Telling the stories behind the numbers

Older women prefer younger men. Making use of data analytics tools, dating specialists Lunch Actually found out that women generally want to date older men until they hit their mid 30s, when their preferences are reversed.

Men, on the other hand, prefer the company of younger women, regardless of how old the men are.

These insights were gleaned from the dating preferences of nearly 3,000 members in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia using Qlik Sense, a business analytics tool that helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as Lunch Actually, make sense of the growing glut of corporate data.

Personality-wise, both men and women prefer extroverts to introverts. Women, however, also want their ideal partners to be tidy, the intelligence software revealed.

Ms Violet Lim, chief executive officer of Lunch Actually, said while some of these insights are familiar to those in the matchmaking business, the company has never used business analytics to validate such findings till now.

"We've accumulated a lot of data over the years, so rather than look at the numbers superficially, we decided to crunch the data to see how we can use it to keep up with the changing preferences of our clients," she said.

Ms Lim plans to use the insights to moderate the expectations of her clients so that they can be more successful in their dating lives. "If a man in his 60s is looking to date a woman in her 30s, his success rate is not going to be very high," she said.

While it is unclear how many SMEs here are harnessing business analytics tools, industry analysts believe more organisations are becoming aware of the benefits of using such tools to make faster and more accurate decisions.

According to research firm IDC, the overall business analytics software market in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, last year was worth nearly US$3 billion (S$3.9 billion). This market is expected to grow at an average rate of 8 per cent per year from 2013 to 2018.

Self-service analytics

Part of this growth is fuelled by the emergence of tools such as Qlik Sense, which makes it easy for businesses to visualise data and glean business insights.

In the past, organisations had to hire specialists to extract, massage and load data into computer systems before it can be presented in a visual manner, but "self-service" business analytics tools can now do all of that, allowing firms to slice and dice data on their own.

To most SMEs, such tools are good entry points into the world of "big data", the latest technology buzzword that refers to the use of sophisticated algorithms to make sense of very large volumes of data in multiple formats.

Take Blackball, a restaurant chain which specialises in Taiwanese tea and desserts, and has 20 stores in Taiwan and more than 40 branches in Malaysia.

Each store used to send sales data to its headquarters, where managers manually entered the information into spreadsheets. The company also monitored other sources, such as social media, but it was difficult to connect disparate sources of information.

"Our main challenge involved reporting," said Mr Andrew Cheong, senior manager at Blackball. "There were a lot of questions that we were just unable to ask about customer behaviour."

Last year, Blackball started using a big data analytics service from Microsoft to integrate multiple data sources, which allowed it to manage its stock more efficiently and uncover new trends.

For example, the company previously thought people would order cold products in hot weather but, in certain outlets, it saw the opposite happening. It now makes sure those outlets have the right supplies to meet demand.

Companies such as Blackball are warming up to big data, said Mr Joey Tan, Microsoft Singapore's lead for cloud and enterprise, because information and its use are fast becoming the currency for business growth.

Indeed, based on Microsoft- commissioned research conducted by IDC, organisations in Singapore have an opportunity to realise a potential "data dividend" of $10 billion over the next four years, resulting in greater revenue, lower costs and improved productivity.

He said that while SMEs tend to have a smaller data footprint and have fewer resources as compared with large enterprises, they do recognise big data as a tool to help them differentiate their offerings.

In addition, SMEs tend to have fewer legacy IT systems compared with large enterprises, making it easier for them to implement these tools, said Ms Marion Ryan, vice-president of general business at SAP Asia Pacific Japan.

Meanwhile, Lunch Actually is looking to dip its toes into big data by combining information on its clients with that of its online dating services, Eteract and eSynchrony.

Ms Lim hopes that insights, such as the number of matches that would have to be made before a client accepts a date, will improve Lunch Actually's offline service.

For all its benefits, however, big data will not reveal why women in their mid-30s and older prefer to date younger men. That sort of insight can come only from an experienced matchmaker such as Ms Lim.

"The women who come to us when they are in their mid-30s are very active and often don't look their age," she said. "They feel that older men will look too old for them."

Aaron Tan is a freelance writer.

Looking for love in all the right data

Lunch Actually used Qlik Sense to analyse demographics and dating preferences, such as desired age, height, education level and personality, to create the profile of an ideal partner.

What men want

Based on the analysis, the ideal woman stands between 160cm and 165cm. She should have a slim build and be between 25 and 30 years old. She should also hold a university degree and be a non-smoker.

Nearly 80 per cent of men prefer to date women who have not been married and 93.8 per cent of men prefer someone without kids. This person is also expected to be an extrovert who is light-hearted, generous, spontaneous and enjoys spending time outdoors.

What women want

Women prefer their dates to be at least 170cm and of a medium build. His ideal age should be between 30 and 35 years old.

Women are more open to dating divorcees and those with kids. They also prefer their partners to be extroverted, but serious, rather than light-hearted.

Women also like their men to be tidy and organised.

Popular data analytics tools

Qlik Sense Desktop -

Tableau Desktop -


Tibco Jaspersoft -

Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 -

This article was first published on Nov 19, 2014.
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