How a starting tourism business creates customer value by adopting digital marketing technology?

How a new tourism business creates customer value by adopting digital marketing technology?

Everybody is online today and everybody is expecting all the noteworthy and legitimate running businesses to be there as well. If the consumer can not find your online presence the chances are your business goes unnoticed. Even worse it builds an image of untrustworthiness in the minds of the consumers. The potential customer may presume the business can not deliver what the customer is expecting. If the business fails in the first customer touch point the game is over before it even began, no matter how good the service or a product in reality is.

travel planning

Where to start when you´re starting- the do´s and don’t´s

 Alford and Page state in their study of technology adoption in marketing that SMEs who have a strong Web presence grow twice as quickly as those who have no or minimal presence1. It is essential to seriously think about implementing technology from the very beginning. As a starting business owner, you should start by thinking about what you want to achieve and who you want to reach. Once the business plan is ready, the goals, strategy and the understanding of the desired customer is clear it is time to use this knowledge as a basis in creating a suitable digital marketing plan. The plan should not be a separate aspect but rather intertwined with all that is in the very core of the business.

Dredge et al. examined the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation in tourism listing the needs of tourism businesses when taking up new technology2. They identified five topics: skills, mentoring support, finance, policy support, and infrastructure.

 Skills.

The digital competencies of your business will play a key role in the successful uptake of digital technologies. Often tourism businesses lack the necessary technical resources in their workforce to fully realise digital potentials. This can be due to a number of factors such as a lack of knowledge in identifying required digital skills to limited staffing issues. These restrict the time and effort which can be applied to learning new digital processes. You should map your knowledge and see if you already have knowledgeable personnel in the company. Or think do you want to outsource completely or partly.

Mentoring support

One option is to use mentoring initiatives. Mentoring can boost innovation, enhance creativity and ideation and assist with capacity building. It may improve connectivity between tourism enterprises, technology companies, the arts and cultural sector, and other start-ups. Mentoring reduces the distance and improves the timeliness, of advice between those that have the expertise and those that need to learn. It can be a prolific co-operation between two or more companies where all parties deliver something the other needs helping their businesses thrive. It is smart to keep in mind to not to bite off more than you can chew and here the importance of networking stands out.

Finance

Lack of finance is identified as the number one obstacle preventing the implementation of digital technologies in tourism businesses. There is a significant concern amongst tourism businesses that the cost of implementing new digital technologies will be more than the gains. Analyse what technology your business can benefit from and make a decision. You can start by taking up a few platforms and expanding from there according to the set budget. It is important to remember to build digital marketing around your customers and choose channels accordingly. Thinking which technology to choose to reach the specific customers and which technology brings the most value to the customer in return. Starting smaller and smart saves time and assets.

Policy support

You need policy initiatives and actions to support business awareness of new technologies. They make clear the benefits of their implementation. Your business requires support in business planning and decision-making with regards to new technologies to ensure efficient utilisation. Do research on the available technologies and find what best suits your needs and what serves your customers best. Find out what is out there, any new innovations that would suit you and your customers´, needs. Choose only appropriate, functional and effective technologies.

Infrastructure

The geographic location of tourism enterprises greatly affects their access to adequate digital infrastructures. In developed countries, connections tend to already be adequate even in more remote areas. Still, businesses in urban settings benefit from modern wireless and fibre broadband connections. The infrastructure in rural or more remote areas can be less developed. Getting your software and connections up-to-date is important so that the basic tools at hand are functional.

Are you (all) motivated enough?

Different personal motivations, corporate culture and managers attitude affect the willingness to adopt technology, which is traditionally explained by the technology acceptance model (TAM). Ritz et al. studied the combination of TAM and the do-it-yourself (DIY) behaviour model in adopting new technologies. They stated that small businesses are less likely to participate in digital marketing than larger businesses3. TAM evaluates the ease of use and perceived usefulness of the technology. DIY motivators are economic benefits and lack of quality in existing services. In other words, managers should make the use of technology easy and the economic advantages and other benefits that come with technology apparent. This applies to themselves and communicating this to the whole team.

