Emerging technologies have redefined marketing. One of the new areas of marketing that have emerged due to new technologies in digital marketing. Digital marketing is an important and ever-growing area of interest and a key component of marketing plans and business strategy in modern society where technology has become an integral part of marketing. It is a process that firms use to increase sales and get customer attention by using various digital marketing tools such as company website, email, and social media. Social media marketing is the most modern among these tools and gets massive customer attention. An industry such as the booming hotel industry especially in a high-growth geographical region such as Asia is primed for the use of digital marketing (Barnes & Scornavacca 2004, p. 130).
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In fact, digital marketing seems like a natural choice for most of the leading hotels. The inclusion of digital marketing in the overall marketing plans is an effort that will yield great results, perfect in a people-intensive business. This research is important given the economic potential and the large scale marketing operations of hotel industry in Asia. It is a sector that has experienced huge growth in the recent past. Phenomenal economic growth, a number of countries in Asia, particularly in the Asian Tigers, has contributed to this growth. The researcher intends to conduct a study to determine whether the hotel industry in Asia has a well-established framework of performance metrics to evaluate their digital marketing strategies.
Research aim and objectives
When conducting research, it is always important to define the research aims and objectives. According to Delving (2006), research aims and objectives help in defining the destination of the research. It helps the researcher to determine what is to be achieved out of a given study. The overall aim of this research is to measure the returns of digital marketing in the hotel industry in Asia. The researcher seeks to investigate the benefits of digital marketing to the hotel industry in Asia. Based on this overall aim, the researcher developed a number of objectives. The following are the objectives that the research seeks to achieve.
- To review the current best practices of measuring the returns of digital marketing in the hotel industry in Asia.
- To compare various performance metrics utilized to measure returns of digital marketing by the leading hotels in Asia and establish the most effective metrics.
- To define the performance metrics used to effectively measure the returns of digital marketing strategy and develop a standardized framework for the hotel industry in Asia.
To achieve the above aim and objectives, the researcher will conduct a study in this field using both the primary and secondary sources of data.
Research questions and hypotheses
When planning to conduct research, it is important to develop research questions that will be used to collect both the primary and secondary data. Research questions act as a guide that the researcher uses to know data which is relevant to the study. The following research questions will help in the study.
- Does the hotel industry in Asia have a well-established framework of performance metrics to evaluate the returns of its Digital marketing strategy?
- How often do the hotel industry in Asia review their performance metrics based on the changing technologies used in marketing?
The researcher will use the data collected from primary and secondary sources in order to effectively respond to these questions. Based on these research questions, the researcher developed the following hypotheses.
- H1. The hotel industry in Asia has a well-established framework of performance metrics to evaluate the returns of its Digital marketing strategy.
- H2. The hotel industry in Asia often reviews its performance metrics based on the changing technologies used in marketing.
These research hypotheses will be confirmed or rejected based on the information that will be gathered from the review of the literatures and primary data that will be gathered from a sample of respondents.
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According to Anderson (2004), sometimes it is very important for a researcher to clearly define the limitations in the study in order to inform those who will be using the report about the relevance of the document in different contexts. Anyone who may use the findings of the report must know the context under which both the primary and secondary data were collected. This way, it becomes easy to know how and when to use the findings and maybe how to modify the report to fit into a different context. This study focuses on the hotel industry in the Asian Tiger (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) and Tiger Club (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand) economies only.
The study is limited to large multi-national companies only (such as Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts) and excludes stand-alone hotels, national or regional hotel companies. When using the document, it is important to put into consideration the above limitations. When using it in a different context, it may be necessary to make some adjustments in order to fit into such other contexts.
Review of Literature
The use of emerging technologies in marketing has attracted the attention of many scholars, some of whom had ignored some of the currently most popular marketing platforms. According to Ayanso and Lertwachara (2014), when Facebook started out as a social media in the United States and soon after to the rest of the world, it was considered a platform where youths, especially those in colleges, could spend their leisure time chatting with friends. In fact, a section of the society considered it a platform for lazy individuals who had no clear future with their lives. It never occurred to some of the leading firms in the world that social media, especially Facebook, would become a formidable marketing platform that would attract marketers from all over the world.
