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

 

How has technology influenced the rise of LGBT tourism?

 

 

What is LGBT tourism all about?

LGBT tourism is the process of tourism product and service development and marketing that caters the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. This specific segment of tourism provides opportunities to select destinations, accommodations, transport, events and so on, which are LGBTQ+ friendly. These create options for LGBT tourists to travel while feeling welcomed and respected. As the modern world moves towards a more inclusive and open-minded attitude, this area of tourism keeps growing with potential and is one of the fastest-growing tourism segments. For more information see https://www.iglta.org.

Technology and its impact on LGBT tourism

Technology has had a significant effect on awareness and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and issues relating to them. UNWTO: Global Report on LGBT Tourism (2012) shows that countries with progressive policies towards LGBT individuals gain more economic benefits from tourism. It also shows that there are improved social benefits resulted from LGBT friendly brand image. This image is formed by inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity.

Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) enables tourism businesses to gain competitive advantages in promotion and marketing, in addition to reinforcing the operations and strategies in the industry. Development of ICTs has enabled tourists in the LGBT segment to actively participate in the creation and sharing of their tourist experiences. This is done by activating conversations in social media with friends, family and others. Development of ICTs has created an opportunity for people to connect despite geographical and physical boundaries. This has decreased the effect of isolation commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community.

Social media has had an essential role in strengthening the formerly silenced and sidelined voices. Various online, brand and marketing campaigns such as “It gets better” and Spotify: Pride stories, have carried out hope for a better future for the representatives of LGBTQ+ community. However, while the positive awareness and acceptance get better, the negative backlash is fueled. Specially targeted hate campaigns towards the LGBTQ+ community showcase the popularity of homophobic and transphobic convictions people still hold.

LGBT tourist behaviour

As a tourist segment, LGBT tourists have fairly high spending power and more opportunities to travel off-season. Tourists in the LGBT segment utilise all available ways of communication, with a high focus on channels and online platforms developed for this community in particular. These channels and platforms include such as online forums, specified websites, apps and various social networks.

As tourists, LGBT people like any other tourists connect to and use technology, digital and online tools before, during and after travel. Before travel, they utilise the internet to search for LGBT friendly places to visit and while travelling engages with the rest of the community through posts and pictures in social media. After travel, they evaluate the services and use e-WOM to share their experiences. Some applications are specifically catering for this tourism segment, like Misterbnb. This is similar to Airbnb but the accommodation hosts are LGBTQ+ friendly. Another great mobile app is Wimbify. It combines Couchsurfing and Airbnb with a way of meeting other people in this community.

What are the ways to grow as a destination for LGBT tourism?

The question arises; how the tourism industry can gain an advantage of the positive impacts of technology to grow LGBT tourism and is there a way to minimize the negative impacts? Destinations should jump on the bandwagon of creating awareness on inclusiveness and tolerance towards this community. If not existing already, they should develop tourism products and services that are authentically LGBT friendly. Additionally, creating specified marketing campaigns plays a huge role in attracting these tourists and getting the destination on the map as an LGBT friendly tourism destination. This can be achieved through smaller actions as well. It is as simple as using a small rainbow on websites or advertisements. Website design should include inclusive visuals to welcome this segment of tourists. Destinations can add a section for options focusing on LGBT tourists, such as LGBT events calendar in the destination.

It all comes to education and understanding, ensuring that all staff members understand, respect and value all customers equally. Taking the time to research how other LGBT friendly destinations are performing and learning from them is worthwhile. Because there is various online platforms and channels specifically for the LGBT community, tourism product providers should utilise them to engage with tourists. Additionally, they can be used to co-create tourist experiences by involving LGBT customers in every step. Including aspects for LGBT tourists in the company strategy and values, regardless of which tourism segment the business caters creates the potential to emerge in this tourism market.

Overall, the key is to utilize the endless opportunities technology and digitalization has provided in more open-minded, inclusive and tolerant fashion.

