The transformational power of the internet on marketing and the effectiveness and results of the strategy adopted hugely depends on the level of sophistication and customization (Zott et al., 2000).
The ICDT model is considered as a valuable and effective tool for measuring the degree of internet-fostering marketing transformation and its business value and effectiveness also the model considers the three internet capabilities and incorporates internet transformational impact (Wen & Chen 2001 cited Sigala, 2003).
2.3.5 The Internet Marketing Mix Model
In the research, Developing and Benchmarking Internet Marketing Strategies in the Hotel Sector in Greece, Sigala (2003) adopted the ICDT model and made the following analysis and modifications.
The unique internet capabilities enable the development of an extended internet marketing mix that is composed of five dimensions: the traditional four Ps (product, price, place, promotion) in which each one corresponds to each virtual space and the customer relations (c) dimensions which account for the new knowledge based application enabled by internet tools.
The dimensions are further characterised by different level of sophistication.
In conformity with Angehrn’s (1997) point of view of the ICDT (internet marketing mix model), the model identifies two main areas of internet-enabled marketing transformation: the type and the number of the internet marketing mix dimensions being transformed and the level of sophistication of the transformed dimensions that make use of the customization/aggregation capabilities of the internet. Depending on the exploitation of the interactivity and connectivity capabilities of the internet, the aspects of each dimension of the model are characterized as of low or high sophistications. However all aspects of the customer relations dimension were characterized as of a high sophistication since their provision require the use of advanced technological tools and features and huge financial implications (Sigala, 2003; Murphy et al., 2001)
2.4 Internet Tools
Figure 2.7 Online Marketing Tools Source: Reed (2011); Choosing online marketing tools
According to Reed (2011) apart from a company website and email, the two broad categories of internet tools are content tools and outreach tools. While outreach tools enable the business organization to network on the internet, content tools provide the platform for valuable information that can be located and passed on from the internet. Content tools are in four main categories – audio, video, images and text.
Online marketing tools has been categorized into 4 main groups according to (Thomson, 2005).
Tools to attract customers - websites
Tools to engage customers - forums
Tools to retain customers - setting up loyalty programs
Tools to learn about customers - webpage tracking devices
Tools to relate to customers - providing personalized communications
Some of the internet marketing tools include Social networks, Publishing , Photo sharing, Audio streaming, Video streaming, Live casting, Virtual worlds, Gaming, Productivity applications, Mobile applications (Safko, 2010).
3.0 Research Questions and Frame of Reference
In this chapter the research questions are formulated base on the research problem and purpose as well as the literature review. Also the selected model in this study will be discussed to build a frame of reference for the study.
3.1 Research Questions
Research questions are aimed at explaining what the research attempts to understand. According to Maxwell, (2005) research questions serve two main purposes: to help focus the study (the questions’ relationship to your goals and conceptual framework) and to give guidance on how to conduct it (their relationship to methods and validity).
To understand the internet marketing strategies being adopted by hotels in Ghana, the following research questions have been develop to guide the study:
Research Question 1 (RQ1)
What is the composition/structure of the hotels’ Internet Marketing Mix?
Research Question 2 (RQ2)
Which dimensions of the Internet Marketing Mix are being transformed by the Hotels?
Research Question 3 (RQ3)
What Internet marketing strategies are being pursued by hotels in Ghana?
Research Question 4 (RQ4)
What is the level of sophistication/transformation of the hotels Internet Marketing Mix dimensions?
Research Question 5 (RQ5)
Are hotels in Ghana fully exploiting the Internet capabilities and features?
3.1.1 Procedure for Answering Research Questions
The following describes how the research questions were answered
Research Question One (RQ1)
Research question one is about the structure/composition of hotels internet marketing mix. This question addresses how hotels in Ghana have modeled their internet marketing activities along the five internet marketing mix dimensions adopted from Sigala (2003). In order to provide detail overview of how the surveyed hotels have transformed their traditional marketing mix unto the virtual space enabled by the internet we collected data using the research instrument which was based on the conceptual framework adopted in this study. Based on the data collected, we present in simple frequencies and percentages how the surveyed hotels have designed their web sites to include features listed in each of the five dimensions illustrated in the conceptual framework (table 3.1). Overall development within each dimension will be based on the number of hotels that provide listed features within that dimension.
