Growth Story is a new 4-question format we’re doing about startups finding and influencing a defining metric that helped to really grow their company.
This week, the CEO and co-founder of MisterFly, Nicolas Brumelot, shares some valuable insights into taking over an established market as travel bookings. MisterFly is a young French travel startup, founded in 2015, that makes booking flights and/or hotels so easy it’s rapidly taking over the market.
MisterFly is an innovative travel platform that aggregates, connects, compares and books an extensive range of products and services sourced at multiple suppliers. It was co-founded in 2015 together with long-time business partner Carlos da Silva.
We both share a passion for entrepreneurship and travel, so we set out to modernize the online travel space, essentially by focusing on the real needs of travellers.
We spent close to nine months developing in house a new search and booking engine to make it simple to compare and book flights on our web sites, B2C and pros alike. We also used this time to set up client services so we could answer passenger and agency questions immediately after launching operations. If we were to build a customer centric company in a high volume industry, we needed to work on client services right at inception.
In the shadow of our pre-launch, we set out to close key exposure and distribution agreements to build quick brand awareness and adoption. We thought out and implemented a market approach and a model built around avoiding any Google or meta search dependency. Three months before launching operations, we closed a strategic and equity partnership with Vente Privee, the world’s leader in flash sales. This partnership gave us access to Vente Privee’s 24 million member audience base in France. With close to 4 million unique visitors per day and heavily mobile driven, we managed to build a new path to traffic outside of costly metasearch engines and adwords.
In the same way, we developed an engine that showed search results in a new way, we adopted a disruptive communications tone and positioning that showcased our core values, with a fun and relaxed positioning and user-friendly experiences and services. In other words, we strived to differentiate ourselves based on customer needs and expectations and we avoided launching just another travel supermarket website. This helped create a closer relationship with our customers and build strong customer loyalty.
As an intermediary in the travel space we strive at developing value to both ends of the spectrum, from customers to suppliers alike. Offering suppliers a unique array of distribution opportunities, from flash sales, to white labels, to travel agencies and multiple touch points with the end customer, with a highly qualified team of experts, provides key benefits such as productivity and deep client reach through one point of entry and fulfillment.
At the opposite end, we offer customers, services such as accessible call centers, user friendly tools and innovative customer focused services such as 4XCB deferred payment facility,and introduced a no exclusion cancellation insurance policy, a flexible option, and more.
All of this together enabled MisterFly to emerge by differentiating itself from the legacy competitors who thought adwords and clicks were a barrier to entry. In a highly competitive and mature environment and market, you have to be disruptive.
In the mature and highly competitive travel space, volumes are critical. Margins are low, legacy players are big, so it is critical to quickly scale the business. Size drives partnerships, price benefits that can be given to the highly price sensitive customer, and value creation for the company.
Starting immediately after going live with our sites, we monitored traffic, conversion but there was one thing we monitored even more closely. It’s a simple but self speaking metric; sales. We monitor this constantly. Even though we have strongly enriched our KPI’s, this metric is key and is monitored on an hourly basis.
Our multi-product and multi-channel model quickly paid off with gross bookings soaring from €10 million in 2015 to €111 million in 2016 and 367.000 fulfilled customers and the platform recognized through multiple awards.
From our experience of the travel industry and namely the online segment, we were conscious of the barriers to entry in such a competitive environment, in terms of traffic acquisition namely.
We quickly realized we needed to very rapidly develop a customer reach as wide as possible for as low as possible upfront marketing costs.
We made the decision to launch a multi-channel operation from the start. The underlying strategy was to create a web on the web, reaching for customers in as many places as possible. In a very digital space we decided to address travel agencies and their offline customers. These big accounts helped us scale very quickly and offered us recurring volumes. Travel agencies have their own traffic and customer base, and securing deals with large networks rapidly gave us a national coverage.
This more complex multi-channel approach (B2C, white labels and trade) from an IT and operational perspective, took longer to go live. However, from launch it gave us access to accounts that quickly generated lots of repetition and volume.
The decision to internalize our IT was also not the shortest path to launch, but certainly proved a key strategic solution and decision. We control, own and operate our solutions as we chose, giving us the flexibility to operate with a multi-channel approach. It has enabled us to integrate new lines of products, such as hotels (through an acquisition) and packages, and allowed us to roll them out with the same multi-channel approach, leveraging the synergies, for customers and suppliers alike.
In the lead-up to Tech5 2017 – the annual competition organized by TNW and Adyen which celebrates Europe’s fastest-growing tech companies in The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Spain, France and Sweden– we’re launching a series of remarkable stories of businesses that experienced extreme growth. But if you are a startup with an inspiring/remarkable/interesting story about finding your special metric that led to growth, please share it with email@example.com.