Alford and Page found out that small business owner-managers have a positive attitude and a real appetite for adopting technology for marketing1. If you can channel this attitude successfully to motivate your employees you may be able to get staff involved in creating more innovative marketing content. This may serve a wider spectrum of customer expectations that exist towards your business.

So what is customer value and how it is created using technology?

 According to Holbrook customer value is the basic foundation for everything in marketing. It can be defined as a preference, experience, interactive and relativistic, that is comparative, personal, and situational4. Komppula and Gartner talk further about desired value, which refers to the value that customers want to receive from products or services and their providers. Received value refers to the value customers have actually experienced through specific customer interactions5. Zeithaml encapsulates the definition by stating that value represents “a trade-off of the salient give and get components”6. All the definitions explain what exactly is the customer value that is created when a business can answer to the needs and wants of their customers.

The product of tourism business is a service that can be thought of as an intangible object which is more difficult to define and label. The service involves emotions, hopes and dreams and the pursuit of satisfaction. As Neuhofer et al. state in their study experiences constitute the essence of the tourism industry7. Holbrook continues that therefore customer value resides neither in the product purchased, in the brand chosen, nor the object possessed but rather in the consumption experiences outcome. People desire not simply the product but rather what is behind the product or service; the satisfaction the experience brings through activity8.

It is all about the experience

It is important to understand the consumer´s journey. How they experience it throughout all the phases of tourism experience which happens before, during and after the service situation as stated by Opute et al9. For a business aiming to achieve improved customer experiential value at a profit, the focus should be to leverage digital technology. This is to fundamentally optimise customer satisfaction. That is why the focus should not be limited to leveraging digital technology to ensure more effective service design and implementation. It should also be about leveraging such technology to drive an integrated implementation strategy. The strategy should recognise the importance of reaching out to customers. This involves engaging actively with them to access customer ideas and suggesting cues for improving their overall experience.

Opute et al. studied the role digital technologies play in tourism customer service experience. They continue by stating and summing up that tourism service providers can leverage digital technologies to drive a customer engagement focus. Doing this higher customer experiential value is reached. At the same time, customer retention and organisational performance improve. Achieving these targets requires the business to interactively engage with customers. By leveraging customer-generated information to fine-tune tourism service design and delivery leave an indelible and memorable impression in the mind of the customers. Customers may attach a high experiential value to a tourism service episode. When this happens they are motivated to undertake a repurchase or re-endorsement of the service. In addition, they want to share their positive service experience afterward9. This reminds the business to put emphasis on the follow-up of the customer visit on the marketing plan.

Ready, engage, interact!

Interaction is what consumers want. They want to be recognized and treated personally. Businesses have to keep in mind that consumers are not completely dependent on communication with the business. They also want to communicate with other consumers and a smart business creates these opportunities. This brings great value to the customer. Customers want honesty and transparency and they go where they can get it. As Prahalad and Ramaswamy 10 found out the consumers can choose the firms they want to have a relationship with. The consumer base this on their own views of how value should be created for them. This reminds the starting tourism business to be humble and how important it is to engage and answer to the customers’ expectations.

Technology adoption has been successful when your business uses technology that is suitable for your strategy. If the technology produces measurable customer value it can be said your business has been very successful. Tapping your digital marketing efforts on all the stages of the tourism experience you maximise the effect and benefit of technology. This way your business ends up creating superb value for the customer.

Acknowledgements

This blog post was written as a part of the Information Technology in Tourism Business course at the International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (University of Eastern Finland Business School). Read more about the programme at https://www.uef.fi/tmm

References

1Alford, Philip & Page, Stephen John. 2015. Marketing technology for adoption by small business. Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University. The Service Industries Journal, 2015-07-07, Vol.35 (11-12-9, p. 655-669. ISSN: 1743-9507 DOI: 10.1080/02642069.2015.1062884

2Dredge, D., Phi, G., Mahadevan, R., Meehan, E. & Popescu, E.S. 2018. Digitalisation in Tourism: In-depth analysis of challenges and opportunities. Low Value procedure GRO-SME-17-C-091-A for Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) Virtual Tourism Observatory. Aalborg University, Copenhagen. © European Union, 1995-2019. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/vto/documents?page=1. Retrieved 25.10.2020.

