Monday, September 10, 2012

Behavioural lessons from one of the best websites

My heart began to race.  It was the last one and I knew there were four other interested buyers.  No time to muck around, I better go in for the kill. Where's my credit card?

Welcome friends to the world of booking accommodation online, a goldmine of examples of behavioural economics applied to the customer experience.

Let's look at just three of the techniques used by one of the best exponents,

Sample listing from

Create a sense of urgency
No surprise, but part of getting customer commitment is a sense of urgency.  Urgency comes from our fear of missing out, so this is how use it;  

  • Notice that the number of rooms left is displayed next to the City View room deal. Trust me, when it gets down to 1 you jump pretty quickly.  Chances are you will even stop looking for reviews in your rush to secure the room - the overall rating will do.

Create a sense of normalcy
As much as we deny we are persuaded by what others do, we are.  Being a normal part of the 'herd' is core to our functioning, so here's how use it;

  • There are 6 other people looking at this hotel - good, because it means I have great taste. But worrying that there are six people looking and only three of the city rooms available!  Urgency strikes again.
  • Last booking - others have trusted this hotel enough to book
  • Guest reviews - whilst the impartiality of reviews may be questioned, they do carry psychological weight because they are ostensibly written by people like us

Create a sense of value
We need to make estimations of value whenever we are looking to buy.  If the business doesn't control how its price is contextualised we will rely on whatever's in our head - dangerous for any business.  You must therefore anchor the prices relative to others. For example, carry more expensive options to encourage sale of the cheaper option, and always list your original price along with its marked down amount.;

  • Notes that the price for the City View room has been marked down, and obviously so.  No good just showing your 'sale price' if you don't also show the original because your customer may not understand how great a deal this is.
I've booked a lot of accommodation over the years and whilst there are many sites -,, amongst them, I keep being drawn back to for its interface and communication of information.  Let me know if you agree that it is one of the best, and whether you have used similar behavioural techniques in your business.

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