Interview: happn’s Head of Trends Talks Modern Dating and User Privacy

happn is the first mobile dating app to use real-time geolocation to help users discover people they’ve crossed paths with in real life.

The app currently has almost 50 million users around the world and operates in 50 major cities spread across 40 countries.

It recently unveiled ‘invisible’ mode, for singles who want their profiles to be hidden when they are at work or around friends.

In a statement about Facebook’s entry, the company has said: “The interest that Facebook showed in dating by announcing a new dedicated development is a strong signal that characterizes the maturity which the sector has reached and its relevance within digital services.

“We are surprised by the timing Facebook has chosen to announce its new ambition to enter the dating space given the controversy that has recently surrounded the company, and the fact that what is related to dating and interpersonal relationship is strictly intimate and private.”

Here, GDI catches up with Head of Trends Claire Certain to talk 2018, big data and compatibility.

Read the full interview here:

How has the start of 2018 been at happn? What have been the highlights so far?

CC: “2018 has been a great start for us! We announced a few updates to the app by introducing a new timeline and a new “invisible mode” that allows users to hide their profile from other users they cross paths with during certain times. For example, you do not necessarily want to crush with your colleagues or clients! In that scenario, it is now possible to be “invisible” from others during weekdays, from 8am to 8:30pm for example.

As the app grows we pride ourselves on listening to our users’ feedback and always aim to better the app so expect more exciting additions soon!

From a marketing perspective, we’ve conducted extensive research to give us deeper insight into modern dating trends. Armed with that knowledge, we are able to blend the real and digital to create a deeper experience for our users. We also had a great Valentine’s Day partnership with SKYN condoms where we created a bot which helped users create a much more insightful profile.”

Do you think singles’ attitudes towards dating apps are changing in 2018? What impact, if any, will the Facebook data scandal have?

CC: “Mobile dating is now becoming increasingly normalized, it offers people connections which otherwise might not have happened.

Millennials are hyper connected and online dating is booming everywhere across the globe, from Latin America to Australia, the U.S. to India and Western Europe. This clearly demonstrates that our mobile footprint and the weight of mobile usage have definitely influenced the way those who are born with mobile technology like to date – beyond culture, religious belief, origins or tradition.

As an example, happn operates across 40 countries in the world. The product is the same everywhere (same design, features and user experience) and above all, it’s successful everywhere!

What is common in urban areas though, and the main reason for the surge in popularity of dating apps and websites, apart from the rise of the digital and mobility era, is that the daily rhythm of our lives, especially in big cities.  We have such fast paced lives that often we are deprived of the opportunity to get to know people around us and that’s where we can help.

When it comes to data and the recent Facebook scandal we have been largely unaffected. With the introduction of GDPR in the UK in May, although we already comply with the applicable legislation in both France (where happn is headquartered) and Europe, one of the key things we are currently working on is becoming even more transparent with our customers, in order to explain how we use their data to ensure the best service for them.

Regarding our sign-up process with Facebook Connect, we would like to emphasize that while the app does use certain details including first name, gender, age and profession to pre-fill a profile, users’ full names, email addresses, their current location and movement are never revealed.

Our users’ privacy and personal data are highly prioritized and we always make sure that they are completely safe. Therefore, we are keen on constantly improving our process and tools to maintain the best standards. As an example, we are regularly testing and auditing our IT infrastructure with the support of an external supplier.”

Didier Rappaport just told The National in the UAE that “You need to be competitive and aggressive to succeed and become global, and to convert enough users into paying users.” What gives happn the edge when it comes to expansion and conversion?

CC: “At happn we believe that chemistry is very mysterious and for that reason we don’t promise love, sex or any particular outcome from going on the app. It’s up to our users to use the app the way they want to and act upon their motivation. The rest and what you make of a chance depends on you.

happn is acting as a connection tool; our mission and promise to “Find the people you’ve crossed paths with” stands because we believe that what makes an encounter possible is being brought together by chance at the same place at the same time, at least once. That’s what we translate into the product and the design of the app thanks to a unique combination of hyper-localization and real time.”

One trend we’ve seen in the US is politics becoming more important to online singles. Is this something happn has noticed in Europe, or is there less of an impact?

CC:  “happn does not monitor our users’ conversations for privacy reasons. We also believe that political views should be private which is why we’ve never conducted any research around that subject and we cannot answer this question.”

What can we expect to see from happn over the next few months?

CC: “Currently happn counts almost 50 million users across the globe in 50 metro cities and 40 countries and as the app grows we will continue to pride ourselves on listening to our users’ feedback to anticipate their potential needs and improve their mobile experience to finally bring it to real life. In that context I can only tell you that you should expect more exciting additional features in 2018!”