Visitors to the Orbitz travel website are being shown a more expensive choice of hotels depending upon the computer system with which they browse the web site, the Wall Street Journal has found. Because users of Mac computers have a history of spending more on their nightly hotel expenses the Orbitz site has decided to “help” Mac users by prioritising costlier accommodation options than offered by default to Windows users.
Just like direct mail marketers use postcodes to target demographic groups Orbitz has been “experimenting” with what it sees as a clear Mac owner demographic. Orbitz has found that visitors to the site using the Mac OS spend as much as 30 per cent more per night on hotels. A significant difference in behaviour from easily identifiable users. Also the firm found that when PC and Mac owners booked the same hotel Mac users tended to go for costlier rooms or suites.
When asked about the difference in search results offered to the users of different platforms Orbitz defended its targeting practices by saying that identical rooms in a certain hotel on a certain night would cost the same to all users of Orbitz. So there is no pricing disparity in user offers. Also all users browsing the site can easily rank hotels by price within the search results with a single click. Initially the hotels are listed in an ambiguous “best values” ranking.
As well as computer OS the Orbitz site uses the following criteria when ordering the “best values” search result for their web site visitors;
- Referring site
- Return visits
The order in which the hotels are listed is very important as Orbitz says 90 per cent of users book a hotel from the first page of search results. So what we have here is not a Mac tax, but a demographic used cleverly by the company to make the most of its visitors. As the absolute prices are the same and results can be sorted by price it’s hard to complain about the service. UK online travel shoppers may be familiar with Ebookers which is owned by Orbtiz.