8Holbrook M.B. (Ed.). 1999. Consumer value: A framework for analysis and research. London (UK): Routledge.

4Holbrook, M. B. 2005. Customer value and autoethnography: subjective personal introspection and the meanings of a photograph collection. Journal of Business Research, 2005-01, Vol. 58 (1), p. 45-61. ISSN: 0148-2963, DOI: 10.1016/s0148-2963(03)00079-1

5Komppula, R., & Gartner, W. C. 2013. Hunting as a travel experience: An auto-ethnographic study of hunting tourism in Finland and the USA. Tourism Management (1982), 2013-04, Vol.35, p. 168-180.35. ISSN: 0261-5177, DOI: 10.1016/j.tourman.2012.06.014

7Neuhofer, B., Buhalis, D., & Ladkin, A. 2014. A typology of technology‐enhanced tourism experiences. International Journal of Tourism Research, 2014-07, Vol. 16 (4), p.340-350. ISSN: 1099-2340, DOI: 10.1002/jtr.1958

9Opute, A. P., Irene, B. & Iwu, C. G. 2020. Tourism Service and Digital Technologies: A Value Creation Perspective. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 2020-03-01, Vol. 9 (2). EISNN:2223-814X

10Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. 2004. Co-creation experiences: The next practice in value creation. Journal of interactive marketing, 2004-01, Vol. 18 (3), p.5-14. ISSN:1094-9968, DOI: 10.1002/dir.20015

3Ritz, Wendy, Wolf, Marco & McQuitty, Shaun. 2019. Digital marketing adoption and success for small businesses: The application of the do-it-yourself and technology acceptance models. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing.2019-06-16, Vol.13(2), p.179-203. ISSN:2040-7122. DOI: 10.1108/JRIM-04-2018-0062

6Zeithaml, V. A. 1988. Consumer perceptions of price, quality, and value: a means-end model and synthesis of evidence. Journal of Marketing, 1988-07-01, vol. 52 (3), p.2-22. ISSN:0022-2429.DOI:10.1177/002224298805200302

 

What makes or breaks the content on a good tourism website?

What kind of content works on a top-notch tourism website? What actually engages the visitor to stay on the page longer and better yet -develop a genuine interest towards the company?

When a few small things are taken into consideration, it is easier to capture the attention of the visitor. The most important thing to take into consideration is the customer value proposition.

The nitty-gritties

Who is your customer, what problem are you trying to solve for them, what are your customers’ needs and what will they gain from your services? By answering these questions you are well on your way of designing prime content for your website.

Answering these questions is also important because a website acts as a first impression -the first few seconds determine whether or not the visitor will stay on your site. The content on your website must be engaging not just for selling but for solving the customers’ needs in the best case. Also, keep in mind you may want to produce different content for your various target groups.

Make the first impressions count

Needless to say, what affects the first impression is the visuality of your site; pictures, videos, colours etc. Did you know that there’s research to show that visuality affects the customers ability to imagine themselves in your destination or using your product? Now you do. While it may not work to your advantage to have a 2 minute HD ad video on your site as it would slow it down, it will be beneficial to have relevant pictures and you may want to consider shorter clips.

Symbolic ideas for content

Convince, link and create

Whatever you produce onto your website, the content has to be persuasive as this affects the customers’ attitudes towards your company and product. The tone in which you present your written points should also be consistent -this way you maintain credibility in the eyes of the reader. In addition, you should sound confident but not intimidating and the tone must tell the story of your business and be in line with what you offer.

