In the wake of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, matrimonial websites rolled their sleeves to harp onto online matchmaking. We take a look at the online matrimonial sites' wedding marketing strategy during the pandemic.
Matrimonial websites witnessed around a 30-40% increase in traffic with higher user engagement from the metro and non-metro cities during the lockdown last year. While working from home and for home, the eligible lots found more time at hand and looked for perfect partners online. With insight from the companies, we analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, the matrimonial websites' wedding marketing strategy and the way forward.
The pandemic impact
Considering the virtual nature, Shaadi.com claims to have seen a limited impact on the business. The engagement on the platform is up 30-50% year on year, depending on the metrics wherein it also witnessed a 35-40% uptick in new members signing up.
Although a large section of industries got severely impacted by the pandemic, online matrimonial sites saw a surge and clocked in new users. The pandemic served as an opportunity in disguise for the players in the category to up their ante and get more users to succeed in their efforts to finding the perfect partner- all virtually and maintaining the ‘6 feet ki doori’.
“User behaviour remains the same for most people in the early stages of searching, shortlisting, initiating conversations, etc., with no impact of the pandemic,” shares Sumeet Singh, CMO, Info Edge India Ltd. He also adds that Jeevansathi.com is equipped to support these users with the Voice & Video calling features & regular Milan Samaroh (virtual meet-and-greet) events.
During the testing times, the online matrimonial websites ensured that they were at work seamlessly transitioning and enabling an uninterrupted experience for all our users as the consumption grew in double digits.
To overcome some of the challenges, BharatMatrimony.com strengthened the leadership team and leveraged AI and analytics to enhance the product. It too harped onto the Video calling feature trend along with a few like ‘HomeWeddings’ to help couples get married with all wedding services delivered at home.
Lockdown Trends in online matchmaking
With quarantine and subsequently work from home options, young professionals suddenly found more personal time to rethink life and start the search for a partner. “Even those who had delayed marriage until then, because they were busy with their career, registered online and since they were with family during the lockdown, it was easier to collaborate with family and take the conversations forward,” informs Rajasekar KS, GM – Marketing, Matrimony.com.
Jeevansathi.com observed that overall there is an uptick of 60% in the number of users using the video calling feature. While virtual weddings gained the spotlight during the pandemic, wherein the entire ceremony happens at home and guests attend via video conferencing, a survey by Jeevansathi.com suggested that young Indians still prefer the conventional way of tying the knot, albeit with limited guests.
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The age of social distancing has led to more and more Indians to come forward and communicate with prospects over virtual coffee dates. The survey showcased a growing affinity towards virtual meetings amongst men & women to search for their life partners. Overall, three-fourths of the respondents agreed that virtual meetings can replace physical meeting for knowing each other.
Adhish Zaveri, Senior Director, Marketing, Shaadi.com asserts, “Connecting virtually - we launched Shaadi Meet, our video calling service during the lockdown and saw about 50,000 calls being made on Day 1 and a few hundred thousand calls being made every week since then. We also saw increased traction in our registrations and engagement from Tier II & III towns which grew at twice the rate as compared to Tier I cities.”
Marketing ‘Shaadi’ during the lockdown
Zaveri thinks the big call at that time was if they should stay invested in marketing or should hold-back till the situation improves. The company decided to stay invested and act with empathy.
According to Shaadi.com, they were the first ones to offer free membership to its members during the lockdown period. It also launched a service called Weddings From Home, where it organized virtual weddings for anyone who had their Shaadi planned during the lockdown but couldn’t get married then.
It was followed by the launch of the Shaadi Meet campaign promoting its video calling feature to help the user connect with their potential matches.
On the other hand, Jeevansathi.com’s Milan Samaroh event, which is an online Meet and greet event facilitated a number of virtual meet-ups in this period. This event allows users to interact with hundreds of other users who are online at the same time and helps accelerate their search process. Singh believes that this change is here to stay and will be the new normal.
Meanwhile, Matrimony.com enhanced it’s marketing investment, optimised TV spend and leveraged digital. During the pandemic, it saw a 30% increase in registrations.
The company also rolled out BharatMatrimony ‘Prime’ - a membership service that offers 100% ID-verified profiles and “Who Can See Me” feature that gives members complete control of who can see their profile and contact them. In its slew of offerings, it also added the “SecureConnect™” which helps members receive calls from prospects without revealing their mobile number.
Social Media to the rescue
When the offline production took a hit, spends were diverted in large amount towards digital where the social media activations formed a crucial part of the marketers’ guide to coping up from the challenges of the pandemic.
BharatMatrimony.com conducted ‘Perfect Match’ webinars, curated branded videos on OTT, carried out intensive social media marketing during IPL and even product explainer videos.
Rajasekar elaborates that the platform turned on it’s social engagement besides brand integrations on Alright platform through “Rishta Pakka Samjhe” and ‘Marrying Your Crush”.
“We did refreshing creatives on the quarantine/ lockdown experience, branded videos, and rode the IPL wave with a #PerfectMatch campaign that achieved a reach of over 20 million users,” he adds.
‘The Perfect Match’ webinar was organised live on Facebook with actor Madhavan and more like getting onboard relationship experts to help people ask the right questions when choosing a prospective life partner.
When asked about Jeevansathi.com’s stance from the lenses of social media, Singh comments that the brand identified a need to enhance and contextualize its presence on social media, the most relevant medium for younger audiences consuming topical content. The communication strategy was changed and content was streamlined into webinars and influencer marketing.
A series of webinars were held in the first few months of the pandemic under the name Jeevansathi Live Gupshup, through which it reached out directly to the users which were followed by curating snippets to reach out to a larger set of people.
#PerfectSathi with the celebrity couple Debina & Gurmeet, and a Punjab focused campaign with popular singer-actor Parmish Verma are some of the key influencer marketing campaigns from the brand.
In addition to the above, the brand has been increasingly framing social media content around it’s industry-first product features like Video calling & video profiles. On a lighter note, the brand also jumped in on globally trending ‘Lockdown games’ like Quarantine Bingo, This or That, etc.
“All of these initiatives have led to more than 50% jump in Jeevansathi's follower base on Instagram during this period!” Singh exclaims.
Shaadi.com’s Weddings from home initiative was entirely driven through social media. The brand shared invites online and the couples, in turn, shared the invites via Whatsapp with their family and friends. They live-streamed the weddings on Facebook, with virtual make up tutorials to live performances with sangeet singers.
Zaveri highlights that Facebook and Instagram helped drive maximum value for the brand. With campaigns like Weddings From Home, Shaadi Meet, #FastForHer, #TakeThePressureOff, April Fool’s – Pet Shaadi, Shaadi.com envisioned to bring in positive sentiments around online matchmaking amidst the chaos while amplifying the messaging through digital media.
Post-COVID world – Matchmaking Trends
The brand custodians assert that the virtual ways of meeting prospects is definitely a trend that is here to stay. They also expect that Tier II and Tier III markets to get even stronger – with digital adoption booming and on account of young people going back to their hometown considering the possibility of companies allowing a permanent work from home setup. Businesses will rethink customer experiences and embrace emerging technologies like AI, cloud will be increasing critical for businesses.
While weddings may have been scaled down/postponed, matrimony SEARCH has not been hugely impacted by COVID. Rohan Mathur, Business Head, Jeevansathi.com shares that the platform revenue this wedding season is back to pre-COVID levels.
“However, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of product innovations in the virtual space, and the power of social media,” he concludes.