In 2010, a TV dating program called “Feichengwurao” became a hit across China by introducing the famous model of “Take Me Out”. The success of the program also drove the online dating market. In 2011, the market size of online dating reached 980 million RMB and it is estimated that the size of online dating market would double in 2015.
The three largest online dating websites, including Jiayuan.com, baihe.com, and Zhenai.com, take over 70% of the total market. Back in 2006, only 5% of the Chinese population would consider online dating, but four years later, over 40% of people think online dating is quite acceptable. By 2011, official data shows that there are 180 single million adults. That is enough to make it a very very big market.
Threats and challenges
Leading online dating websites in China are facing growth crisis after several years of development because of the recession of PC clients business and the rise of mobile network business.
According to the web traffic data from Alexa, the traffic rank for jiayuan.com in the recent three months is 1,000th. Baihe.com, specializing on making friends with real-name registration, ranked 2,600th. Another large dating website Zhenai.com, aims at providing professional matchmaking services, ranked at around the 4,400th place globally. All the three largest online dating websites experienced a drop in the global traffic ranking compared with the ranking at the same period of last year.
Though the number of registered members reached 90 million, 60 million and 58 million on jiayuan.com, baihe.com and zhenai.com respectively, the number of active members has shrunk a lot. Within the third quarter of 2012, zhenai.com ranked first with 21 million hits, followed by jiayuan.com (20 million hits) and baihe.com (11 million).
In fact, the business model of online dating websites is almost the same as traditional offline matchmaking agencies. The registration process in traditional matchmaking agencies is to fill in a form, give related documents and being verified. Service fees or membership fees will be charged after the verification. Then the member will wait for the call from the agency. There is not much difference compared with the online dating websites, except that everything process is online. The profit model for these websites is to isolate both dating sides and charge a service fee. However, this closed model has restricted the growth of dating websites, while it has attracted some SNS websites. The real-name policy and higher user loyalty of SNS websites make it possible to limit the number of frauds to a great extent. Large social networks, such as Facebook, have already embedded related applications and earned millions of dollars through these apps. There is a tendency that domestic SNS would like to share the online dating market.
Under great pressure from competitors, online dating websites launched their own mobile applications two years ago as the number of mobile network users grows rapidly. Since there are several successful free social apps, it is difficult for the online dating websites to gain more users if their application products cannot be differentiated from the existing ones.
Besides developing mobile applications, baihe.com and zhenai.com also focused on the expansion of offline dating business. Zhenai.com owns a professional team of 2,000 matchmakers, offering one-on-one matchmaking service. This business model combines the traditional matchmaking agency model and the online platform. Baihe.com, on the other hand, defines itself as a consulting enterprise which could provide professional dating advice by setting up franchise stores in different cities attracting online users.