Eharmony's Love for Data Goes Beyond Dating; It's Good for Marketing, Too

Matchmaker Used In-house Campaign Attribution System to Reduce Marketing Spend

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Relationship seekers on Eharmony are typically viewed as more serious or conservative than those on, say, Tinder. The dating service, after all, promises long-term relationship and puts users through a lenghty sign-up process.

But that doesn't mean they don't indulge in a vice or two. For instance, the international service knows its date candidates outside the U.S. are more comfortable with being matched with someone who smokes cigarettes or drinks booze than its U.S. members, so it broadened its matching algorithms for overseas users. That tidbit was teased from terrabytes of data the firm analyzes not only to calibrate algorithms used to choose potential matches but also to determine how best to communicate with audiences around the world.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, which considers Zoosk, Match.com and ChristianMingle among its key competitors, said it will embark on an ambitious international expansion, aiming to add one new country to its roster each quarter.

The company spends around $80 million a year on marketing, and that's down from the $100 million Eharmony spent before it invested in its own custom attribution measurement system which helped the company spend more efficiently, according to CMO/COO Armen Avedissian.

Eharmony CEO and founder Neil Clark Warren
Eharmony CEO and founder Neil Clark Warren

"I think most of those attribution tools out there are flawed," said Mr. Avedissian. So, the firm built its own attribution system in-house, evaluating the 125 terrabytes of data it has stored in order to optimize media buys, how it communicates with people when the ads convert, and even what types of matches they see.

The firm spent around 2.5 years and $5 million to revamp its data infrastructure, a project led by Mr. Avedissian. He runs Eharmony's technology department and oversees a seven-person data analysis team. He added CMO to his COO title two years ago after Eharmony founder Neil Clark Warren returned to his previous CEO position and brought in new execs in the hopes of reversing a downturn at the dating site.

Eharmony uses that system to measure ROI of TV ads, for instance. The data team maps out overall lifetime value of a member, tracing the conversion back to the day, time and network an ad that drove that user to the site ran. That information comes from Eharmony's media agencies, and helps the firm see correlations between TV spots and spikes in site visits.

"You can see the bell curves on the site when they run," said Mr. Avedissian. "It's fairly sophisticated."

Now that the international dating service is more confident in its attribution measurement, it optimizes content shown to would-be matches accordingly.

Matchmaking algorithms themselves change, too, resulting in different pools of potential matches based on whether people arrived on the site via a mobile device, online, or after watching a television ad.

Did you click-through to Eharmony.com from a display ad? You're probably more open to a broader set of potential dates, according to the company's analysis. As for TV viewers, "They want a much tighter age range" and prefer to pair up with people closer to their homes, said Mr. Avedissian.

Mobile members tend to be more open-minded, too, so in addition to being served shorter questionnaires, they are exposed to a broader pool of people. Mr. Avedissian said mobile users have helped expand Eharmony's younger audience; its membership historically has been comprised mainly of 35-65 year-olds.

A Spanish-language site that's in the works should broaden Eharmony's registrant base, too. That offering will take into consideration special characteristics of Hispanic daters. "They take religion very seriously, different than others," said Mr. Avedissian.