Things have completely changed as Facebook, and other social media platforms have become very important marketing channels, especially for firms targeting adolescents and young adults (Bowen & Ozuem 2015, p. 78). Almost all the leading hotels in Asia currently rely heavily on social media to market their products to the international market. The major customers of these hotels are the international travellers coming to these Asian countries.
It is not easy to precisely determine which parts of the world they may come from, and this makes social media very appropriate when it comes to marketing their brands. Lee (2014) says that social media helps these hotels to keep close contact with viable global clients.
According to Chaturvedi and Barbar (2014), the social media marketing programs usually centre on efforts to create the content that attracts the attention and encourages readers to share it with their friends in various social networks. This social media strategy depends on the willingness of the individual customers to share their experiences with their peers in a way that will bring out the positive image of the firm. On the other hand, company website and email are tools directly driving corporate message and are paid media. Lüsted (2011) says that this makes social media more trustworthy to potential customers than the other paid media. Through social media platforms, customers get to share their experiences with their friends. This acts as an independent review of the performance of these hotels.
The reviewers are not paid to give their opinions about the services they get from the hotels they visit. Their reviews are independent opinions based purely on the services they received their level of satisfaction, and how they rate the services of a given hotel compared to others in the same market. Obee (2012) describes this as viral marketing. A firm that succeeds to exceed the expectations of its customers creates evangelists out of them.
The evangelists find it easy to use the social media platform to share their pleasant experiences with their friends. According to Collier and Magid (2012), people tend to trust the information they get from friends when planning to visit hotels. Through social media, people easily interact, and information about services offered by different hotels and restaurants are readily available. Social media offers a platform where people get to share their views on different experiences, including services they get from various providers. It is also an inexpensive form of communication, a fact that has made it very popular among young adults.
Overview of Hotel Industry in Asia
In the recent past, the hotel industry in Asia has attracted massive research given the positive forecast for growth in this sector. In their findings, it is evident that the region has registered a consistent positive growth in a number of tourists in the last ten years, from 2002 to 2012 with the exception of the year 2009 due to global economic recession (Obee, 2012). In 2012, international tourist arrivals in this region under investigation grew by 4.3%.
The same year saw positive growth stemming from a number of factors including tourists taking advantage of a weaker euro to travel to eurozone states, as well as a growing middle class in Asia who have an increasing inclination to travel abroad. Business Monitor International (BMI) forecast that annual growth in international tourists arrivals will remain between 4-5% for the five years from 2013 to 2017 (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010, p. 65). The factors acting in favour of growth in the Asian hotel industry include the following:
- A growing and increasingly affluent middle-class interested in travelling around the continent, especially during their holidays.
- The middle-class helping boosts both domestic and international travels through their savings that banks use to extend loans to the hotels to expand their operations.
- Growth in domestic/ inbound travel majorly from short-haul regional South East Asian markets, in addition to the traditional long-haul markets such as the Eurozone and the Americas.
- The growing number of tourist attractions centres spread across Asia.
- We are improving connectivity between destinations because of an improvement in infrastructure as a result of co-operating governments, for example, co-operation for regional growth and prosperity in the ASEAN region.
- Availability of a young and talented workforce, especially as compared to the mature economies of the West.
All these factors offer enormous potential for further growth in the Asian Hotel Industry. They have contributed to the growth that has been experienced in this sector.
Digital strategies for the hotel industry
Digital marketing in the hotel industry has increasingly become relevant as firms try to find ways of reaching out to their clients using various approaches. According to Randazza (2010), digital marketing can take various approaches. The most popular digital marketing strategy in the world today is social media marketing that has been discussed above. A dominant social media platform that is actively used by many hotels today include Facebook, Tweeter, and YouTube.
According to Rosen (2013), another emerging digital marketing strategy is paid search presence. In this strategy, firms pay Google to feature names of their websites prominently when online communities are searching for anything related to hotel services. Others are paying another website to redirect their online visitors to their hotel websites as a way of increasing their online presence (Guest 2013, p. 150). This strategy has become very common among the leading hotels in Asian countries upon which the research was based. Content marketing is also becoming popular as these firms seek to find various means of reaching out to their clients in the global market.
