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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.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 June, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (12)

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Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Managing Director at EnchantSmall Business

So, just to be clear, they are showing different hotel choices for Mac users, and these choices are more expensive compared with the website choices for PC users?

about 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Philip, that's how I read it. Seems a good tactic.

Not quite as crafty as Ryanair's higher prices for returning visitors thing...

about 4 years ago

Jason Buck

Jason Buck, Consultant at The Long Dog Digital

This seems to assume that Mac users spend extra on top of the average price they can see, so somehow showing them higher prices will mean they spend extra on top of that.

Isn't this about choice within a wide spectrum of prices instead a formula like "visible average price" + $30?

about 4 years ago

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Peter Bray

Orbitz may present hotels to Mac users that are more expensive, but it now explains why I end up traveling with Travelocity. I always compare - so the only one who loses here is Orbitz. This is definitely a case of a company who misinterprets the data and ends up, ultimately, shooting themselves in the foot.

Cheers,

Peter

about 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

@Peter Bray. I'm guessing time will tell on this one. However, if I'm reading the article right, if you were to compare like for like i.e. more expensive hotels on Orbitz with more expensive hotels on Travelocity, the prices would be roughly the same. It's simply that Orbitz is presenting the higher end hotels to Mac users first, rather than budget hotels.

about 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Seems weird that in a digital world where we are trying to target right down to the individual - that such a crude measure as the device you use should be used to make such a huge site change.

And it seems rather patronising for the site to treat you so differently without asking.

I can imagine some price conscious Mac users getting confused by the apparent price shifts, and spending 10 minutes on Orbiz trying to work it out, and they'll be miffed if they discover the site was treating them so differently without permission.

Surely better - would be to detect Mac users and pop up an extra question, about how much they want to spend per night, or how many stars etc.

about 4 years ago

Patrizia Pilosi

Patrizia Pilosi, Senior Project manager at Travelfusion

I think the difference in what it is shown to mac users by Orbits in therms of data is simply in the quality of the information on the screen not the actual content.

Bottom line, if someone is willing to spend the extra money to have a better looking computer/laptop its safe to assume he/she will spend the extra $20 to $30 to have a few more pillows and a candy bar in their hotel room ... after all its about the experience for both.

about 4 years ago

Patrizia Pilosi

Patrizia Pilosi, Senior Project manager at Travelfusion

I think the difference in what it is shown to mac users by Orbits in therms of data is simply in the quality of the information on the screen not the actual content.

Bottom line, if someone is willing to spend the extra money to have a better looking computer/laptop its safe to assume he/she will spend the extra $20 to $30 to have a few more pillows and a candy bar in their hotel room ... after all its about the experience for both.

about 4 years ago

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James Robinson

A ludicrous approach in terms of brand and customer relationship management.

The insight is that Mac users are on average more valuable; not more gullible.

So the strategy should surely be about capturing more Mac users as a proportion of all new customers.

The strategy shouldn't be risking the relationship with their existing (Mac-using) customer base, and damaging their brand through negative media coverage, in a socially-connected world.

about 4 years ago

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Ian Brodie

the title of this article is rather misleading (though great linkbait).

Mac users aren't paying more for the same hotel. They're being shown more expensive hotels by default.

Doesn't stop them finding the cheaper ones if they want. Just starts by assuming (usually quite correctly according to the data) that they're more likely to be interested in more expensive ones.

It's no different to if a guy pulls up outside a clothing store in a Bentley - the shopkeeper is more likely to show him to the tailor made high end suits first than the bargain bucket.

Of course, it could be a rich guy who likes to buy cheap suits. But chances are that the high end is the best place to start both for the retailer and the customer. You can always change later based on what he says/does.

Similarly, its best to move over time to suggestions based on the individual customer's previous behaviour like Amazon does. But in the absence of that data, the most sensible place to start is with any correlation you have - in this case Mac users typically go for more expensive hotels so let's start by showing them more of them.

Ian

about 4 years ago

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Sam Lempriere, HSBC Expat

I agree with Ian.

They are acting on what their data tells them which, overall, means that Mac users should have a shorter online journey to the room they would book anyway.

This could be as simple as just ordering a list from highest to lowest price. It's hardly causing anyone any issues in finding either.

I hope stories like this remain clear and fair, because if they don't, we'll start to see more and more restrictions on using data to aid both the customer and the company.

Look at the cookie policy fiasco.

Sam.

about 4 years ago

Luis Pires

Luis Pires, Director of eCommerce and eMarketing at Bosch - Siemens Home Appliances LLC

It will be interesting to know what the business results are for their measure. I'd be much more inclined to change the order of the hotels than to show a totally different list based on the computer being used. Or, as an alternative, to allow the consumer to choose to see the options that better match their 'historical behavior pattern'. Very interested to see what the data will tell in the near future.

about 4 years ago

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