I’m frequently asked for examples of buyer personas, but my clients never allow me to share their findings publicly. That's because the insights they discover about their buyers are non-obvious and therefore the source of significant competitive advantage.
So I was astounded when the Wall Street Journal broke the story from travel-site Orbitz that Mac users spend 30% more per hotel night than PC/Windows users.
Orbitz is thrilled that they will now be able to promote pricier properties to the Mac buyer persona, eliminating the cheap stuff that isn’t relevant and providing easy access to the rooms they want. This will result in higher profits for Orbitz and a better customer experience for the Mac user.
But didn’t anyone say, "great job, marketing team, for gleaning this insight. Let’s make those changes to the search function right away and keep this under our hats, as we certainly don’t want Expedia or Kayak to copy us."
The WSJ story set off a flurry of press coverage, including ABC's Good Morning America and endless social media discussion. People are arguing about whether Mac users are profligate spenders and PC users are cheap. The privacy folks are concerned that this data was even available to Orbitz. And there was the obvious worry that Orbitz would mark up prices on a hotel if they see that the user is on a Mac. Here’s the company’s response as reported by MSNBC:
“If you carefully read the WSJ, it never says Orbitz charges Mac users more. Because we do not. This story grew out of our observation that Mac users tend to like 4-5 star hotels more than PC users. We make recommendations about hotels along a number of variables, i.e., traveling with or without children. Just as Mac users are willing to pay more for higher end computers, at Orbitz we have seen that Mac users are 40% more likely to book 4 or 5 star hotels as compared to Windows users. What we are doing is reflecting that insight in our recommendations. Our recommendation module has extremely high levels of consumer engagement, indicating that it is a feature that our users really appreciate.”
Good idea Orbitz. But I’d have advised you to keep this persona insight locked up in the same vault where Coke keeps their secret formula. I’m sure your competitors are happy for your help.
And I'm pleased to have a buyer persona success story that isn't subject to my customers' non-disclosure agreements.