With only 6 weeks to go until YMS LDN 18 we chat to one of our panel speakers, Match.com's VP of Northern Europe, Abbie Oguntade about being innovative in the youth marketing world.
Innovation is something that all companies want to be seen to be driving - who stands out as doing it really well right now?
Tesla remains a very forward-thinking brand. Theirs is a broad world vision, with huge ambitions running alongside that. They acknowledge the need to work backwards to realise those ambitions, rather than taking a running jump in to the future – it’s innovation with a roadmap, not simply feet in the air stuff.
Amazon is also revolutionising the shopping experience for customers, having recently opened the first ever Amazon Go store, which is powered by AI. This is a perfect example of bridging the gap between the online world and real life, driven by a predominantly online brand, which is something that we try to do at Match by rolling out a dedicated events programme alongside our online matchmaking.
On a slightly different note, Facebook’s recent announcement on prioritising Community/ Peer to Peer feeds was a bold move; it has certainly invigorated the debate on technology’s role in the nurturing of human connections.
What inspired Match.com to do something truly innovative and different when launching Lara?
Online dating has revolutionised relationships and it is the largest single way people meet in the UK today. However, we recognise that modern lives are complicated and making the first move isn’t easy. At Match, we are constantly looking to offer additional support to our singles and Lara is designed to give them a better user experience and make it easier to find compatible, quality partners. She has become their virtual ‘wing woman’, providing a direct route to matchmaking.
How do you make sure that there’s that emotional and human element to a chat bot?
We have a dedicated team that has worked hard to ensure that Lara is as human as possible, using colloquial language which deems her approachable to members. A combination of the latest artificial intelligence, voice recognition and machine learning technology, enables Lara to understand and respond to conversations either through chat or speech. She continues to improve her vocabulary, understanding and recommendations by learning from every interaction that she has with our members.
What other brands are using AI well and at the same time really engaging with their audience?
L’Oréal is a great example of this. As a brand, it is not simply using technology for technology’s sake but instead, really enhancing the customer experience. It is delivering a customised, tailored approach to cosmetic choice, which is what consumers demand in today’s society.
What insights can you give us into dating trends today?
People are increasingly time poor. We live in a digital world and people want something that can help them find love ‘on the go’, which is why Lara has been such a success. AI and VR are definitely making waves in the dating game, impacting the different ways in which we connect.
Nothing can replace the value of real life connections, however. In today’s society, dating is all about striking the right balance. Whilst Match is an online brand, we work hard to retain that human connection amongst our members. One of our latest product innovations is Flower Flash, which aims to bridge the gap between singles’ virtual and real dating lives, by giving members an opportunity to send a free bouquet of real life flowers to their crush on 14th February via our platform.
We want to encourage people to communicate offline as well, which is why we continue to enhance our extensive nationwide events program.
What trends are you seeing when it comes to young people’s tech and digital habits?
Of course, smartphones are nothing new, but a trend that is becoming more apparent is that the dwell time on these devices is increasing. Young people are spending up to 20 hours a week glued to their screens – that equates to nearly a whole day. But brands shouldn’t be fooled. This doesn’t mean that millennials will be likely to consume everything in their path. On the contrary, they are becoming ever more selective. They spend their days multi-tasking, often scanning more than one device at the same time, meaning brands must work ever harder to cut through.
Millennials value experiences. They want relatable content that is unique to them rather than being bombarded. Online dating has transformed the way in which singletons interact with each other. However, to capture the attention of our younger members, we need to keep things current, which is why we are committed to the latest product innovations, such as Lara Bot and Flower Flash, all of which are tailored to making things simpler and more engaging for our members.
And finally a few fun questions…
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
It is incredibly hard to pinpoint one moment. For me, change is the most exciting part of it. Things are constantly evolving and it’s enlightening to see that journey, for both your company and your customers.
Favourite app? Why?
I’m a big fan of Instagram. It’s such a versatile app and allows you to share real time experiences with family and friends from wherever you are in the world. It’s also great for exploring new places and trying out new things.
Something few people know about you?
I’m an avid photographer; I’m always snapping away in my spare time, which explains my love of Instagram I imagine.
What are you most looking forward to at YMS?
I’m really looking forward to the chance to discuss how to balance change and innovation with the traditional principles of marketing. Change is one of the most important elements of the marketing industry and AI has taken it to the next level. At Match, we are committed to providing a balance for our members. All our innovations, including Lara’s AI qualities, have been introduced to enhance the customer experience but we are also keen to ensure that we are facilitating those all-important face to face connections, which is why we have rolled out a comprehensive Events programme.
We have also recently launched a toolkit designed to make sure singles have a seamless experience when looking to start new relationships in 2018. Lara, originally a simple dating bot to help members navigate the registration process, has evolved in to a virtual dating coach, using artificial intelligence and natural language understanding to offer advice. In addition, members can now access music on their profiles, designed to be used as an icebreaker so they can share their favourite music to start a conversation.
All of this combines to help us succeed in our mission to support singles in their age-old quest for love.
Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn’t?
People often ask me how Match is able to keep members and retain its status as one of the leading online dating companies when faced with competition from others, some of which are free.
The secret to our success is to continually refresh our offering, responding to the demands of young people. We recognise that modern lives are complicated and making the first move isn’t easy, so we have recently launched a new campaign under the banner of Little Details, Great Stories. We want to get back to basics, encouraging members to look beyond a profile picture and get to know the little details and personal interests which can make a lasting connection.
See Abbie on 'Emotive Digital: humanising technology and content' panel on Wednesday 21st March at 2.35pm at YMS.