The Agoda booking platform might not be the most user-friendly around, but it indeed is one full of surprises. We discovered some of its less out-in-the-open web strategies and today explore their meaning in the OTA landscape.
Agoda's pricing trick
Online retailers applying dynamic prices to users according to their search behavior? Not a strange concept in the web world.
Yet to observe this is in the booking king of couponing came somewhat unexpected.
On its website, Agoda segments hotel bookers and shows different room rates based on how they arrive on the platform:
One price for visitors who search for a hotel on Agoda.com
Another price if a visitor arrives on Agoda via Google Search
How does it work?
Let's take a look at an example.
We searched for Hotel Garda on both Google and Agoda.com.
Here is what we found:
Room Rate on Agoda via Google Search
The price of the single room is €83.
Click through from Google search, and Agoda sells the double for €85.
But, if you check the room rates on the Agoda website, the prices for the same hotel, travel dates, and room types will be slightly higher.
Now let's look at the difference if you search for hotel prices on Agoda.com:
Room Rate on Agoda via Direct Search
The price of the one-bedroom is €88.
It's a €5 price increase compared to if you came via Google.
And below, Agoda charges €88 for the double room.
That's only a €3 increase. But it is the same rate as a single room!
Why does Agoda show different prices?
This measure highlights that according to Agoda:
user origin links to online behavior
So, while a "Google searcher" is most likely to look for the cheapest rate, customers who are already on Agoda.com seem to be more "flexible" on price.
Because 'cheapest' may not necessarily be their first criterion.
How to guard against pricing tricks?
With the right hotel market intelligence software, it is possible to guard against rate disparity on OTA platforms like Agoda and Booking.
So what other hidden web tricks did we find?
Effortless SEO at the expense of hotels
Equally interesting and equally concealed is Agoda’s use of the following web strategy.
Copy-paste append text
Whenever a user copies a hotel name from Agoda’s website, pasting it will automatically add ‘Agoda’ at the end of the text.
This text forces the customer towards the booking platform (unless they alter the search text) and automatically improves their online ranking.
Impact on hotel's visibility
A better ranking for Agoda, however, also means a worse one for hotels.
The altered search text makes the hotel automatically lose ground and rank lower.
Using an appended text is quite a harassing measure and doesn’t make for a good user experience from a customer perspective.
Agoda deciding to implement this measure in spite of this means that according to them, or their research, the benefits must outweigh the cons.
Or is there more?
Final Thoughts - What if?
Agoda’s online techniques, if successful, could be later implemented on other OTAs of the Booking Holdings group; it’s not unreasonable to believe that this could be part of a strategy to use Agoda as a testing ground.
That would explain the adoption of unpopular tactics as part of a nearly risk-free strategy to test out new ideas before applying them to other platforms.
Assumptions aside, Agoda’s use of dynamic pricing and copy-paste append text points out valuable ideas about online customer behavior and the way online travel agencies could address this. Who will be next?