Orbitz the travel website is being criticized for segmenting the market between those who arrive at their website via Macs compared to PC's. The question is why and how does Orbitz do so? But first the marketing logic of "why" for this segmentation.
The Mac user is distinctly different from the PC user in that they spend at least $500 more for a computer particularly if they are not using the Mac for its highly acclaimed design abilities. And if you think about it the Mac user values usability,elegance and all other things being equal - will be able and willing to pay more for a better hotel room. So it makes sense for Orbitz to show Mac users hotel rooms that are upto 30% pricier than what the supposedly less affluent PC user sees. There is one snag though, and that is that a large segment of Mac users are not tech savvy enough to try and sort the hotel room prices from "low to high." And for this segment it does seem a bit unfair to show them the pricier hotels first. Because in the Internet world the expectation is that the seller will be completely transparent and fair even when it is possible to sell a more expensive value added product that the buyer might actually appreciate.
To clarify, recall the neighborhood travel agent we all used to go and meet before much of the travel business moved online. If you wore Armani and arrived in a Ferrari it is very unlikely that your human travel agent will talk about economy tickets and cheap motel rooms! Instead it might be entirely appropriate to offer charter flights and palace resorts. OK the Ferrari parallel with the Mac user is extreme but just to make the point that in the offline sales world, salespeople always look for cues to offer and tailor appropriate products and services..... so too with the online world.
Web analytics allows you to segment your web visitors by device ( iPad, Mac,PC) and operating system (Windows 7, OS X). So when a visitor arrives from a particular device/operating system a more appropriate bunch of products are shown. Is it possible to exactly predict the personality,preferences of an individual from what operating system they use? Not entirely- but it does give some marketing insight. And it is free to the marketer, so long as the marketer is willing to look at the web analytic data.
The consumer though, needs to become much more aware. Unlike the offline world where one would be self-conscious in a designer suit or high end luxury car, consumers tend to forget that as web analytics gets better they are being extensively profiled that can seem creepy at times. For starters though consumers need to shop around and sort prices from "low to high." All this convenience of comparison Internet shopping does come at the price of cosumer privacy. Contact StratoServe.