

After an eye-opening glimpse into the dating tech world, my old fashioned – and somewhat cynical approach to Valentine’s Day – still held strong. Though there was a momentary blip when I came across Hater.

The just-launched Hater app is the first to match people based on the things they, well, hate. It’s a genius concept really; it lets you throw away that cheerful façade and you can finally call a spade a shovel. Anyone can fall in love through rose-tinted specs, but if they fall first for your inner grouch, you’ve got a keeper, for sure.

And finally, giving us another reason to love Canada, Toronto-based start-up Atomic Reach is opening up its AI platform to users in order to improve their dating profiles.

‘Atomic Love’ asks you ‘who do you want to click with?’ And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s a simple process. You select the type of person you want to meet and it’ll give you five categories to choose from including specialist, genius, knowledgeable, academic, and general. Next, you sign up with your email and add in your profile text. That’s when Atomic’s AI magic kicks in, which results in recommendations on how to raise your appeal with your chosen ‘type’.

Designed to demonstrate that its machine learning platform can be applied on a variety of different texts, Atomic Reach’s foray into the world of romance makes no promises of accuracy or efficiency – but it’s certainly a fun way to tech up your love life.

Whether you’re a cynic, a hater, a lover or a dreamer, one thing’s for sure this Valentine’s Day – dating tech just got hotter.

Time to cool back down with some Hot Chocolate… ‘you techie thing…’