A couple of tech-savvy pieces of content that are good to have would be online chats, relevant calls to action as well as reviews from your clients and perhaps even photos taken by your customers. Don’t forget to include your contact details or social media links either! If you’re for example writing a blog, it might be an idea to include a snippet from your content there as well.

Above all, your website content needs to tell a story, as stories are what appeals to us and make us engage with a brand. Don’t just lay out the facts and service attributes but tell the emotional stories around them.

The most important concept in destination marketing?

What is a concept or a term that every destination marketer should know and understand about destination marketing? I think I found it. It is very catchy. A bit marketing-oriented even. Quickly thought, something far-fetched? But coherent and makes a lot of sense when thought more deeply.

It gathers up something very wide in one tight, distinct term. It makes me go “aha” and to nod. Have I now learned the most important concept during my master studies in tourism?

Destination DNA

Understanding Destination DNA is the key to plan and implement destination marketing. The identity of a place, the code written there by nature, the basic framework of a certain destination. It is something not to invent. It is something that already exists and has existed for a long time. It cannot be faked to be something it is not or changed to something else.

Destination Marketing DNA

Destinations, embrace your identity!

Place DNA is the destination’s competitive identity, and that’s why it is important to dig out. It must be deeply understood and commonly agreed among the entrepreneurs and residents in the area – the destination’s ‘frontline ambassadors’: those with whom visitors come into contact.

It is the atmosphere, the setting, and surrounding, the natural staging of the destination. It makes the genuine holiday experience possible to happen, to exist.

Or can the DNA of a destination change?

Actually, will it – eventually – anyway?

No. It won’t. Destination DNA is something that stays as it is. Presence, personality, and characteristics change. Or rather, develop. It is important to distinguish these two.

As important as it is for a destination to be well aware of its DNA, it is important to understand that once it’s known, it cannot be ignored, left unattended or unutilized.

What matters the most in destination marketing?

People build the destination marketing

Destination DNA is the basis of “what” and the core for “how”. Also, it gives the visitor a purpose, “why”. What makes a certain destination special? How are the available attributes possible to experience during the visit? Why should someone visit in the first place?  Therefore, an essential concept in tourism marketing and management.

As I stated in the beginning, learning this term got me captivated by its importance. Destination DNA – I pondered, maybe even the most important realization considering my tourism studies? Well, it is a term. A written, nicely formulated concept. Putting into practice, another thing. And who does it?

The people.

People behind the product, the service,

the experience.

Heart and soul to destination marketingThe final touch, in connection with the customer, comes from the business owners and the employees. They, the people, are the ones who transform the destination into a tourism product. Into experiences which breathe the place atmosphere.

And they add their own personal DNA into it,

 to make it memorable for the people.

For the customer.

 

 

 

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.

TMM developing tourism business at Etelä-Konnevesi region

Our International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) has started a collaboration with municipalities of Konnevesi and Rautalampi and tourism stakeholders in the region. The concrete first step in this collaboration was a two-day workshop on developing nature tourism in the Etelä-Konnevesi region, organized in Konnevesi research station 14.-15.3.2018. Together with Anne Hyvärinen, project manager at a regional tourism development project, two days full of tourism business content were designed and tailored for the region.

Tourism insights and knowledge

The idea of the first day was to bring in all the actors to the same level when it comes to tourism marketing and management in a nature tourism destination. The day started with introductions and three short group work presentations by our students. As a preliminary assignment, our students had examined how the region is represented on the Internet from the perspective of potential tourists, both domestic and international. They also gave a quick overview of the recent development of the region in combination with development possibilities.

Making tourism better
Nature tourism workshop at Etelä-Konnevesi region

From the student presentations, it became obvious that the region has a vast tourism potential, but the problem is that very few know about this hidden gem. Most tourists that come to the region just visit the Southern-Konnevesi National Park, even though the region is full of interesting, high-quality and distinctive tourism businesses. Thus we were able to pinpoint the tourism development problem to marketing and sales, as well as networking between the actors in the region.

