Expedia Group’s Hotwire brand has a unique travel product called Hot Rate Deals, which is often cheaper than the competition, but with a catch. To snag a better price, the customer can’t know the hotel name, precise location, or see photos until you commit to a non-refundable booking for a deep discount. Hotwire does provide a generalized indication of hotel quality, amenities, and location.
In the age of ubiquitous, detailed product content, and given the typically expensive cost of travel booking, it was increasingly tricky to ask consumers to buy without the certainty of exactly what they’d receive. Unsurprisingly, the Hot Rate Hotel product was in decline. Risk aversion is real, especially in e-commerce; We needed to innovate on the Hot Rate approach to build trust, and hopefully grow the product.
We hypothesized that by using the behavioral psychology concept of anchoring, we could make Hot Rate more appealing and intuitive. By creative and engaging forms of revealing detailed product content, we could lower risk aversion, increasing trust and conversion.
Anchoring Hot Rate against Retail
After failed starts at using copy to educate about what Hot Rate was, we opted to try a more intuitive route of show versus tell, leveraging behavioral design.
We hypothesized by using Anchoring or showing the lower Hot Rate price in the context of the more expensive, but lower quality retail quality, it would make Hot Rate more intuitive, and that by revealing the potential final hotel before booking, the lowered risk would increase conversion, while reasonably maintaining supplier opacity.
This and similar anchoring tests indeed proved to increase conversion of Hot Rate Hotel share, and established a strong vein for further optimization.
Revealing detailed product content
Our suppliers required obscuring as much detail as possible, it was a tricky balance to provide more content for the customer, without jeopardizing quality supply.
We believed customers would benefit from more clarity on their hotel, and added a new ability to view a real photo of the Hotel:
We added the ability to reveal the competitive set, narrowing down the potential outcome of booking, reducing risk.
We learned users enjoyed engaging with the “click to reveal” mechanism to gain an edge in knowing what their deal might be:
After clicking to reveal:
After consistent decline for numerous years, alongside critical improvements in the quality of supply and data science for sort display, smart tactics of employing behavioral psychology and additional content to “hack the Hot Rate” proved successful in helping to stabilize the Hot Rate Hotel product, with promising signs of growth. We managed to walk a challenging line of supporting supplier requirements, while better serving our customer, by innovating on how Hot Rate could be sold.