 

References:
  1. British LGBT Awards (2019). Winners 2019 – British LGBT Awards. [online] Britishlgbtawards.com. Available at: https://www.britishlgbtawards.com/winners-2019/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  2. Last, M. (2019). How technology has changed the LGBT+ experience. [Blog] Available at: https://technation.io/news/how_technology_has_changed_lgbt/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  3. Liberato, P., Liberato, D., Abreu, A., Alén, E. and Rocha, Á. (2018). LGBT Tourism: The Competitiveness of the Tourism Destinations Based on Digital Technology. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, pp.264-276.
  4. UNWTO (2012).Global Report on LGBT Tourism. AM Reports: Volume three. [online] Madrid: UNWTO and IGLTA. Available at: https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284414581 [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  5. IGLTA (2019).The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association > Home. [online] Iglta.org. Available at: https://www.iglta.org [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

Experiences and digitalization – where are we going?

It’s all about experiences these days, isn’t it? They are constantly discussed in the field of tourism, and with other industries as well, but do we actually know what it is about the idea of experience that in the end intrigues the customer enough to make a purchase decision?

No, we cannot know that. Why? Because experience is a subjective, individual and very unique concept. No one experiences a product or service the same as their peers. Someone might not even feel as though they have received any kind experience from a service or product which might have been completely transformational for someone else. So, how do we market experiences, if we cannot guarantee that there is even going to be an experience to have? Can we enhance the experiences with tools provided by digitalization?

We must know our customer segment and what they are searching in their travels in order to understand how they might see the meaning of experience. Finding the customers ready to receive those experiences and even pay for them is not probably going to be difficult as marketing online develops, and it gets easier to attract bigger masses or find the niche market inside those masses that want your products.

How will digitalization change experience design?

In the future, digitalization and online marketing will be the key element in marketing experiences. As the world of digitalization moves forward, we can expand our experiences and how we see them. It opens totally new doors for marketing; A customer puts a pair of VR glasses over their eyes. They jump through a series of videos; snow, reindeer petting, Santa Claus, northern lights. The pretty picture formats in their head. I have to see that for myself. The thought of perfect winter wonderland has been set in their mind. The spark is there. All you need is the product to sell.

Snow dusting, formation of experience
Will there be time when experiences, like the feeling of snow and seeing the northern lights, can be designed fully online? Photo: Pulkkinen 2015

The question then becomes; how much we can tease the potential customers? Where is that line of wanting the hands-on experience, instead of watching northern lights lying on your own bed with the VR glasses on, enjoying the comfort and safety of your own home? What added value does the customer get from coming to Finland and going to freeze in the middle of the lake to watch northern lights? And how we can keep that experience authentic to the customer?

It’s about evolving. Designing. You need to find the link between the need to evolve with digitalization and the benefit for your company. What can you do in order to enhance the hoped customer experience? It’s about designing, prototyping and trying. Co-creation, another big word. Co-creation will most likely get on a different level with digitalization in the future, as information sharing and possibilities to do online get wider and wider. We are in a state of constant development.

The question remains. Digitalization, opportunity or threat to experiences in the tourism field?

Maybe both? The key is to find what is the best possible practice for you.

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.

Self-employed Business Owner: Why Learning Basics of Digital Marketing Saves you Money while Growing your Business?                                                                                                 

Are you preparing cottage rooms for next guests? Driving dog sledge through low-lying arctic hills? Preparing dinner for a group of visitors? If you’d take less than 10 minutes of your time to read through this blog post, I can promise you’ll be even busier after few months’ time.

So, do you have time to talk about getting better return to your hard-earned money that you put to marketing? Especially if the marketing and digital marketing frustrates you at the moment. I know – I’ve been there. And now I’m writing this blog post to You.

Most of the small tourism companies do have web pages and they are in the Facebook, but it doesn’t automatically mean that your customers will find you. You can be like the wall paper that is in the store but cannot be found. Or even like a pretty nice looking wall paper put on display but still don’t get customers’ attention. In order to break through from “the lost wall paper corner of internet” and get the awareness you deserve from potential customers, I recommend to consider the following three things:

  • What are the key words that your webpage is optimised for?

    Key words are crucial “tags” to help search engines like Google to find your web page when your potential customers are searching for services that also your company offers. Key words help your web page appear in the first page of Google search results. Also having links to other relevant web pages serve the same purpose.

  • Content is the King! 

