Even as pandemic restrictions ease, people are still using online dating apps to seek relationships. According to The Knot, online dating was the most popular way to meet a spouse, where 22% of newlywed respondents said they met their partner online, while 19% met through friends and 17% met through work — and that was in 2019.
Today, there are over 5,000 dating apps worldwide, with 2,500 operating in the U.S. alone. But these sheer usage numbers don’t tell the whole story. Users are craving for full-featured dating apps that not only offer tools to chat, but also features that really engage them to drive meaningful conversations.
Here’s one statistic that encompasses the need for “something more” than just texting: Tinder users are exchanging more than 4.2 Million GIFs per week. This is a loud-and-clear signal from dating app users saying “give us more!” in terms of features that actually engage them.
But, as far as dating app development is considered, how do you increase user engagement in a way that keeps them coming back for more? That’s what we will cover in this article.
How to Increase Engagement and User Retention In Dating Apps
Before we go through our dating site feature list, let’s review what typically happens when someone starts using a dating app.
First, they fill out their profile and upload a few photos of themselves.
Second, they start searching for matches based on their location, preferences and interests.
Once they match with someone who has potential, they find a way to connect and engage with that match. This is where your dating app can shine with a full featured chat with voice, and video calling functionality.
Rather than dry SMS text messaging, full featured chat with rich media and social media integrations is a great way to keep your users engaged and connected with their potential matches, whether they are looking for a long-term relationship or a casual hook-up.
Even when your users do engage, there’s still the challenge where they exchange phone numbers to take their conversation off your platform — or worse, letting their conversations fizzle out.
To keep them on your platform, you’ll want to offer the best dating app features that actually drive engagement. Other than a full featured chat, you could offer in-app games to keep things fun and lively enough to get your users to want to stay in your app. You could also offer functionality that allows them to exchange voice notes or initiate video chat sessions without leaving the app.
To enable these, you’d need a voice and video calling API to integrate those functionalities into your app. CometChat offers a safe, secure, and feature-rich voice and video chat API that keeps users coming back for more.
7 Dating App Features that Spark Connections Between Users
Apart from the obvious candidates such as geolocation, preference-based filtering, privacy and security safeguards, there are top dating app features that specifically aim to increase user-to-user engagement.
In this section, we listed some features of a dating app that boost engagement, as well as how they work, plus examples and if available, API options you can explore.
1. Gamified User Profiles
Being at the top of any dating site feature list, a user profile is an essential part of any dating app. It typically contains some basic information, such as gender, age, location, a catchy tagline to show some personality, a list of interests, and a few photos. However, as we have seen with countless dating apps and platforms, basic user profiles alone have minimal impact on user engagement, if at all.
Your dating app can go even further by helping your users make their own profiles more interesting and creative in a way that helps their individual personalities shine through.
Gamification helps do that. Bumble’s ideas include adding intriguing questions and conversation starters. And matches that would disappear in 24 hours if the user doesn’t start a chat with them.
Tinder’s idea is to provide users with a limited number of “super likes” that bump their own profile to the top of their super-liked user’s account. Super likes can even be monetized by giving users the option, or a subscription plan, to purchase more when they run out.
2. In-app Chat and Messaging
Although text messaging is critical to a dating app, users are hungry for full-featured chat such as voice notes, video messages, image filters. It makes chat less dry and more fun, which helps build better connections between users, increasing the chance of relationships in real life.
For images and filters, you can use the Imgix Management API to enable your users to add and manage photos, and the Rendering API to enable image filters.
3. Ice breakers
Even when a match is made, it doesn’t mean that users will initiate the first conversation on their own. The reason is, for many people, it can be intimidating to make the first move.
This is where ice breakers come in.
To get your dating app to succeed and compete with the industry giants in terms of app engagement and retention, you’ll want to give them some easy conversation starters such as trivia and rapid-fire questions to break the ice.
eHarmony’s Ice Breakers
For example, eHarmony uses an image-based Icebreaker Feature in their app for both basic and premium members, allowing them easy ways to break the ice or keep conversations going.
