Tinder Is Rewiring E-Commerce, but Is It Right for You?

With over 100 million downloads, 50 million monthly users, and 1.4 billion swipes a day, Tinder has quickly become the go-to meeting place for the app generation. Through its fun, intuitive, and frankly addictive user interface, Tinder's simple "swipe right for yes, left for no" approach has earned it a place on mobile home screens around the world—not to mention a valuation of $1.35 billion. Tinderization is here!

While originally used for purely functional applications such as political polling (e.g. Voter) and recruitment (e.g. Jobr) sites, many such apps received criticism for their trivialization of complex issues. Where Tinderization really thrives today is in the marketing and e-commerce space.

Indeed as the popularity (and controversy) of Tinder has grown, many brands have started to copy the brand's simple yes-no interface for their own apps. This has kicked off a user experience and design phenomena, which has rapidly become known as Tinderization.

As unromantic as it may seem, if there's one thing that Tinder is truly good for, it's browsing. Tinderization offers the perfect platform for those brands with visual products that are likely to be bought based on snapshot details such as color, price, and aesthetic design. In this way, Tinderization has given retailers back something that was previously lost in the rush to get online—the ability to browse.

One of the biggest issues for online retailers is their inability to generate any real notion of serendipity. E-commerce sites are great at providing recommendations, accurate search results, and helping customers to find what it is that they're specifically looking for. What they struggle with, however, is re-creating the serendipity of a physical shopping experience.

Even e-commerce giants such as Amazon still struggle to provide an environment where customers can stumble upon goods that they've never even considered before—the "happy accidents" of a traditional Madison Avenue shopping spree.

With a Tinderized interface, however, swiping through products, choosing yes or no, is just about the closest thing a customer can get to wandering through the aisles of a physical store. Products brush past their eyes in a flash of color, without shipping details, abundant options, or endless reviews. Just a scroll of colors and deals occasionally grabbing a customer's gaze as they saunter from A to B.

This opportunity to reclaim the serendipity of Madison Avenue and supermarket browsing has resulted in an influx of fashion and retail brands looking to try their luck with their own Tinder designs. The online retailer Net-a-Porter has launched its own Tinderized app, allowing customers to browse the retailer's catalog and develop wish lists in a simple yes-no fashion. Similarly, Stylect has jumped on the trend with a swipe-based Tinder app for shoe shopping.

Even entirely new retail outlets have successfully launched off the trend, with the app-only Grabble promising to become the next "Tinder for fashion."

While it's all well and good for brands to jump on this trend while it's hot, we in marketing must also be wary of how such trends will impact the wider e-commerce industry as a whole. As one example, the move towards Tinderization could be seen as placing content marketing well and truly in the firing line.

Content marketing relies on a certain depth of information and customer experience. It relies on customers building slow yet strong relationships with particular products and brands. However, as any critic of the Tinder generation will tell you, the decision to swipe right instead of left is anything but a "relationship." Tinderization, like Tinder itself, is not about relationships, but rather about aesthetics and the gamified nature of the app itself. This approach is opposed to that of content marketing, placing short-term decision making ahead of nurturing long-term brand loyalty.

As such, marketers who embrace Tinderization should be wary not to undermine their own relationship building efforts. The Tinder interface provides an amazing user experience, but user experience is not necessarily enough. Brands must also look to cultivate their customers' opinions, offering more than just a list of swipe-able products. Content marketing remains a vital part of that cultivation process. With a solid content and product database in your back end, you can build real relationships and focus on developing an interface that really works for you and your customers.


Youtse Sung is the senior manager of global marketing programs at Episerver.

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