eHarmony’s “Free Communication” Marketing and UI Fail

Posted By Debbie on October 4, 2010

I’m single. Sometimes, I try dating sites. He’s out there somewhere, right?

In early October 2010, eHarmony ran one of their “Free Communication” promotions. I saw a TV commercial, and I figured this would be 10 day’s free usage of eHarmony. Well, why not.

I got to the site and reactivated my account. It started sending me matches. As I opened them up to look, I noticed that there were no photos. Call me crazy, but I think one of the main aspects of determining if you feel attracted to someone would be what they look like. Also, the promo period is only free for “guided” communication, which is where you ask and answer mostly canned questions eHarmony offers you. If you want to write to someone freely, you’ll have to pay.

Yes, I had imagined I would communicate AND see photos. I contacted customer support and found out that you can only see photos if you (re)join and pay the member fees. This is my favorite sentence from the form email:

We feel that it is important for all of our members to be equally engaged and invested in the service before moving forward into viewing pictures and communicating.

So, evidently, I’m just not committed enough… to eHarmony. I need to be “more engaged and invested,” and the only way for me to show that is with a valid credit card. That sentence says, “Our members come to this site, mess around, and aren’t really interested in a serious dating process. This is how we’ve decided to weed out the serious ones.”

This is a marketing fail as well as a user interface fail. I am not sure who decided this would work. I’m sure they will get some subscribers from it, but people have memories. They will remember the time you dangled steaks in front of them, got them to pay, and now it’s time to pay again… and if it’s time to pay again, and you’re still single, you’re going to feel like it didn’t work.

Decide carefully what steaks you want to dangle. I’ve been off eHarmony for about 6 months. If they want me back, they’d need to show me that they have the caliber of person I’d want to meet. I can’t really decide that without seeing some pictures. That’s the steak they should have dangled. Then, if I wanted to communicate outside the pre-fab questions, I have to be a member. Well, by then, you would have hooked me because I want to email with that guy. They picked the wrong time to give me the option to disconnect.

eHarmony should also consider what’s going on over at OKCupid. They’re doing quite well, and they have a freemium model. eHarmony should also remember that nobody is exclusive to an online dating site. Guys they matched me with these were guys I ran into on Chemistry.com. Guys I saw on Match.com months ago, I’ve already seen on OKCupid this month. Anybody serious about online dating will be on multiple sites. I’ll find those guys somewhere else, and probably for free.