When I grew up, dating was very different. ‘Swiping Right’ was most likely a drunken punch outside a nightclub. Dating started when your eyes met across a crowded bar. You had another few beers and they looked even better then. But disruption and efficiency is applied to everything today, and dating is no different. Why waste all that time in the bars and clubs looking for your Prince or Princess when you can do it in your PJs eating Doritos on your couch at 2am on a Thursday night?

Swipe Me Baby

Tinder gave the new consumer what they wanted. Instant connection, global reach, geo-located potential, visual interaction, likes and feedback, integration with Instagram and Spotify. For this generation, self-definition reaches beyond a few pictures and a short bio. Access to a potential dates Insta and Playlists increases the illusion of getting to know someone digitally.

While digital dating is an extremely cluttered and profitable sector, Tinder is one of the shining stars. It is one of Match’s main products including Plenty of Fish and Match.com itself (someone paid attention in Portfolio Management during their MBA). With about 50% of its users as Late Millennials or Gen Z consumers (born between 1990 and 2000), it holds itself up as one of the key disruptive apps of this generation. And I’d agree.


I often talk about the ‘Tinderization of Society’ – the idea that the modern consumer (and all of society in fact) has got used to instant, used to immediate feedback, to getting what they want or need with one swipe, to an easy-come/easy-go culture. It’s not all good of course, but Tinder has changed how people view their world and interactions, not just dating.

So, what can your brand or business learn from Tinder? Well, apart from the fact that men seem to like enjoying posing with dead fish and motorcycles, and that some young women seem to be permanently stuck in an ‘Insta filtered trout pout’, there are interesting factors at play we can leverage to have more relevant brands, regardless of our industry.


1. Personalisation

All great customer experiences are built around the consumer. From the beginning, Tinder understood the need to offer a product where the user felt in control, at the centre of their own destiny. Like any other dating product, you feature your photos and bio, but also being able to link and show a sample of your Insta photos meant your profile was even more personal. Add your favourite artists from Spotify and its more about you again. As the app runs on geo-location, your potential dates/matches are governed by your location. A global product for a generation that value physical freedom. Swiping on their couch at home in Canterbury or on the beach in the Canaries, it is the same app, the same experience.

Tinder is for people what AirBnB is for property – connecting users by geography based on their preferences and needs. The main difference is that you don’t have casual sex with your AirBnB host (usually…unless you’re really chasing that 5-star review?).

So have a think about how you can make your product or service more personal, more built around each user, regardless of who or where they are.

2. Instant

We live in a culture of immediacy. Those dancing dots on Facebook messenger as someone types, the two-blue ticks on WhatsApp to tell you your message has been read. In cyber behaviouralism (the study of our digital interactions and their effect on real world human behaviours), we can see the effect the ‘instant feedback’ has had on consumer expectations. We all want everything NOW!

If you swipe right on Tinder (right being ‘yes please’), and you match someone who also liked you, you get that instant drip of dopamine, the reward hormone. Turn to the chat feature and instantly chat. You can even choose ‘show those who have been recently active first’ so that any potential match will be with someone online or at least using the app today. It is all about now, getting a date for tonight or tomorrow, or certainly connecting in the NOW.

This is a cultural shift, one that every brand and business needs to adopt and learn. Consumers don’t ‘wait’ anymore. Recently I was keynoting at a dental event and a dentist boasted proudly to me that there was a 6-week waiting list to see him. I told him that wasn’t something to boast about, that in fact it was something to be embarrassed over. Today, value is added with Instant. Bring it to life in your business.

3. Experiential

So OK, you have a successful App. But how do you keep the attention of this fickle young consumer. Well, whatever the product or service, you have to make it Experiential.

On the 6th of October, Tinder launched Swipe Night (which is the actual stimulus to write this blog!). It is a 5-part digital immersive experience, dropping once a week, where users of the App can immerse themselves in a story, dictating the course and outcomes (like the earlier Netflix Black Mirror Bandersnatch movie). It’s the end of the world, what will you do?

