Is there any data / case studies behind booking.com's practices such as "5 are watching this" & "last booking made 15 minutes ago"?

On one hand I believe this might help increase conversion for an user that landed on a booking page, on the other hand I'm curious if it does not turn away users that get frustrated by this constant time pressure.

Any ideas?

2 Answers 2


Ecommerce websites use stocking information like 'only 5 left' to coerce visitors into buying the item. Visitors will be afraid they'll lose the deal if they go in search of a cheaper alternative. It's what we call a dark ux pattern.

In case of booking.com I think there are two reasons for adding it.

  1. It coerces visitors into booking, because it makes the visitor believe the hotel will be full any minute because there are all these people interested in the hotel.
  2. It shows the popularity of the hotel. Star ratings and the number of reviews work the same way.

These methods are often mentioned in articles about 'improving conversion rates'.

Even though it's called a dark ux pattern, it isn't necessarily bad ux.

  • It's the web equivalent of the TV pitchman's phrase "Act Now -- Supplies Are Running Out!" and is the reason I do all my travel booking in Incognito mode now. No more using my cookies against me. Mar 19, 2014 at 14:16
  • Precisely! And it's for people like you this method is considered bad UX. But it works for a lot of people. It's just dark.. very dark. Mar 20, 2014 at 7:51
  • That's exactly what I'm wondering about, how many of my potential customers would I turn off with such practices vs how well would it work on the others.
    – Matt
    Mar 21, 2014 at 8:33
  • That's difficult to tell. Some might say it's not even a dark ux pattern because people want stuff like information about availability. I think you should do A/B testing. Don't show that piece of data to the majority of the people just to be safe and show a percentage of your visitors the information and see which method has the best conversion rate. Mar 21, 2014 at 8:37

I think it's useful to inform your (new) customers that the booking could be sold out soon. (Probably it isn't, but it is what they want the clients to think.)

In my point of view it's a nice way to push users in the sales funnel, only when it's not too obvious.

  • I assume that is the purpose of this feature, but does it work? Does it actually push people into the sales funnel?
    – JonW
    Mar 19, 2014 at 9:16
  • 1
    Exactly, I know what the feature is for, I'm wondering wether there are any case studies or data regarding such patterns. It worked on me, I booked a hotel, but my feeling were very amibivalent, it didn't feel nice to be rushed like that.
    – Matt
    Mar 19, 2014 at 11:54

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