Performance metrics for digital marketing strategies
According to Vincent (2011), it is important to determine performance metrics of the digital marketing strategies in order to know whether it not they are adding desired value to the firm. The performance metrics can be looked at from different perspectives. The first perspective of performance metrics is the reach (Ayanso & Lertwachara 2014, p. 78). This means determining how well digital marketing strategies help in reaching out to the target audience. In this metric, the platform chosen must be able to reach out to a large number of the targeted audience as possible. In this context, social media platform, especially Facebook and Tweeter, and paid search presence have performed incredibly well in the hotel industry (Duckett 2001, p. 35).
The reach is looked at in terms of unique visits, geographical coverage, and mobile readership. It must be effective in these three areas for it to be considered capable of offering needed services. The second metric is engagement which refers to how relevant viewers find contents in website to be, and how well the content engages visitors in terms of informing them about what they desire to know from their searches. The third metric is sentiments generated from these digital media platforms. Success will be achieved if the comments from viewers are positive and show their support for a given product the hotel is promoting (Vincent 2011, p. 84).
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Online review as a digital marketing strategy
According to Rosen (2013), social media has had a massive impact on performance of hotels not just in Asian countries but also in the world at large. These platforms are now actively used for the online reviews. Rosen (2013) says that most of the online reviews are made through social media, especially Facebook ad Tweeter. People get to interact in the social media and through this they get to share their experiences.
Although in such forums they do not get to give a full review such as rankings of hotels they visit, they can inform their friends about benefits and shortcomings of specific hotels they visited (Vincent 2011, p. 56). In many cases, before one makes a purchasing decision, they tend to inquire from friends who have had the opportunity to visit such places. Their views play an important role in defining decisions that an individual will make.
In many individuals would take photos in order to record their true experiences when they visit various hotels in various parts of this region. When they post such videos on YouTube, it can have a massive impact on decisions made by an individual concerning buying their product. That will be considered a real image of what to expect when they make a visit to such hotels.
According to Rosen (2013), the importance of online reviews has seen several firm in hospitality sector use it as a digital strategy to target specific customers in the market. The main problem that many firms still grapple with is how to measure performance of such digital marketing strategies. Getting a reliable and effective metrics that can help determine true impact of online reviews in social media has been a challenge. It is easy to use some of the emerging online tools to monitor potential customer’s online behavior.
Through these tools, it is possible to determine the time they spend in a given website, specific information they give emphasis on their searches, and such other online behavioral patterns. However, Rosen (2013) says that it is almost impossible to determine how such behavioral patterns translate into actual purchase.
It may not be possible to state with certainty that a given purchasing decision was made because of information gathered from the online reviews (Weida, 2009). It is possible that other forces could have influenced the decision of such a buyer. This makes it necessary to come up with a research such as this, to investigate how hotels can measure the effect of such online reviews on the purchasing pattern of clients. This way, it will be possible to know how effective it will be to use online reviews as part of the digital marketing strategy that a firm uses to increase the awareness and popularity of its brand and products.
In this paper, the researcher plans to use a number of theories to support the findings of this study. Theories always help in validating a given research. The researcher will use a number of internet marketing theories and concepts that are relevant to the topic. Some of the theories that will be used in this study include Game Theory, Network Theory, Collective Intelligence Theory, and Generational Theory.
Gaps in the literature
The researcher identified some gaps in the existing bodies of knowledge that will be addressed in the study. It was established that most of the existing literatures majorly focused on the digital marketing in the United States and parts of Europe (Esfandiar, 2007). Digital marketing in Asia is yet to receive appropriate attention of scholars. This makes it necessary to conduct a research that will reflect a local context.
The aim of this research paper is to understand whether big hotel chains in Asia have a well established framework of performance metrics to evaluate their DM strategy. Simply counting the number of ‘hits’ on the websites, the likes on their Facebook pages and re-tweets on Twitter for example, will not be sufficient information to gauge the performance of digital marketing. This quantitative approach will be very limited in scope and not present the story behind these numbers or the story that can be helpful to business.
For instance, does increased number of likes on the Facebook page mean there is more check-ins at the hotel? Qualitative research when used alongside Quantitative research broadens our understanding of the bigger picture. Qualitative research goes much deeper beyond just numbers and builds context to the statistical data. It looks at the story behind the numbers and reasons behind the factual information. In this section, the researcher defines methodology that will be used in collecting, analyzing, and presenting data.
