October 23, 2013

Digital dating: Online’s share of the romance market

The Internet has disrupted just about every consumer market it’s touched, with many people deciding it’s easier, faster and/or cheaper to find what they need online than in brick-and-mortar stores. That dynamic is at work as well in the “market” for love and romance.

According to a new Pew Research Center report, 11% of adult Americans have used a online dating site or mobile dating app. Two-thirds (66%) of those online daters have gone on dates with people they met through a dating site or app, up from 43% in a similar survey eight years ago. Nearly a quarter (23%) said they’d found a spouse or long-term romantic partner that way, statistically similar to the 17% who said they’d done so in the 2005 survey.

That trendline got us wondering: How does the “relationship market” compare to other online markets? As a start, consider that the Pew Research study¬†found that 5% of adult Americans met their current spouse or long-term partner somewhere online (the figure rises to 11% of those who’ve been together ten years or less). Though that includes more online venues besides dating sites, it yields an approximate online “market share” for the relationship market.

That share, interestingly, isn’t far off from online’s overall share of retail sales, which according to the Census Bureau was 5.75% in the second quarter of 2013 (up from 2.4% eight years ago).

But online market share varies considerably by product category: Market-research firm eMarketer.com estimates that while 21.8% of this year’s computers and consumer electronics sales will be made online, only 2.3% of food and beverage sales will be. By that standard, online dating nestles between health and personal care items (5.7%¬†online market share, according to eMarketer) and toys and hobby supplies (4%).

Topics: Internet Activities

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.

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