Besides our students, there was a wide range of presentations from local entrepreneurs and tourism personnel, Jyväskylä UAS and Visit Jyväskylä, and Johku. The tourism in the region and development possibilities were discussed from many different viewpoints, providing a great overview of the topic.

Networking and collaboration

At the end of the first day, we had the chance to visit a local rural tourism business Suopirtti Highland and meet their “hairy cows” (ie. highland cattle). It was indeed an experience for all of us. Afterward, we had a chance to taste delicious locally produced dishes at restaurant Mierontie. The restaurant also had a unique, wooden interior design made by local Jukola Industries. At the end of the second day, we had the chance to visit the National Park and experience KalajaRetkeily hospitality from Markku Utriainen. These visits only reinforced our view that there are many great and original tourism products and services in the region, but very few have ever heard of them.

Tourism services at Etelä-Konnevesi
Local tourism services

Professor Raija Komppula emphasized at the workshop how important collaboration and networking are for tourism businesses. Not that much can be achieved by doing things alone. Tourists seldom choose a destination based on one tourism business. Tourists are looking for an amalgam of experience that they can enjoy during their trip and only by working together a region can provide tourists what they want.

Tourism business development

Our students are now working with individual tourism businesses as their second assignment. Each student was assigned with a tourism business with their own development possibilities. The businesses gave our students practice-oriented tasks connected to topics such as marketing mix development, service packaging, experience design, technology adoption and new-service development. Our students will provide each involved business a short report that guides the businesses to take the next steps.

Students in a nature trail
TMM students and staff at the Etelä-Konnevesi National Park

Collaboration with TMM

We have built our programme so that this kind of destination and business collaborations are possible. Our students performed really well during the workshop and have clearly learned a lot during this past year they have been studying with us. We will continue our collaboration with Etelä-Konnevesi region and are also open to new possibilities to make tourism better. If you are interested in collaboration, please contact me at juho.pesonen[at]uef.fi.

How to promote a tourism destination online in international markets

 “Summary: Plan, use different online tools to analyze, make things easy for others and Care!”

Like every other business, there are some strategies to follow while promoting a tourism destination online in a foreign country to attract tourists. In this post, I present some ideas how a tourism destination should be marketed for international audiences. If you are a destination marketer, take a look!

Traditionally, expanding destination marketing to new markets is conducted through various partneships with for example travel agencies. However, tourism destination should also have visible online presense to support these partnerships.

Nowadays, internet is flooded with tons of similar things. Among them, some are interesting, useful while many of them are annoying, time consuming and just scam. So, no one wants to spend time in online for something that he/she doesn’t like, when there are many better options available a click away. So, to stand out as a right option to the customers, there are many things that one can do to succeed in his work.

   1.  Proper Website

Websites are often the first part of business identity for a foreign customer. So, a good website can work as a good representative of the destination. But, it needs to be customized for that targeted group. Only translating contents to a foreign language is not enough. There are many other things which need to be checked to make a good and well-functioning website.

  • Use a native speaker here to translate. At the same time, it needs to be localized in terms of message.
  • The core message of the product and services need to be delivered to the customers in a way they expect, accept and understand easily.
  • Language in a website should be easy, simple and understandable by everyone. Remember to talk with the customers in their tone.
  • Is the website responsive to all the devices that customers use?
  • How easy it to navigate?
  • Are there core messages in a way that customers can get it within few seconds when they come across this page?
  • Are there easy payment options and prices in local currencies, so no one face any difficulty?
  • How fast webpage loads in devices in different countries?
  • Is there something that can make it difficult or annoying to use?
  • Is there right contact information, so customers can reach easily when needed?
  • Is it attractive and well decorated?
2. Online Marketing for tourism destinations

Online marking is a critical part of a modern marketing mix. Now a marketer has only a few seconds to present his product to grab attention from customers and deliver core messages. The failure of doing this can bring a total failure of a business. By following few steps correctly, one can reap the best fruits with minimum effort.

  • Proper planning.
  • Setting a measurable short time and longtime goals.
  • Checking financial capabilities such as budget and base the plan on that is also important.
  • Categorizing customers based on region, age, interest etc.