Primary research will be conducted through personal interviews with the help of questionnaires. Interviews will also be conducted via email, telephone conversations and as excerpts taken from business journals. The sample size for personal interviews will be chosen based on the availability of online marketing managers from the chosen hotels, primarily the three hotel chains under consideration. The researcher intends to use stratified sampling techniques given that research will use a number of respondents from different hotels. In order to understand the research in a broader context, interviews will also be conducted with other stakeholders in the hotel industry such as Travel companies, hotel consulting companies and market research firms.
As mentioned above, the researcher will use both qualitative and quantitative data analysis methods in order to arrive at the desired conclusion. Quantitative data analysis will help in giving the numbers on issue under investigation. For instance, it will help in determining how frequently unique visits are recorded in a given website of a firm (Wernerfelt 2006, p. 240). It will also help in determining the number of respondents who are in agreement with the hypotheses developed in the section above. This will be very important because they are expected to help in confirming or rejecting these hypotheses.
However, Aiello (2014) says that quantitative data do not give an explanation behind a given story. In this study, the researcher is not only interested with the figures from the field, but also a clear explanation behind these figures. Qualitative data analysis makes it possible to give an explanation of figures that will be given through quantitative data analysis. Using mixed methods of data analysis will help in coming up with a comprehensive information that is self-sufficient.
Research for this integrated and consultative project will be a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. This research philosophy of combining the two methods of research is critical when developing a complete picture of the digital marketing scenario in the Asian hotel industry (Yu & Ting 2012, p. 250). Given that digital marketing brings together social, mobile and website marketing one will need to look at numbers and the story the numbers tell. A mixed research methodology is best suited to this project because it will facilitate developing a comprehensive conclusion over the issue under investigation. Quantitative methods will facilitate understanding of the numbers while qualitative methods will bring out a detailed explanation of the statistical data.
Validity, reliability, and appropriateness of triangulation to your research
Aiello (2014) defines validity as the appropriateness, applicability and truthfulness of a study. It is the ability of research instruments to produce results that are in agreement with theoretical and conceptual values. In this research, internal validity will be facilitated by ensuring that the sample used is a true representation of entire population. The stratified sampling technique proposed in data collection ensured that the participants were from different hotels in different cities within the defined geographic location. External validity in this research study will be assured by using triangulation method. This means that researcher will make use of more than one technique in the data collection process. This will play an important role in boosting the correctness of the final conclusion of the report.
The researcher will also ensure that information collected from the field is not in any way influenced by the personal biasness. According to Finlay (2005), reliability means that the study is consistent and lacks any ambiguity. It refers to the ability to trust something to provide information that addresses specific issue at hand. This largely depends on the type of tool that is used in analysis of the collected raw data. In this research study, the use of SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Scientist) software is considered appropriate in enabling the researcher to arrive at reliable conclusions. Based on guidelines given by Aiello (2014), the research will adopt the principle of openness, coherence, and discourse as a way of improving reliability.
The table below shows the timeline for this project from proposal development stage to the last stage of compiling the report.
Detailed research will be carried out on DM in the hotel industry in Asia, looking at leading hotel companies such as Marriott International, Hilton Hotels Worldwide and Starwood Hotels and Resorts in this geographical region. The best practices will then be studied and combined to form a dashboard that can work as a best practice standard of excellence. Primary Research will be conducted based on questionnaires designed for Online Marketing Managers in the industry. Secondary Research will help analyze and interpret the Primary Research. Sources of Information:
- Marketing and Business Administration text books and reference texts.
- Past dissertations available in the libraries at Singapore Management University and National University Singapore.
- Newspapers, business magazines, and e-newsletters.
- Academic journals available online.
Other help with information will come from the follow sources:
- Google Scholar.
- Sage Research Methods Online.
- Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
- Abstract Databases (ERA).
- Citation Indexes.
- Emerald Research Database.
- Mintel Market Research.
- Business Source Complete.
- Keynote Market Intelligence.
List of References
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Obee, J 2012, Social networking: The ultimate teen guide, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland.
Randazza, J 2010, Go Tweet Yourself: 365 Reasons Why Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Other Social Networking Sites Suck, F+W Media, Cincinnati.
Rosen, L 2013, Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the net generation, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
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