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Flirtomatic sees success with in-app commerce

Social networking service Flirtomatic has launched an iPhone application to extend its platform and services – including the selling of virtual goods to consumers and advertising space to brands.

Consumers can buy virtual gifts within the free application to send to other users, as well as buy their own user-generated advertising in the Look At Me section. In that section, consumers bid in real-time auctions, 24-hours a day, to get greater visibility and more attention than rivals. 

“The whole iPhone ecosystem is a great route to market,” said Mark Curtis, CEO of Flirtomatic, San Francisco. “The iPhone became our No. 1 phone in November before we even had an app.

“The app provides us with a new way to reach out to iPhone users,” he said. “These days, you can’t release an app and expect downloads – you need to actively market it outside of the App Store.

“It’s the same as a bricks-and-mortar department store – it’s an age-old marketing challenge.”

Flirtomatic is a social mobile service used by consumers 18–30-years- old. It operates a free service across the United States, Britain, Germany and Australia.

Freemium success
The social network has a “freemium” business model and it lets carriers share its revenue from advertising and premium services.

The application is free to download, but customers can buy FlirtPoints to spend on promoting themselves, to find out who has rated them and to send virtual gifts.

According to Flirtomatic, its paying users spend more than $10 per month on average for premium services. The company claims its model yields more money per spending user than any other social network.

Mr. Curtis said the most important aspect of the freemium model is to make the registration process for consumers easy. Brands should also make sure consumers are highly active before trying to sell them anything.

“The trick is to repress the commercial instinct to monetize as quickly as possible, but to give consumers enough to do to make the service sticky and to sell them things around the edges,” Mr. Curtis said. “For example, it’s like a park: You can enter and walk around the park for free, you can play Frisbee, you can sunbathe, but if you want an ice cream or some sunblock, you have to pay. 

“The second most important thing is to weave product sales into the process of interaction and not simply put consumers in a shop,” he said. “Make it seamless and experiential.”

Mr. Curtis said that Flirtomatic has found that mobile users are 2.5 times more likely to pay than Web users.

However, the social network said it still sees a very attractive conversion to payment on the Web.

Flirtomatic mobile users log in an average of seven times a day and send more than 30 messages daily.

The application is an extension of the services that have already been on-deck with most major carriers.

Winks go a long way
There are already more than 1.8 million profiles in the Flirtomatic network.

Consumers can find users who live nearby and search by gender, age, interests and flirting preference.

The application also lets consumers chat live with free messages or paid virtual gifts, kisses or winks to start a conversation.

Users can also send a flirtbomb to hit many flirts in one fell swoop and watch the responses come in.

The application also features a top-rated gallery. There, consumers can find the most popular and the most generous users on Flirtomatic.

Flirtomatic content is screened to have a PG rating. There is nothing inappropriate and no adult advertising, to ensure this it is actively moderated and all content is approved by social network.

Mr. Curtis said the virtual goods sector has untapped potential.

“We sold 1 million goods last year, in Britain,” Mr. Curtis said. “We sold 20,000 Christmas stockings recently.

“We even sold virtual ice cubes to the Brits last summer,” he said. “We are only limited by our imagination.”