The Founder And CEO Of Hopper Explains How He Utilized "Mobile Only" To Create A Thriving Company
Frederic LaLonde

Even in 2016, the logistics of air travel continue to be an enigma for those suffering from wanderlust. Sites such as Kayak and Orbitz have been able to alleviate some of flying’s most frustrating challenges, but certainly not all.

Hopper, however, is aiming to change this. Founded and run by Frederic LaLonde, the Hopper app is rewriting the narrative on how flights are purchased. Functioning as a "mobile only" platform, Hopper has garnered widespread visibility and monumental usage.

LaLonde took the time to sit down with TechDay to discuss how Hopper grew to where it is today and what the future looks like for this dynamic innovation.

How can Hopper's "mobile only" aspect be attributed to the company's overall success?

The world of online travel is going through a major shift, as traffic shifts from desktop to mobile. Since the industry is moving in that direction, we decided to focus all of our efforts on building an amazing experience on mobile.

I think a lot of other players in the industry decided to migrate their web experience to their app, but we think that it’s too tedious to review hundreds of flight search results on a phone. We focus on providing data­-driven advice to our users about when they should fly and buy. Hopper predicts future flight prices with 95% accuracy up to six months in advance of departure. The app will monitor fares 24/7 and will notify you when to buy. The booking process is fast and easy. It only takes three taps and a swipe to book in the app.

According to studies, the typical consumer spends almost two weeks comparison shopping for flights online, and, ultimately, they end up spending 5% more than when they started looking because they’re only spot checking prices. On average, Hopper users are watching trips 82 days before departure which is 40 days before the industry average for OTAs, metasearch, and airline websites. The typical Hopper user saves $50 on airfare, and in the best cases, as much as $1,300. Over 80% of Hopper users have push notifications enabled so we’re able send our users valuable insights about when to buy.

Because we’re mobile only, we’re able to have effortless conversations with our users via push notifications. We save them money and earn their trust through our data­-driven approach. This approach is clearly working well because the app has been downloaded over 7 million times in less than two years and it’s earned accolades such as Apple’s App Store Best of 2015, the Google Play Award for Standout Startup of 2016, and the Webby Award for Best Travel App.

How is Hopper framed in terms of voice and brand that allows new users to trust its technology?

We’re essentially a data science company because we analyze billions of flight prices a day and have an archive of over one trillion flight prices from the last three years. There’s obviously some very complicated analysis that goes into our price predictions, but we wanted to boil it down so that it’s easy for users to digest on a small screen.

We also introduced the bunny to bring some personality the app and it has really resonated with our users. Also, our push notification strategy is key to building trust. We had to do a lot of experimentation to learn the right frequency and tone of the notifications. Nearly 80% of our sales come from push notifications.

What value props does Hopper utilize to appeal, specifically, to members of Gen Y?

Millennials are definitely more comfortable making transactions from their phone than other generations so the fact that we’re mobile-­only really appeals to them. They’re using apps like Airbnb and HotelTonight to book accommodations and Uber and Lyft to book transportation. We thought if we built an amazing flight app with a super seamless booking flow, Hopper would really appeal to Millennials since they’re using apps to book other aspects of their trips. We wanted to make the booking process so easy that you could literally do it while you’re waiting in line for coffee. In fact, our first iteration was actually too easy to book (our Lead Designer addressed it in this Medium post). Over 52% of our users are Millennials so clearly it’s resonating with them.

How do you go about seeking new strategic partnerships and which have been the most valuable?

We’ve really been focusing all our partnership efforts on building relationships with the airlines. We obviously want to make sure we’re able to provide the most competitive prices so our airline partners are incredibly important to us. We’re going to be rolling out some features that will allow users to select their flight criteria and we’ll provide predictions about when to buy that perfect flight. We want to make sure we’re highlighting the value our airline partners offer so they’re not just competing on price.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting about about building a thriving company that you know now?

My advice is to experiment as much as possible. Try as many concepts out as possible and you’ll know when you find product market fit. When we first started Hopper, we knew we wanted to utilize big data to alleviate some of the pain points that come with planning a trip. However, we had focused more on destination discovery and we’re putting a lot of time and resources into this concept. Meanwhile, we created a research blog for content marketing purposes that just provided data­-driven tips about when to fly and buy.

The New York Times ended up writing a feature story about some flight tools we had hacked up for the research blog and things took off from there. It was the #1 most viewed article on NYTimes.com that week, we were featured on Good Morning America, and had thousands of visitors coming to the blog to use these tools.We had no idea when we started that travelers were really just frustrated with the flight purchasing process and wanted a solution that would bring more transparency to airfare. We knew immediately though that we had signal and decided to pivot the company and focus solely on a data­-driven flights app.

Does Hopper have any new updates users can expect to see in the upcoming year?

Travel is inherently social so we’re going out some features that will make the app more social. You’ll be able to share with you friends when you find a great prices and even "watch a trip" with a friend.

Like I mentioned earlier, we’re also going to be releasing more filters so you’ll be able to set your preferences like "nonstops only" or "no low­-cost carriers" and we’ll provide a price prediction.