We as consumers get bombarded with stats constantly in order to influence our preferences. And while many stats are in fact true, they can also be very misleading if you are not paying close attention.
For example, in recent television ads for Match.com, the online dating site claims that more marriages have occurred through couples meeting on Match.com than any other dating site.
Wow that’s awesome!
Since Match.com dates/relationships have resulted in the most marriages then they have to be the best at “Matching” people, right?
Taking a Closer Look
I think most people would agree that Match.com has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, subscription bases of any online dating site in the U.S. So when they claim to have the most marriages from their service that could solely be a result of their site having the biggest subscription base.
The statement that “Match.com has produced the most marriages” could be factually correct, but it is misleading because you don’t know how successful they are (by percentage) at converting their customers from singles to married couples.
And wouldn’t that be useful information to have?
One Possible Scenario
Let’s look at an example with some numbers that I’m completely making up.
In this example I will compare Match.com with the “next best” dating site called SomeOtherDatingSite.com.
Let’s define a successful outcome of using Match.com or SomeOtherDatingSite.com as a relationship that results in a marriage.
Users 100,000 50,000
Resulting Marriages 10,000 9500
Success Rate 10% 19%
Who is Better?
In this oversimplified case we see that Match.com has indeed produced more marriages (500 more to be exact) than the next best online dating site.
But SomeOtherDatingSite.com has almost double the success rate (19% vs. 10%) of Match.com.
So which site is actually the better dating site?
The site that has resulted in more total marriages or the site that has a higher rate of success?
Ignoring this fictional example for a moment, it is very possible that Match.com’s service has produced the most marriages of any online dating site AND has the highest conversion rate of any online data site. But we do not know about that second part because the company makes no mention of it in their television ads.
What’s the Point?
My point is that you as a consumer should not take stats at face value. And as a smart consumer you have every right to question the data that is presented to you.
Businesses always present stats in the most favorable light possible to persuade you to purchase their product or service. I explained here how Match.com tries to convince you they are the best online dating service because they have produced the most marriages.
But you need to think about what companies are really saying (or not saying) in their ads. Stats that use %’s are different than stats that are simply quantifying the amount of something.
Just because your service produces the MOST positive outcomes does not mean that your service is the BEST at producing that outcome. That’s all I’m saying.
So what statistics have you found to be misleading? Let me know in the comments.