It is directed by Karena Evans, herself aged 23. This is relevant content, edgy, gamified and immersive. It drops at 6pm every Sunday and you only have 6 hours to interact with it before it disappears forever (thus driving traffic to the app on a Sunday, apparently one of the key nights for swiping on Tinder as another crap weekend passes and you think ‘OK, I need a date/life”!)

Up Your Game

What can we all learn from that? Well simply that good is not good enough. If Tinder wants to hold Gen Z users, they have to up their game, have to give them more than a basic ‘swipe’ product. This is about adding experiential layers to the core product, adding additional value over expectations. Every business needs to do this to stay relevant. Incremental experiential value allows a consumer to talk about your business or brand.

4. Collaborative

Another reason I think ‘Swipe Night’ is a genius idea is that the decision you make during your immersive experience (tell Graham’s girlfriend that he is cheating on her OR cover for him”) are shown afterwards on your dating profile. So now, prospective partners can see how you played the game, the decisions you made and have an insight, dare I say it, into your morals!

Apparently this caused havoc on Week 1, where users were unaware their decisions were auto posted to their profiles. The ‘I value honesty’ statement in their profile didn’t really cut it when their “cover for Graham’ decision was then clearly shown!

This is a collaborative experience. Not only do you dictate your experience by your decisions, as a group of users, the decisions you made become the starting point for conversations with those who you match with. The algorithm can then match those who have chosen similar decisions during game-play. This creation of collaborative community is a key value for the modern consumer.

Look for ways in your business that you can invite the user in, to be part of the product and not just an end-user. Get them to story-tell and share, to not just consumer but co-create. Seeing your customer at the ‘end’ of a customer journey is a mistake. They are at the centre. Collaborate.

5. Easy

This last one isn’t a commentary on those using the app, but rather on intuition and frictionless.

The ‘swipe right for yes, left for no’ quickly became an adopted norm across many platforms. I don’t know if Tinder actually were the first to invent it, but they were certainly the one to globalize it. The app is so intuitive to use and highly addictive (once you get over the immorality and impersonal nature of throwing away humans and people’s actual faces like brushing spilled sugar from a table top.)

If you have never used the app, I suggest you download it for an anthropological experiment. Seriously. You can just direct your partner to this blog when you get caught! Watch how easy it is to use, how addictive it is to peer through the essence of humanity. It brings out the curious in us all. But most of all marvel at how simply it works. All the hard algorithm work happens in the background and all you have to navigate is a user friendly visual front-end.

Be an Easy Lover (Phil Collins was right)

What can you learn from this? Every aspect of your own customer journey needs to be this easy. Look for friction points for customers. Is everything easy? Is it all one-touch, one-swipe, one-step? Is it visual and easy? Does it make customers curious to engage further? If anything is clunky, awkward or difficult your customer will leave, and may never be back. You might not get a 2nd date…

So, who knew that we could learn so much from Tinder?

  • Build your business around the customer.
  • Get personal. Deliver on everything instantly.
  • Make it easy.
  • Build a better product and service through collaboration. Invite them in.
  • Above all make it an experience.

An experience that adds more value over the norm and keep changing what those added value experiences are (remember our modern consumers have low attention spans).

To finish, here is one of my favourite examples of continuous improvement. Tired of spending their nights swiping for the ideal girl, a few mates invented the below. It was on kick-starter as a product you could invest in for a while.

It’s called the Tinder Finga – you simply plug it into your phone, and it does all the hard work for you! Sit back, have a beer and see who you get matched with. It’s like date roulette I guess! Love it.

For more inspiration on disruption and new consumer behaviours, subscribe to my blog. For dating advice, best to go elsewhere (although if my mother is to be believed, always cut your nails, shine your shoes and wear clean underwear… unsure if those three things are related, answers on a postcard please 🙂

Ken Hughes is now acknowledged as being one of the world’s leading authorities on consumer and shopper behavior, blending his understanding of consumer & cyber psychology, digital anthropology, behavioral economics and retail futurology to explore the needs of the new consumer and predict the changes to come.

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Ken Hughes, known as The King of Customer Experience on the International Conference Circuit, studies emerging consumer behaviour and helps businesses and brands establish deeper and more relevant connections with their customers.

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