Hopper opens door to hotel bookings with immersive experience

Hopper, the flight booking application that offers predictive pricing analytics, has launched Hopper Hotels, a new component to the that allows users to book accommodation.

The service will also offer pricing forecasts, but Hopper Hotels is layered with an additional algorithm that determines users’ hotel preferences in order to serve them up for any given destination. The hotel product goes one step further: users can view immersive hotel stories directly in the app.

Hopper founder and CEO Frederic Lalonde says:

“Our goal is to go from the number one air app in the App Store to its number one travel app. The value proposition of our hotel product is very different as is the way we approach it, the way we use data for Hopper Hotels and the content we offer is also very different.”

After narrowing hotels in a given location by hyper-local geography (i.e. “uptown,” “downtown,” etc.), star rating or available amenities such as “hotels with pools,” users can then view content for individual properties. Similar to the full-screen story experiences available on Instagram and Facebook, hotel content is presented on Hopper entirely in vertical video, much like that on Snapchat except Hopper’s vertical videos are also 360 degrees so users can scan the room. According to Lalonde, this is where Hopper users spend 90% of their time, adding that 67% of Hopper customers are Millennials.

To appeal to this audience, the startup spent a year developing the video content. Largely inspired by social media postings about hotels and travel, Hopper content aims to mimic the tone that gains social media influencers successful followings, without the personality of an influencer or in Lalonde’s words:

“We pulled the egos from the selfies.”

Along with tone, time was also invested in perfecting technical points, like incorporating enough lighting into each video so that spaces are visible without looking staged. Lalonde explains:

“We created the product specifically to showcase hotels to this generation because we know they do things differently. They consume more media on their phones and spend more time on social media and they want to choose their hotel in a more natural way that gives an honest impression.”

Working with San Francisco-based Matterport, which uses lasers to capture exact surface measurements for proportionately accurate 360 degree video capture, and absorbing the cost of the content creation, Hopper sends a camera crew to every Hopper-listed property to shoot between 100 and 150 clips, covering everything from the guest room and guest bath to the hotel restaurant and fitness center.

Lalonde calls it “an immersive experience without the VR glasses,” adding that each time new content is added, users return to the app. The result is lower customer acquisition costs and the savings are passed on to hotels.

Plans are also in the works to add a feature that would allow users to share the content. In the meantime, the videos also offer objective advice, via voiceover, as far as what’s worthwhile at the hotel and what to avoid. There’s no text to read. Hopper also pays homage to the rabbit used in its logo by incorporating a 3D bunny into the videos as well as an Easter egg.

The content is also generating interest among hoteliers and although Hopper owns the video, Lalonde said the startup is willing to work with hotels to leverage it, provided it links back to Hopper’s website.

In order to benefit from dynamic pricing, Hopper users are also expected to book both air and hotel simultaneously on the app, a strategy that typically comes with lower cancellation rates than a la carte hotel bookings. However, Hopper is also the merchant of record for its hotel bookings so consumers can avoid the new cancellation policies put in place by certain brands. The app also sends users push notifications, which can be instrumental in upselling those customers who have booked a room on Hopper Hotels 50 days prior to departure, when Lalonde says users can be receptive to meaningful value-adds. The startup is also looking to extrapolate user data from its hotel component that could prove valuable to smaller hotels that lack revenue management teams.

Moreover, the inventory listed in Hopper Hotels runs the gamut as Millennials have started having families. Nor do Millennials account for all 17 million Hopper app installs since the company’s 2015 launch. But there is a downside for hotels; Hopper’s program is invite-based. Lalonde says:

“We’re reaching out to hotels that have consistently maintained the best ratings in user generated content and they can’t pay to be on the app. We approach hotels, tell them that we’d like to invest in content and we’ll go out of our way for a hotel where we know we’ll do well.”

* Disclosure: Hopper CEO Fred Lalonde is also chairman of tnooz.

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