In a study conducted by Northeastern University 300 recruited real-world online shoppers visited 16 different websites – 10 of which were general retailers, and six of which were hotel booking sites. Researchers compared the prices each person was quoted and studied how these prices varied based on operating system,browser, past purchases and clicks. Apple iPhone owners often see lower prices. Researchers found that Home Depot charges Android users higher prices on approximately 6% of the items in its catalog $0.41 on average. However, on an item-by-item basis, you can occasionally see browser-specific price swings of $100 or more. For the best deals on both Cheaptickets or Orbitz, you’ll want to be a registered account holder. Researchers found that when users logged in they saved an average of $12. Hotels.com nor Expedia practices price discrimination – all users get the same price, regardless of operating system or browsing history. But these two sites do serve different search results to different users. Priceline, like Hotels.com and Expedia, doesn’t practice price discrimination. However, ‘The Negotiator’ will change your search results based on your history of past clicks and purchases. If you prefer booking cheaper hotel rooms, Priceline will favor cheaper rooms in your search results. If you regularly book 3- and 4-star accommodations, Priceline will default to showing you its more expensive options. Booking a hotel room on Travelocity, is best to do it on an iPhone or iPad. The researchers found that as many as 5% of the site’s rooms carry a special unadvertised iOS “Apple discount” averaging $15 per night. Beware if you’re visiting on Chrome or IE 8: One room showed up $50 more expensive on those browsers than on others.
Overall, most of the researchers’ experiments on the 16 e-commerce sites did not reveal evidence of price steering or price discrimination.However,differences were significant in some of the cases where they did find this evidence.
The researchers work will be presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver next month—their research represents the first comprehensive study of e-commerce personalization that examines price discrimination and price steering for hundreds of actual users as well as many more synthetically generated fake accounts