Tag Archives: Digital Markets

Booking a travel

Using modern technology platforms to book a travel, using the modern web 2.0 should be a no-brainer, right? This is what I thought yesterday when starting to book a simple travel from Zürich to Hamburg an back.

So first, do your citizenship duty and check out the railway system (yes, I am ecologically biased). German Bahn has a “Switzerland special” for 39€ one-way, great… But their web form only allows to select a German station as departing place and a return trip starting in Switzerland. There is no way to book Switzerland-Germany-Switzerland. grr. So off to http://sbb.ch and book there: enter all travel details, select discount cards etc, just to be informed that (unspecified) parts of the trip Zürich-Hamburg can not be booked and therefore no booking at all is possible.
So back to http://bahn.de, skipping all discounts and simply enter Zürich-Hamburg in the regular web mask. It is great that they offer me to enter my Swiss half-fare card or my German half-fare card, but that is an “exclusive or”, I can enter either my Swiss or my german half-fare card for a trip spanning both countries. Fail again! Price: 220€ for the discounted cheap tickets bound to a specific train.

So off to the flights: expedia.de offers a direct 230€ Swiss/Lufthansa flight, so I’ll go for that. (1.1h rather than 8h of traveling time is more attractive). Enter details, skip rental car and insurance options, just to be informed that the flight is now 270€ rather than 230€. Suckers. Off to http://lastminute.de, booking the very same flight for 230€.

Conclusion? Digital markets might be true enablers, but their execution is still lacking. Also in-transparent price design can be something rather frustrating for the consumer.

The next bubble

The next bubble will not be real-estate, or tech startups and we actually aready live in it. It is… The Filter Bubble (book by Eli Pariser).

It means that your search results are personalized and customized according to your habits, friends, and taste. It also means that two persons searching the same term can receive very different results. Google started doing that in 2009, and up to now, I have never really cared a lot about this (as most people will have). However, they introduced ever more services since then that all collect your data. Notably they know your location via your Android phone, and your friends via Google+, as well as their posts and locations. They know your appointments via Google calendar, and your contacts via your address book. They know every search term ever entered, and the links clicked from the result pages.

Today I opened the Google Homepage and the previously bare page was cluttered with advertizements to install their Google Chrome webbrowser, to search Google+ and whatnot. Combined with their current privacy policy update which clarifies that:

Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

This leads to a very dangerous mix. Why am I sceptical about improved search results? See for instance, Eli Pariser’s TED talk here.

Google gives you search results that you and your friends will like, e.g. the blogs they read, the links they click, etc. This leads to an even higher degree of selective exposure than we usually have. In effect it means a compartmentalization of the Internet in areas where you feel warm, cozy, and comfortable, being shielded from things that differ from your opinion, or are likely to appall you. Is this always a good thing? It facilitates group-think and prevents you from being challenged by different world views.

Do I like relevant search results? Obviously yes! Am I concerned about living in a filter bubble? Yes, very much so…