Update: Mac users pushed towards more expensive online hotels – Orbitz responds

Macworld Australia Staff
27 June, 2012
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Mac users are being shown different, costlier online travel deals than their Windows counterparts after being identified as more affluent by Orbitz Worldwide.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, while tracking its users’ online activities, Orbitz has found Mac users spend US$20 to US$30 more a night on hotels than those on PCs.

The site quoted Orbitz chief scientist Wai Gen Yee as saying that Mac users are 40 percent more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel rooms, “and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms”.

While many may see this as a cash-grab in which the company show Mac users the same rooms for a higher rate, Orbitz, which has been experimenting with this model since last October, insists this isn’t the case.

“Apple is practically creating its own demographic,” The Wall Street Journal says, “and researchers are trying to define it. Their goal: to see if higher income levels translate into higher spending.

“The effort underscores how retailers are becoming bigger users of so-called predictive analytics, crunching reams of data to guess the future shopping habits of customers. The goal is to tailor offerings to people believed to have the highest ‘lifetime value’ to the retailer.”

The news site experimented by doing the same searches on Macs and PCs and reported that, while the results did not always skew Mac users towards more expensive hotels, those on the first page of the Mac search were about 11 percent dearer than they were on the PC.

Update: It seems that many news outlets misread the original article as saying that Orbitz charges Mac users more than PC users – and Orbitz’ PR firm, Allison+Partners in San Francisco, has contacted them, saying it “wanted to provide some additional details and help clear-up the misperception”.

“This story started with our sharing an observation that Mac users tend to like more upscale hotels – 40 percent more likely to book a 4-5 star hotel,” Orbitz Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Chris Chiames said in an email sent to Macworld Australia by Allison+Partners. “Regrettably, there is a fair amount of confusion over the WSJ story.”

“Shoppers are shown identical prices. They may see differences in a recommended hotel (PC vs Mac), primarily in the ‘recommended hotels’ section (once you click on a property, we will suggest others you might like). Depending on whether you are a member and sign in to your Orbitz account, you also might see subtle differences based on trends in the kinds of hotels you like to book.

“The Mac vs PC variable is one of many items that could factor into play, although that was not appropriately conveyed in the WSJ story.”

Orbitz CEO Barney Harford was also quoted in the email as saying: “Nonsense that we’d charge Mac users more for the same hotel, which is unfortunately the incorrect impression that many readers seem to be drawing from this article’s ‘subscriber content preview’.

“However, just as Mac users are willing to pay more for higher end computers, at Orbitz we’ve seen that Mac users are 40 percent more likely to book 4 or 5 star hotels as compared to PC users, and that just one of many factors that determine which hotels to recommend a given customer as part of our efforts to show customers the most relevant hotels possible.

“More on what we’re actually doing to create a personalised experience in my recent USA Today blog post.

“Unfortunately WSJ editors have chosen to hide the full story behind their pay wall, so most of the world is reacting to a confusing headline, while the key point “the company isn’t showing the same room to different users at different prices” is hidden because… the WSJ is steering users to pay more to be able to read the full article and understand what’s actually happening.”

Macworld Australia never inferred that Orbitz charges Mac users more than PC users.


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