Here's one Christmas phenomenon Huff Post UK bets you didn't know about; the biggest days for online dating are between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, blamed on the pressures applied to singletons during festive family time.
More than a dozen dating sites were contacted by the Huffington Post UK site all said they experienced a spike in sign ups and website traffic during the Christmas period.
Mark Brooks, a dating analyst and consultant to the internet dating industry, told Huff Post UK it was the endless stream of awkward questions from family members that prompted many to search for love online this time of year.
“The effect becomes more pronounced over the Xmas vacations and party season," he said. “Questions such as 'have you been dating anyone recently' and 'do you think you’ll ever marry’ become 'On your own, are you?'."
Kate Taylor, resident relationship expert at match.com, said the post-Christmas to pre-New Year boom is partly because it's traditionally a reflective time of year, as people look back at their achievements over the past twelve months, and think about their New Year's resolutions.
“We know that top of many people’s list this year will be finding a partner, and online dating offers the perfect chance to widen the number of potential partners available to you – and to find a potential date from the comfort of your own living room," she said.
On Match.com's sites alone, four million unique connections are expected to be made; with three million email messages written; 2.5 million 'winks' sent; and 500,000 instant messenger conversations taking place.
So potentially lucrative is this time of year for online dating sites that many ramp up their advertising campaigns to coincide with the week long period.
Huge spikes in traffic are evident on dating sites after Boxing Day
Lovestruck has already launched a three-week tube campaign, which it says is "designed to put Lovestruck front of our target audience's mind for when deciding which dating site to join, which normally happens from December 26th to mid-January”, as well as commissioning a rather cute video of a physicist explaining his theory of everything (which happens to eventually lead to love).
“For 16 December up until Valentine's Day, we have up to 16 different marketing streams on full blast – including our first foray into TV advertising," a Brett Harding, managing director for Lovestruck told Huff Post UK.
"Registrations increase by 48% during this period compared with the monthly average. New subscriptions go up by a whopping 58%, but there is no difference in the split of new versus returning customers," he said.
“A significant proportion of our subscribers are returning customers, and this remains the same. Traffic increased by 21% on the monthly average, but no difference in the length in time per visit or number of pages per visit. The huge traffic boost happens in early January, when we are flooded with new people."
For eHarmony, the number of registrations to eHarmony in the week after Christmas (26 December - 1 January) was 3.5 times higher than the week immediately before Christmas (18 - 24 December).
Cupid.com's Sean Wood also suggested that the pressure on couples in the Christmas period could also lead to more break ups – resulting in more singles on the scene by Boxing Day.
Is it all just PR spin?
So is it all down to huge marketing spends and advertising campaigns at this time of year? It appears not – many of the niche dating sites Huff Post UK contacted also experienced high traffic and sign up levels after Boxing Day.
AsianD8 has seen "significant growth" during that specific week for the past four years, peaking at 57% increase in new registrations when compared to any other weekday during 2012.
“Most of our customers are professionals so they will be off from work during the festive period. We're generally a lot busier during weekends (as people have more time to themselves) so it's fair to assume a correlation between spare time and online dating," said Pali Banwait, chief executive of AsianD8.
"It also happens that this period falls at one of the coldest times of the year so people have more time to spend online at home. The Christmas feel good factor gives a longingness to share this happy period with a partner so acts as inspiration to meet someone new, while the New Year represents a fresh start ethos which brings a new wave of optimism."
Brandon Wade, founder of sugar daddy dating site SeekingArrangement.com, told Huff Post UK that part of the reason for the spike in site visits was because it was one of the quietest times of the year for every other sector.
If only finding love online was as easy as pushing a button...
"Virtually the whole of business apart from retail has shut down and people are stuck at home, crawling up the walls trying to entertain themselves. Christmas ends on Boxing Day night - that leaves five very quiet days between Christmas and New Year when we all have a lot of time to kill,' he said.
"People naturally go online to have some fun. I think people start planning for 2013 from 27 December onwards. They are looking to make a fresh start and that can involve meeting an exciting new partner by dating online.
"Some people will be looking for a date for New Year's Eve. No one wants to stuck at home on their own on New Year's Eve. It's the one night of the year you have to have a date."
One of Wade's sister sites, MissTravel is relatively new – it caters for young women who want to travel with their sugar daddy dates on holiday - but Wade expects the uptake to be big this year as, as he says: "Who wants to stay in the UK at this time of the year when the weather is this terrible?"
Using Google insights as a tool to see how volume of search changes over time, you can see that searches for the keyword 'dating' increase from around Christmas Day and remains steady until 7 January, at which point it steadily declines back to the average search rate.
For the older dater market, Mumdatedads.co.uk believes that each year numbers spike as another generation come online as they receive their first laptop, tablet or smartphone for Christmas.
"We also believe that New Year resolutions have a part to play in those who have never before tried online dating, coming online to find a partner," said the site's Andy Hammonds.
Charlotte Cory, founder of over fifties dating site ffifty.com, told Huff Post UK many of her target audience get a sense of "post Christmas malaise" and think 'I'm not going to be lonely again next year' and decide to start dating as soon as possible.
“We also notice, having an over fifties site, that people who have been through a difficult or messy divorce feel very much that they are going to kick off a new year with a new beginning - even if it's not to find true love - they feel they are putting the right foot forward in getting out there again."
Online dating traffic stalls in the late spring and summer
Of course, it's not just those who've been through a messy divorce who seek out a comforting date – apparently those who are unhappily married are doing it as well.
AshleyMadison.com caters for married folk who want to date on the side – interestingly their biggest spike came immediately after New Year's Eve.
The first working day after New Year's there was a 413% increase in member sign-ups with a total of 9,857 new members.
“For most cheaters, the holidays are very stressful and full of anxiety, anticipating the time required to spend with their spouse and family without their extramarital outlet," says Noel Biderman, founder of the online married dating site.
“We also find, that this prolonged period of time places enormous strain on relationships particularly for those suffering from marital problems and we are never surprised by the enormous increase in our registration after the holidays."
What's really interesting is that for many sites, the traffic then falls again drastically in the spring.
This can be attributed to several factors:
1) the dating site has been successful and the person is now in a couple
2) It's lighter and warmer, making people feel more confident about going out and meeting people. You'll often feel you look better too, given the colds, flu and sniffles are all behind you and your skin has stopped looking quite so grey
3) Social diaries start to ramp up again, leading to more dating opportunities
4) People get bored of online dating and move away – at least temporarily
“Internet daters tend to stick around for about three months," said analyst Brooks. "Then they bail, then they come back, or go to another site, or multiple internet dating sites."
Christiancafe.com's president Sam Moorcroft likened the three-month tail off to gym memberships.
"January and February are crowded, and then the crowds thin out at gyms all over the country as reality sets in. In our case, because we give members financial incentives to buy longer term memberships, we get the funds up front. Of course, we try to retain them, but this is no different than with any other time period," he said.
AsianD8's Banwait said on his site, new registrations tended to stay for much longer – the average stays on the site for 14 months.
But the growth of new registrations was seasonal; significant growth between August and March and a lower uptake between April and July.
"The lowest month for member retention is July, which coincides with the most popular time to take holidays abroad and spend more time outdoor," he explained.
EHarmony was the only site that said it was happy that people left its site. "Our business is different to many, as we want our customers to leave us. In fact, the sooner a user leaves our service because they have met someone that they are compatible with the better," said country manager Bryn Snelson.
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