Online stores change prices depending on how you shop. Here’s how
Wired - 11/14/2014
A team of researchers at Northeastern University recently analyzed how e-commerce sites tailor prices to specific shoppers based on their digital habits and demographics, such as their ZIP code. According to the study, presented last week at the Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, major e-commerce sites including Home Depot, Walmart, and Hotels.com list online prices that are all over the map, and in some cases, these prices are “personalized” to the behavior of particular shoppers, including whether they shop on a phone or on a desktop.
“Going into this, we assumed the project would be risky—that we might not find anything,” says Christo Wilson, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern and one of the study’s authors. “There have been incidents in the past where companies have been caught doing this, and the PR was very bad. We thought that sites wouldn’t be doing anything. We were more surprised that we found something.”