Thinking is the most powerful tool any marketer has at their disposal. Think and study who your customers are and what they need and want. Find out who are already interested in the destination and looking for it online. It is easy to talk to someone who is already interested in and knows about the destination than to a stranger. “Google Market Finder” tools can help in this regard. As countries all over the world are different from each other in terms of language, culture, lifestyle and purchasing power, marketing to them need to be different as well.

    3. Promotion

For promotion, the best idea is to use multi-channel online marketing to reach the customers faster. These channels are social media marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid advertising in different search engines, social media and other websites that have similar users. But, before starting all these tasks, first

  • Find out which marketing platform would be most effective for that targeted country.
  • What kind of search engines do they prefer?
  • Make ads in the local language. Ads with precise and interesting contents directed to a landing page might work better.
  • Use email marketing.

Of course, timing is also importing to engage more people in the advertisement. There are tools like Google keywords planner which can help to find the best keywords for SEO and ads. Email marketing is always good option to consider. It is targeted for the people who have already visited the website and has shown some interest. It is the fasted way to reach potential customers and let them know about updates, offers and a reminder of destination. It is very effective for re-targeting customers who already checked destination and signed for news update through mail. Sometimes, it influences them to make a purchase later. Finally, in email, keep easy unsubscribe option if someone wants to do so.

Make it easy for the customer to reach customer support whenever needed. Everything should be frank and honest. Make sure that, customers get enough care before and after purchasing. Collect honest feedback from them, so things can be improved. Checking things time to time from customers’ point of view is also important!

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.

From Marketing Strategy to Values Strategy

Having been processing the concept of marketing strategy during the ongoing autumn due to our course on destination marketing, the concept of strategy has been wandering in my mind. What does it actually mean and how important is it for a (tourism) company?

Applying the concept of strategy

In his book Valonöörin käsikirja (A lightneer’s guide) Frank Martela poses the questions What are our goals, what things are worth doing? and What can we do to reach our goals? as the central questions about the human life. He also points out that too often we do things that we didn’t actively choose to do. Too often we spend time on social media or Netflix though our goal is to do sports and be physically in a good condition. Or maybe we feel pressure to do certain things or maybe we just accept them because that’s how people always have done them. I think these questions and thoughts can be applied to business strategies as well.

During our course on marketing it was highlighted how important the mission, vision and values of the company are when creating a strategy. Another author and teacher Jim Collins reveals in his book Good to Great ways to develop a good company into a great one, based on a broad research. One of the core findings is to first find the right people around you, to keep them around you and then to “figure out the best path to greatness”. Also because with the right people you can more easily face changes in the changing world: “if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then  it’s much easier to change direction”. This can also be seen as a value-based approach: when there’s a group of people who share the same values and hopefully the same mission, it’s easier to set the direction.

Getting the right people on the bus (although the bus might need to be repaired along the way).

 

 

 

Don’t get stuck to the word: it’s about the content

Wikipedia, tells that the word ‘strategy’ derives from the Greek word stratēgia and the original meaning would be something like “art of troop leader, office of general, command, generalship” and that a strategy is a “high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty”. The other week I also had the chance to hear some thoughts about marketing from Timo Kiuru, who works as a creative director for different companies. In his opinion the term ‘strategy’ shouldn’t be used at all. He still stressed the importance of values and to on a weekly basis check if you have been acting according to your values.

It was a very inspiring speech and I also agree that we shouldn’t get too stuck to the word itself or think that if there’s some kind of a strategy, everything will fall into places. The importance of the content of the strategy, the goals and actions have to also be highlighted: a strategy is no use if it’s not concrete, applicable and if it’s not applied. For a company it’s quite essential to define some sort of a strategy. If there is a high level plan with at least some values or core thoughts that are important and/or motivating  it can’t go very wrong. Also, possible changes in the plan don’t necessarily mean it was wrong in the first place.

Setting a direction.

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.