Putting available options in context


When booking a hotel room in a city that you’ve never visited before, you can encounter many types of sticker shock. The price may be very high, the room may be small, and the only bed available may be a double. To you, these issues might be significant. But to someone who travels there a lot, the same attributes could be perfectly acceptable.

Clearly, the difference in perceptions is driven by familiarity and context. If you already know that 75% of the hotel rooms in the city are small and overpriced, you’ll be able to make a smart decision based on the available options. But someone lacking this information might be too annoyed to ever complete the transaction.

What’s the solution? Hotel booking websites need to provide more info about typical rooms and rates. For instance, on the search results page, they might show the average price, bed type, and room size for hotels in that city. Or, next to each listing, they could display icons that indicate how the room’s attributes compare to the average room in that market.

The same approach can be extended to air travel (think about the average length of flights, not just price) and many other businesses. In each case, the idea is to help users place the available choices in context, so they’ll understand what a “good” deal looks like. Do this properly, and more people will stick with your site and convert into paying customers.