How do you find a partner? Using a digital service like the dating platform OkCupid? Or a more traditional blind date? Ironically, the story behind the digital collaboration between OkCupid and the exercise rewards app Sweatcoin was a little closer to the latter.
Beginning with a mutual introduction, the digital collaboration transpired to be a match made in heaven. One hundred three-month subscriptions to OkCupid’s premium tier ‘sold out’ on Sweatcoin’s marketplace within 24 hours.
We spoke with Michael Kaye, Head of Global Communications at OkCupid, and Jessica Butcher MBE, CMO at Sweatcoin, to learn how this sell-out digital collaboration was formed.
A match made in heaven
OkCupid is a dating platform that connects millions of users based on questions. The questions offer a huge insight into its users which are used to match them with potential partners.
Its partner, Sweatcoin, is a free-to-download app that counts the steps of its users. In return for steps, it rewards exercise and healthy activity to accrue the in-app currency. Butcher gave the analogy: “Think Airmiles for steps.” The coins accrued can be exchanged in a marketplace for a range of different brand partners, products, and services.
As such, this digital collaboration was customer-led. OkCupid began with its vast data insights and customer listening. It chose a partner with a huge overlap in audience and ambition to co-create an experience for daters with a passion for walking.
Listening to the customer
OkCupid is built to connect its users. As such, it is inherently data-driven. The questions it asks its users power the algorithm that drives matches.
A secondary benefit is a wealth of opportunity for customer insights that can power brand strategy, as Kaye described.
“The more questions you answer, the better quality matches you have. One of the trends over the past summer was that daters opting for healthier date ideas. We asked, ‘Are health and wellness as important as attraction and chemistry when it comes to a partner?’”
“87% of around five million people on our app said that they enjoy exercising. And those who do were receiving more matches and likes. So, it just made sense for us to partner with an app that rewarded people for that type of activity as there was a huge overlap in audience.”
Moreover, this was a test for OkCupid to partner with another corporation and was the first digital collaboration based in the UK. It is an opportunity to be exposed to an audience that has opted-in and is receptive to hearing about brands. Presenting users with a free trial boosts subscriptions in the long term and begins drawing positive associations with a mutual audience. As the dating app’s marketing team matures, it is still looking to test new strategies and tactics.
Indeed, OkCupid has thousands of questions for users covering everything related to dating and relationships, but also everything that is top of mind for Gen Z and Millennials. From Black Lives Matter to climate change, and LGTBQ+ rights to more sober dates, it can track changes in customer attitudes over time. Thousands, if not millions, of questions, are supporting this strategy.
Choosing the right digital collaboration partner
Likewise, it was new waters for Sweatcoin, who was working with a dating partner for the first time. Its data-driven approach aligned with Sweatcoin’s business model.
Furthermore, Sweatcoin wishes to partner with brands that are received positively by its user base. It tracks which offers and deals gain the most engagement in-app. Sweatcoin augments this data-led approach with creative ideas, such as a premium trial with OkCupid.
Butcher emphasized that these ideas feed into word-of-mouth which is crucial for Sweatcoin.
“We are now at the growth stage of our business and have built an incredibly successful business primarily through word of mouth, referrals, and online influencers. It’s all story-based. We want to tell stories that have an impact.”
“It’s all great getting free stuff. But is it life-affirming or life-changing? How are we inspiring people to exercise and be healthier and happier? Is there anything more valuable in our lives than love? You can’t put a price on it. We put a Sweatcoin value on it though,” Butcher joked.
This overlap, alongside shared mission goals of the community and non-profit support, left both parties feeling a strong connection. The value of this digital collaboration has been driven by the mutual interests shared by both organizations. Embodying the goal of customer-led experiences and activations means finding a partner who shares this interest, Butcher explained.
“OkCupid is all about getting people to meet in the physical world. Sweatcoin is about getting people moving in the physical world. We are both tech enablers for real-world enjoyment.”
There is an irony in this digital collaboration stemming from a ‘blind date.’ A mutual acquaintance introduced Sweatcoin and OkCupid to one another. However, it was an instant match. The overlap in values facilitated a partnership where the biggest winner was the customer seeking incentives for exercise.
