Here Come The OS Class Wars: Orbitz Finds Mac Users Spend More On Hotels Than Their PC Counterparts
In a finding that many have subliminally known about for years, but never been actually proven, yet is still quite shocking, the WSJ is reporting that tourism portal Orbitz "has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see." Which is not really surprising: after all Mac users tend to "see" far pricier computers too, not to mention "buy." As a result, Orbitz has decided to automatically redirect Mac users: aka the rich, but gullible ones, to seeing hotel offers that are more expensive than those seen by PC users by on average $20-$30. Call it OS screening, and call it perfectly acceptable: because it appears, empirically, that Mac users are perfectly ok with spending more than they have to for virtually anything.
Orbitz executives confirmed that the company is experimenting with showing different hotel offers to Mac and PC visitors, but said the company isn't showing the same room to different users at different prices. They also pointed out that users can opt to rank results by price.
Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site's average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.
"We had the intuition, and we were able to confirm it based on the data," Orbitz Chief Technology Officer Roger Liew said.
As predictive analytics becomes more entrenched, soon phone companies will be charging iPhone users an additional 50% per call, "just because."
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.
Orbitz first confirmed Mac users' preferences in October and began working them into the complicated mix of factors that determine its search results. The effect isn't always obvious. In tests performed by The Wall Street Journal, search results for hotels in cities including Las Vegas, Orlando, Philadelphia and Boston were the same for both Macs and PCs. A New York search turned up more expensive hotels for Mac users, but only after the first 20 listed.
So far this type of order prejudice appears to have only impacted Orbitz.
Rival travel sites Expedia Inc., Priceline.com Inc. and Travelocity, which is a unit of Sabre Holdings Corp., don't use a person's computer operating system when suggesting hotels, spokesmen said. Apple declined to comment.
Of course, now that Orbitz' "platform targetting" has been exposed, the company can say goodbye to its Mac user base. However, this will hardly be the last time that the "aspiration" consumer segment known as the Macerati is targeted:
Apple users already stand out as big spenders. Nearly half of retailers in a recent study by Forrester Research and Shop.org said users of tablets—a large majority of which are iPads—tend to place bigger online orders than users of laptops or desktops. Shoppers on Apple devices like iPhones also outspend shoppers using Android or BlackBerry devices, accounting for half of all mobile purchases, according to International Business Machines, which tracks data from retailers.
Fashion site Rue La La pays close attention to iPhone and iPad users, who account for 75% of all of its mobile orders, said CEO Ben Fischman.
Which of course means one last thing: soon some journalist will discover that credit card companies targeted Mac users almost exclusively, and that the average Apple buyer is either to their neck in student loans (federally funded of course), or has $25,000 more in credit card debt than the guy next door running PC... and $50,000 more than the guy around the block still slaving under (a far more nimble version of) Linux.
Step aside class, gender and religion wars: here come the OS wars, or who can outspend everyone else, still have the "coolest gadgets", and merely live month to month.
But hey: if one must impress people one doesn't like, and whose operating systems one has no idea how to use, with stuff that makes one spend more money by default, so be it. One doesn't become an aspirational upper-class poseur by not having a Retina screen.
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