OPW -- May 25, 2007 -- I’ve yet to see online services successfully integrate traditional matchmaking services. They need to. They’re leaving money on the table. Users want choice AND service, and are willing to pay for it. Actually, the nearest I’ve seen so far is the MyPartnerPerfect.com service which will go live in the next few hours. It’s niche targeted at the gay male population. I know The Right One/Together Dating is looking for online partners now. Here’s my interview with Jason Tian, who has been quietly pioneering an online/offline amalgamation of services in China with Baihe.com, the eHarmony of China. I conducted four video interviews at the Asian internet dating and social networking conference. Here’s the first one. Click on the image to play the video. - Mark Brooks
Can you tell me more about your new pricing system and matchmaking services?
At first we wanted to allow the user free profiling and free search or free match. But if they want to communicate they need to upgrade to a membership. That's what we needed to understand. But after we tried it for 9 months we found it very difficult to work in China because there are some people who want to pay but the percentage is much lower than in the U.S.
We found that users pay a lot for offline matchmakers. They pay thousands of U.S. dollars. So want to combine the off line and online. When we changed the pricing model we also hired some matchmakers. They interview the customers and do identity verification and recommend matches. But compared with the offline matchmakers, we have a very large online user base and can provide more high quality matches to them.
With the online model the users are reluctant to pay 30 RMB ($4) a month but for this offline model they will pay up to 30,000 RMB ($4,000). So our average pricing is 5,000 RMB ($700) per user.
After 3 to 4 months of service, 30% to 40% of our web users find somebody they want to stay with for at least several months and there are many couples that get married. So we deliver a high service with a high success rate and privacy protection and the users feel they are well treated. So that's why the users want to pay us.
But the difficulty for us is making it scalable. You can have good love consultants but how to manage hundreds of love consultants and still deliver service at a common standard. So we built a training program and a CRM system and we have an independent QA team. By the end of this quarter we will have established the majority of the services and infrastructure, including the IT system, the training system, the people system and some of the branding. So that's our new model. Of course, I think there is a gap. We need to develop a medium tier. So that's what we want to try.
What is your regular online pricing?
Current pricing online is zero but they can upgrade to 1,000 RMB ($140), which allows them to use the matching system. A self service system. Then there's the gold membership, which is 3,600 RMB ($500). Our consultants will recommend the matches to them. Then there is a platinum service around 7,000 RMB ($1000) for the users have very high requirements. The highest price is something like a headhunters service. They pay 30,000 RMB ($4,000) and we will help them find someone. If we cannot do it in one year, we will return 2/3's of the fee. So that's our current pricing scheme but I think we can have something between that zero and the 1,000 RMB. Maybe 100 RMB. I think a mid tier service will attract more users and will be more scalable.
How do users communicate with the matchmakers?
The majority of the communication happens through the telephone and at the beginning we may interview them face to face.