Tinder also uses cue cards called Prompts including “Two truths and a lie”, “I’m talking to my pet about _____” and other casual questions that prompts matches to fill in, giving users a sneak peak into their lives.
Icebreakers are increasingly becoming one of the best dating app features, so don’t forget to include some light and charming icebreakers when building your dating app.
4. Voice and Video Calling
Voice and video calling features, with filters, allows users to move beyond text chat into something more personal and intimate, and also provides your app with a monetization opportunity by making this a paid premium feature.
CometChat provides a secure and full-featured voice, text, and video API to integrate within your dating app based on the platform, SDK, or framework of your choosing.
5. Smart Push Notifications
Push notifications are a major driver for user retention. These are among the most essential dating app features not only for alerting users when they get a message from a potential match, but also bringing users back to your app and keeping them there.
OneSignal offers a fast and reliable API enabling push notifications for both web and mobile apps.
6. In-app Games
To keep your users engaged and keep their conversations going without them moving off your app, it’ll take more than a few ice breakers and full-featured chat or video calling.
Enter in-app games.
Because in-app games don’t often show up on dating site feature lists, this is where you can get creative. You can test some ideas with a small part of your user base, and roll out the winners among the rest of your users.
To help inspire some ideas, here are a couple of successful examples:
Bumble’s Night In
While people were social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bumble created the Night In feature that lets users play in-app games while on a virtual date.
Although virtual dates can never match the intimacy of in-person dates, users have reported using the app more and being less awkward on virtual dates.
Many Tinder users reported spending 10 hours a week swiping and getting so many matches while looking for someone better. Overwhelmed with so many choices, they often end up with nobody.
To solve this “swipe fatigue” problem, Crown created a gamification feature where users get a limited selection of curated matches at noon daily. What’s more, Crown lets users “crown the winners” (hence the app name), narrowing them down to a manageable selection of profiles.
7. Social Media Integrations
To make user profiles feel more real and authentic, your dating app would do well to integrate with popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
However, it's important to understand that this isn’t just to pull in some personal data and extra photos from Facebook profiles into your app. Social media integrations can be used to authenticate your users, preventing the proliferation of fake profiles that have plagued other online dating platforms such as Tinder and OKCupid.
Besides authentication, social media integrations provide your users with the opportunity to develop connections based on mutual connections and shared interests.
Each social media platform offers its APIs that dating app developers can use to integrate into their own app:
- Facebook offers the HTTP-based Graph API to allow your app to interact with Facebook.
- Spotify also offers a web API to help you integrate their functionality within your dating app, allowing users to match based on music interests.
- Instagram offers a Basic Display API via Facebook that allows your app to display profile information, photos, and videos from your user’s Instagram profiles.
These are just a few API options out of many social media integrations available. Nearly every social media platform has API instructions for developers.
A dating app that gets traction with enough users to be profitable is difficult to develop. It requires both high user engagement and high user retention. Fortunately, there are limitless ways to get creative with features that spark engagement and nurture budding connections that could result in relationships in real life.
We’ve just listed the best dating app features to hopefully jog your creativity and inspiration. You may even build a feature that nobody has thought of and yet hits the ball out of the park!
If you’re ready to start building your own dating app do check out this guide. It talks about everything you need to know to get started.
If you’re ready to integrate chat into your dating app, sign up to our developer dashboard and get started right away, for free..
About the Author
Nabeel Keblawi, a deaf entrepreneur, runs a Content Marketing and SEO agency that helps B2B SaaS companies grow organically in their industries around the world. His previous work experience involved software development, renewable energy, and cloud computing. In his personal life, Nabeel loves to go hiking with his family, and dust off his skis to hit the slopes given the chance. He is also an avid reader of fictional history.