Orbitz is beginning to skew hotel displays according to the computing or mobile device you use. Get a grip on those iPads, this is only the mere beginning of an online travel agency personalization push.
The geeks over at Orbitz have been wading through 750 terabytes of data on user sessions and have concluded that Mac and iPad users will pay $20 to $30 more for a hotel than PC users, on average, and Mac addicts are 40% more likely to book four- or five-star hotels.
So I conducted Mac, iPad, and PC searches on Orbitz this morning for a hotel stay in New Orleans July 13 and 14 and found that rooms in the first 10 results averaged a little more than 7% higher on Mac and iPad than they did in the PC search.
No, Orbitz is not charging higher rates for the same rooms, but is showing a slightly different mix of hotels in the top 10 results on Macs and iPads versus PCs.
For example, the first four results in the New Orleans searches produced hotels at almost identical pricing, Mac and iPad versus PC, but the fifth result on the Mac and iPad was for the three-star St. Helene-French quarter at $159 per night versus the three-star Historic Cotton Exchange Hotel for $94 on the PC.
The Wall Street Journal conducted a more extensive search on Orbitz and found that hotel search results were identical across computing devices for cities such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Philadelphia and Boston.
However, the rates on the first page of hotel search results for Batan Rouge, Louisiana, were 13% higher on average on the Mac versus PC, The Wall Street Journal found.
And Mac users were served up more expensive hotels on Orbitz in a New York search, but only after the first 20 hotel results, the newspaper found.
The sort order on Orbitz, other online travel agency and travel metasearch sites can be influenced by myriad factors — not just your computing device, of course.
Orbitz spokesperson Chris Chiames says hotel results can also be influenced by whether the customer is traveling with children and how far your are booking in advance.
You will also see different results on Orbitz depending on whether or not you are signed into the site.
In a Hotel Check-in blog post last month, Harford of Orbitz described how hotel results are skewed according to “kid-friendliness” scores:
“… if you start a hotel search and tell us you want to visit Orlando this summer with your kids, you’d probably hope to see on that first page of results a list of hotels that include options like a swimming pool, rooms with two beds and free breakfast. On the other hand if you are a romantic couple traveling without kids, you’re likely going to want a hotel that has a more stylish feel, and potentially one that specifically doesn’t cater to families.
“We’re able to look at the way a given hotel’s conversion varies based on whether or not the traveling party includes kids or not. Using this information we can create a ‘kid friendliness’ score for hotels that are particularly preferred by people traveling with kids; similarly we’re able to create a ‘kid avoidance’ score for hotels that adults traveling without kids seem to avoid!”
Of course, Orbitz isn’t the only company in travel to notice different consumer buying patterns based on device or operating system.
Kayak co-founder Paul English mused a few months that travelers who download the company’s iOS apps are much more likely to transact business than Android users and he wondered if demographic differences were behind the divergent buying patterns.
Robert Birge, a spokesperson for Kayak, which has been warring with Orbitz during the last couple of years over a contract dispute, doesn’t believe personalization Mac versus PC is particularly smart.
A Kayak user that tends to stay at properties three stars and above likely won’t see two-star properties in Kayak search results, Birge says.
“Making sure our results are relevant is one of our core principles,” Birge adds.
Author: Dennis Schaal