The next time you need to find a hotel room, you might want to keep a PC handy. At least if your search takes you to Orbitz.
The reason? The popular travel service is experimenting with displaying costlier lodging options to Mac users.
As detailed by the Wall Street Journal, in looking at purchasing data it has collected, Orbitz found that Mac customers spend, on average, $20 to $30 more per night on hotel rooms than their PC cousins.
According to the company's chief scientist, Wai Gen Yee, users perusing the Orbitz site using a Mac are 40% more likely to book a four or five-star hotel and they seem to have a preference for more expensive rooms to boot.
It's important to note that Orbitz is not showing different prices for the same hotel rooms to Mac and PC users; it's simply tailoring the order in which hotel options are displayed based on the user agent.
Even so, as the Wall Street Journal's Dana Mattioli points out, if Mac users are willing to spend an extra $20 to $30 per night on a hotel room and Orbitz can ensure that more of them do just this by displaying their hotel options, differently, that translates to big bucks for the company -- big bucks that the company wouldn't have seen had it not been collecting data.
But Orbitz's potential pay-off isn't coming from data itself; it's coming from the analysis of that data. Unfortunately for many companies, 'big data' still means servers and servers (or clouds and clouds) full of data that nobody knows what to do with.
The good news is that more and more of the big data talk is starting to focus on turning data into actionable insight and in the near future, many more companies much smaller than Orbitz, and who don't have in-house data scientists, will likely have access to services that help them make the most of their data too.
That, in turn, should help companies better serve their customers even if, as Orbitz's experiment demonstrates, it helps those customers spend more of their hard-earned money.