Swipe shopping: retail lessons from a dating app

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Last week, we were at Web Summit in Dublin listening to a talk from Tinder CEO Sean Rad about dating. What does that have to do with retail trends you might ask?

Well it got us thinking, if a dating app like Tinder can edit its algorithms to increase the number of matches by 30%, based only on whether its users have swiped yes or right, imagine what fashion retailers can do with all of the information they have about their customers.

Speaking at this year’s WebSummit, CEO Sean Rad said the edit will help users make “more sense of the sheer volume of people around you and build deeper connections”.

Although Rad says the company is constantly tweaking the app, this will be “the most significant change” it has made yet. It’s not clear how Tinder will do this, but it’s possible that it has improved its matching technology, meaning users are much more likely to see profiles they will want to match with.

While Rad wouldn’t reveal how many users the dating app currently has, he did reveal some extraordinary metrics on Tinder’s use. There are, he said, 1.5m real-life dates taking place between Tinder users every week, with one million of those being a first dates. Over half of all first dates end in a second date.

Web Summit reminded us that if you were to apply this kind of logic to the fashion industry, the possibilities are endless.

One retailer using data well is ThirdLove, which uses data to finesse bra size and fit. Customers fit themselves by taking two pictures using the smart phone, and the size data gleaned from that is used to suggest the correct product, and also ensure that it is buying the right volumes of each size of product.

Meanwhile, Google data analyst Olivier Zimmer said that the company is using search data to help its customers make better decisions about fashion trends. By looking at search demand patterns, geographic data, and co-search behaviour, Google is able to get a sense of what trends are taking off.

“You look at small changes in behaviour and then see how they link together to represent broader shifts in consumer behaviour. For instance, you see the increase in interest in athleisure products, and then the rise in health food and exercise and all of that fits into the macrotrend of people being keen to be healthier,” he said.

But, despite data being able to predict more of what we do, it’s unlikely that computers will replace design teams.

“The core of the brand has to be an authentic person, make that known to your customer. You can’t do that without personality – it can’t just come from data,” said ThirdLove co-founder Heidi Zak.

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