updated 02:19 am EDT, Tue June 26, 2012
Windows users get cheaper options ranked higher
Online travel agency Orbitz has told The Wall Street Journal that it is experimenting with showing Mac users more upscale hotels as featured buys than it does with Windows users, based on data that shows that Mac users spend more and prefer upscale accommodations. While the actual room prices and offers are not different on the two platforms, the bias shows the effect of studying users' online habits.
Just the fact that a users is visiting Orbitz on a Mac may result in different hotels being featured or ranked more highly than if someone were coming to the site from Windows machine. The effects of the "featured" deals is nullified if users sort rooms by price, the company points out, where the results will be identical. But featured hotels that fit the price range the customer is expecting are often clicked-through to find more information, much the same way a featured app on the App Store tends to sell more copies.
Orbitz told the Journal that Mac users spend up to $30 more per night on hotels than Windows users, and 40 percent more likely to book a top-rated hotel than PC users, said Orbitz chief scientist Wai Gen Yee. This roughly falls into line with other studies that show Mac users more willing to pay for perceived extra quality, and are generally less concerned about price as a primary factor and more interested in getting a good value for money.
Mac users, despite being in the minority of computer users, are known to advertisers as big spenders -- in part due to a staggering 25 percent difference in the income levels of Mac and Windows users, with the former group at an average just under $100,000 while the Windows group earns just under $75,000, according to Forrester Research. Forrester and Shop.org also identify iPad users as more likely to place substantial online orders, and iPhone users outspend Android and Blackberry users (combined). Orbitz did not mention if it is gathering similar data on mobile users, but does feature an array of iOS and Android apps.
The company says this is not a case of its marketing leading the result; the new tactic came after examining tracking data and site statistics between the two groups of users. Overall, a typical hotel room booking on Orbitz costs around $100 per night, making the 20-30 percent more Mac users are willing to spend a significant factor. Other major online travel sites say they do not yet break down user preferences by computer platform.
Other interesting results have turned up in Orbitz's data. Mac and Windows users have different "favorite" hotels in most major cities, with (for example) Mac users tending to prefer the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas, while Windows users choose the Stratosphere more often. Mac users represent nearly half of all Orbitz bookings for the chic (and high-end) Public Chicago hotel.
Orbitz's tactic represents an emerging trend among retailers to leverage more "predictive analytics" out of compiled user data, with a special emphasis on shoppers who are likely to stay with the company if properly catered to or rewarded. The system of showing different "featured" options to Mac and Windows users isn't fully implemented yet, but some of the differences can be seen in the chart below.
Testing by the Journal found several cities, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, where search results for hotels were identical. Evidence of differences, however, turned up in cities like Miami, Baton Rouge and New York. Orbitz has said that it will eventually start looking to spot differences and trends in the two groups of users for car rental and flight bookings as well. [via The Wall Street Journal]