Science & Tech
Orbitz showing different, costlier results to Mac users
Mac and iPhone users, it's no secret that you people have really cool and fabulous phones, laptops, and mobile devices. What has been a secret is that you people tend to spend a little more on your retail purchases than do Windows users. Now that secret is starting to get out, and -- surprise! -- some online retailers are displaying more expensive results when they know you're shopping online using a Mac device.
Orbitz, the online travel company specializing in hotel reservations, flights, and vacation plans, has begun displaying higher-priced options when they see a customer is viewing their site on a Mac device or computer. Worse yet, they flat-out bragged about it in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
A Journal article posted Tuesday noted thast Mac users see higher-priced reservation options than Windows users in their Orbitz results. Mac users will see more expensive results in their top Orbitz search results. Mac-using customers are not charged more for the same rooms on Orbitz, they just get a few slightly fancier and costlier rooms displaying in their top search results.
This is a practice called targeted advertising, and it's all the rage among online marketers who deeply analyze buyers' online spending habits in hopes of getting shoppers to spend more. It's similar to those sponsored advertisments you see on Facebook, where little bits of data you give up willingly (or unwillingly) are used to anticipate your shopping habits and maximize how much money you spend online.
To be fair, it appears that thus far Orbitz has restricted this practice to hotel reservation listings. Users can still sort results by price and see the exact same options, at the exact same price, whether on a Mac or PC.
Orbitz had concluded, though, that Mac users are willing to spend around 30% more nightly on hotel reservations. "We had the intuition, and we were able to confirm it based on the data," Orbitz CTO Roger Liew told the Journal.
Admittedly, Orbitz was pretty shrewd to pull this lucrative conclusion from their data. Also, Orbitz was astonishingly stupid to brag about it to the Wall Street Journal, risking the loyalty of their more affluent demographic.
Orbitz has gotten some backlash since the Journal article was posted, and they're characterizing the article as misleading. Orbitz CEO Barney Harford tweeted today "@WSJ: subscription pay wall + confusing headline => distorted message about @Orbitz Mac users recommendations. Editors need to fix."
From that wording, you can tell the guy knows a thing or two about confusing information.
His concern, though, was that the Wall Street Journal article had only a two-paragraph summary, with the company's explanation of the practice hidden behind a subscription paywall. The Journal has since put the entire article online for free.
The posting of the full article is also likely inspiring more retailers to put the expensive stuff on display for Mac operating systems.