Creating a powerful experience
The approach of OkCupid and Sweatcoin is redefining the way brands can look at in-app marketing. In a world of digital marketing, the physical functionality of each company’s objectives is a compelling approach. Butcher argued this is because it puts the customer – not profits, ROI, or click-throughs – as the priority.
“So much of digital and app-based marketing is only profitable for the businesses involved, not the customer. The offers you see in these adverts or promotions only lead you to another digital product. They lead you to something else to sign up to or subscribe to.”
The digital collaboration between OkCupid and Sweatcoin allowed users to spend their coins on a limited number of three-month premium subscriptions. This took the ‘freemium’ model to the next level. Going beyond the free services available on the app, they now had access to a host of premium features.
“OkCupid has a freemium model,” Kaye explained. “You can download the app and have a completely free experience. But there are also tonnes of features behind paywalls that people always want to opt into. We wanted to give people the chance to experience these features for free.”
As such, Sweatcoin offered one hundred three-month OkCupid Premium subscriptions to its users. Fifty of these were in the UK, and fifty were in the US. These locations were selected as the two parties had a presence in each market.
The one hundred subscriptions were all claimed within the first 24 hours. Of these one hundred, two-thirds went on to redeem the offer. Nearly all of these went on to purchase the paid subscription having used the trial.
Gauging the performance of digital collaboration
When measuring the success of this digital collaboration, both parties looked to the appetite and speed for redemption. In the first trial, it was vital to gauge the popularity and confirm the insights from OkCupid’s research.
Whilst the speed of redemption was a clear sign of popularity amongst Sweatcoin’s audience, it was so quick that some secondary metrics such as exposure rates and click-through rates were less insightful. This will be a focus of future activations.
With both parties looking to benefit from an opt-in audience, communication had to be precise and calculated. The instinct of any marketing organization may have been to push in-app notifications and ensure awareness of the collaboration.
However, this approach would have risked alienating users from both applications.
“We don’t do a lot of app notifications. And we tend not to do newsletters either. Our priority is the fitness and health of our users. We don’t need to push out any of the products within the marketplace, because the product is designed so the consumer is motivated to go in themselves. When the app opens, the marketplace tab where sweatcoins can be redeemed for products automatically appears first. We have extremely high monthly or weekly active users, so we instead focus on making sure there are enough fresh prizes to hit upon different interests.” Jessica Butcher MBE, CMO, Sweatcoin
“Similarly, we do not inundate our users with too many in-app notifications. One notification might be too many and you lose that user for life. There’s no way to ever get them back again.” Michael Kaye, Head of Communications, OkCupid
Accordingly, OkCupid leaned more heavily into its social channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As a data-driven company, it has found its audience engages well with the insights gathered from the questions it asks. Following this trend, it used insights on exercising and walking-based dates in its social media copy.
Happily ever after
This was the first test between Sweatcoin and OkCupid. The near-immediate sell-out of subscriptions is a clear indicator that Sweatcoin’s captive audience will be eager for more offers that pave the way from exercise to their happily ever after.
Indeed, the spark is still there. Kaye and Butcher both shared their enthusiasm about the possibility of a second date.
“It’s clear we need to offer more subscriptions next time! We also discussed the possibility of further countries like Germany and Israel. The interest is there so now we can scale it up.” Michael Kaye, Head of Communications, OkCupid
“We want to have more fun with it. Yes, subscriptions are the most obvious way for us to leverage each other’s offerings. But we’re also considering creative ideas like providing walking date routes or walking to a coffee shop where you can buy a drink with the token you’ve earned.” Jessica Butcher MBE, CMO, Sweatcoin
Ideas such as this continue to put the customer first. Indeed, the latter idea would help solve the age-old conundrum of who pays on the first date. The practice will remain the same: Listen to your customer, work with a partner who does the same, and use your data insights to give the customer an experience that is profitable for them. For Sweatcoin and OkCupid, this digital collaboration means giving people who love to walk the chance to walk for love!
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