    …in all channels. I understand that you don’t have time to be in Facebook or in other channels every day and figure out what you should post or write. You have real customers to serve. To make this easier to yourself make a list or even a calendar. Just listing what you’ll update and when keeping it simple and realistic. You don’t have to go from no activity to ten activities during a week at once. Good content frequently is ok. The content can be e.g. photos, happy customers (with their permission), positive customer feedbacks (testimonials) or even something cleaver about the weather. And of course, customers want to get to know you. Tell your story – in the extent that you feel comfortable with.

    While you are posting photos in Facebook you can do that as well in Instagram. You can open an Instagram page for your business here: https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/. In Instagram use those hashtags (#) with the words you want your business to be connected with.

By to way, all those likes, shares and comments in your social media pages are worth money. This is not online marketing basics anymore, but if you are interested in deepen your knowledge you can listen more about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im26jZT-eQw. I promise, this is useful.

  • Get to know the magical place of Google Analytics

Measuring outcomes of our actions is as relevant in digital marketing as it is in other areas of the business. Addition to the fact that it shows you how well did you succeed, that you don’t end up buying possibly too expensive marketing actions which don’t deliver what you hoped them to. Useful tool to follow up your online marketing actions is Google Analytics. See easy first steps to take to get started here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZf3YYkIg8w.

Optimising your web page so that customers find it is the first step. But as a second step you can make advertisements online to boost your visibility. Just remember to have proper web page before you advertise it: updated, relevant information to customers and possibility to buy your services, if the online selling is relevant for your business model. There are free tools to test the quality of your web page like this one: https://www.seoptimer.com/. They also give recommendations to improve your site.

 

If you got at least a little bit interested in, please Google your business – not with the name of the business, but with some other words that you’d use as a customer looking for the kind of services your business offers. If you find your business web page from the first page and your competitors are below you in Google search results, you have done something right. Congratulations! If you, on the other hand, find yourself from the second or the third page in Google search results, you’ve been able to hide your business to the place where no one looks – to the lost wall paper corner of internet. But don’t worry, you can break out from there by getting started with the steps described in this article. If you find this difficult or you just don’t have time for it, you can buy this as a service. And now you have better understanding what you are paying for.

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.

How information technology can help in customer relationship

The customer comes first.  Classy saying, right? Surely that guideline, or perhaps a cliché, creates some kind of thoughts in your head. Do you consider it important?

Customer relationship is also such a classic term in the business world. Well, that for sure is essential! However, which elements in customer relationship matter the most for DMO’s and tourism businesses, and how could information technology could help?

Master level business students in Information Technology in Tourism -course figured it out, via rather a successful brainstorming. Firstly, all the possible elements that belong to customer relationship were considered. Secondly, the most important ones of them were marked. So, let’s start digging deeper into the world of the customer relationship, and how to combine it with information technology.

Five key groups were created out of all: interaction, customer engagement, networks, feedback, and personality. Each of these included numerous of subgroups. There is reallyy no point introducing all the subjects that came across. Instead, let’s have a closer look to the top 5 topics that were marked the most important of all and consider how information technology could help in tourism business generally.

Trust

Simply put: manage your customers’ expectations and do what you promise. Take care of your customers, for example by protecting their data. Show your reviews and customer testimonials, be open and transparent.

Co-creation

Listen to your customers, and also ask them. After doing by their suggestions, measure how you’ve been doing things to basically see if you’ve got it right. There are numerous ways to measure your online success, make sure you use at least one of them.

Customer Relationship Management

Naturally, managing your customer relationships generally is important. Your ideal CRM should form in simplicity, price, and relevance best suitable for your business. There are many software and electronic systems to help you with that. Why not give them a try?

Personality

In every step of your customer relationship, make sure that the customers recognize it’s you they are working with. If you have a personal style to do things, keep it and embrace it! That is easy to do in the digital world, just create a unique look to suit your company and publish similar looking style in each content.

24/7 availability

It might need resources to have 24/7 availability but do your best. Being a fast answerer creates trust. It also allows you to do co-creation with your customers. What comes around goes around. If a customer is so interested in what you are offering that they are contacting you, use this opportunity well!

Therefore, next time you are considering how well customer relationships are taken care of in your tourism business, think about the topics discussed and how well they are being managed. And trust it, you’ve got it.