Research Question Two (RQ2)
Research question two is about the dimensions being transformed by the surveyed hotels. Transformation in this context depicts how hotels have modeled their traditional marketing mix unto the virtual space. The amount or degree of transformations of each of the dimension is computed as the ratio of the sum of the aspects/features used to the total number of expected aspects within the dimension. Each aspect carried the same weight. Based on this assumption and the overall achievements along each of the internet marketing mix dimensions we can now come out with the amount/degree of transformation in each of the dimensions and show those attracting the most attention.
Research Question Three (RQ3)
Research question three is about the internet marketing strategies being followed by the surveyed hotels. This question will be answered using findings from research question one and two. Specifically, for modelling Internet marketing strategies being followed by hotels in Ghana, the Internet marketing mix model will be used, as it is widely argued to be a useful tool in analyzing Internet marketing strategies. The type and the number of the Internet marketing mix dimensions being transformed as well as the composition of the internet marketing mix is argued to reflect the type of the marketing or business strategy (Angehrn, 1997). Based on the findings from research question one and two, we answered the question making reference to theory.
Research Question Four (RQ4)
This question is about the level of sophistication/transformation of the hotels internet marketing mix dimensions. To measure the level of sophistication/transformation of the hotels internet marketing mix, we analysed the responses with respect to the features in each of the five dimensions using the multiple response tool in SPSS. The features in each of the dimensions are characterised as low or high sophistication depending on the extent to which internet enabled capabilities are exploited (Angehrn and Meyer, 1997; Sigala, 2003). Again the overall level of sophistication of each of the five dimensions is calculated using the sum of the aspects that the respondent answered “Yes” and the total number of aspects within the dimension from the multiple response output for each dimension; Where level of sophistication is calculated as the ratio of the sum of the aspects used to the total number of the aspects within the dimension (Sigala, 2003). To clearly answer this question we made the following assumptions to serve as our decision rule: (1) a transformation degree less than 0.5 or 50% indicates a low transformation/sophistications; (2) a transformation degree above 0.5 or 50% indicates high transformation/sophistication.
Research Question Five (RQ5)
Research question five is about exploitation of the unique capabilities of the internet. Based on the results in research question four, we present the extent to which hotels are modeling their marketing activities to exploit the capabilities and features of the internet. This is consistent with Sigala (2003) as she argues that the level of the sophistication indicates the level of the exploitation of the Internet’s capabilities that, in turn, determines the effectiveness of the related Internet marketing strategy. Low sophistication value indicates that hotels are under exploiting the capabilities of the internet, whereas high sophistication values indicates that they are more than averagely exploiting the capabilities of the internet.
3.2 Frame of Reference
The main purpose of this section is to provide an appropriate frame of reference for investigating internet marketing strategies among hotels in Ghana. According to Miles and Huberman, (1994) “A frame of reference explains either graphically or in narrative form the main things to be studied, the key factors, constructs or variables and the presumed relationships between them”. Also a frame of reference presents the theories and models that are most suitable for the research problem and it also describes how the theories are related to each other.
As indicated in chapter 2, the ICDT model is considered as a valuable and effective tool for measuring the degree of internet-fostering marketing transformation and its business value and effectiveness. Also the model considers the three internet capabilities (and incorporates internet transformational impact (Wen & Chen 2001; cited in Sigala, 2003).
Based on the ICDT model, Sigala (2003) postulated the extended internet marketing mix model which includes the traditional four Ps and Customer relation dimensions. Measuring internet marketing activities base on these five dimensions is argued to be an appropriate, effective and valuable tool that fully exploits the transformational capabilities of the internet (O’Connor, 1999; Sigala, Lockwood, & Jones, 2001; Liu & Arnett’s, 2000). For the purposes of analyzing the internet marketing strategies being adopted by hotels in Ghana, this research makes use of the extended internet marketing mix developed by sigala (2003).
As pointed out earlier in chapter two, the traditional internet mix (4Ps) corresponds to each virtual space of the ICDT model and the customer relation (C) is enabled by the emergence of new and sophisticated internet tools. The model also identified two areas of internet enabled marketing transformation: the type and the number of the internet marketing mix dimensions being transformed – indicating the type of business strategy being pursued by the organization and the level of sophistication of the transformed dimensions that exploit the internet’s customisation/aggregation capabilities – indicating the level of the exploitation of the internet’s capabilities. (Sigala, 2003)
This model has been chosen because it indicates how each of the five dimensions in the extended internet marketing mix is analyzed, depicting the degree to which hotels have adopted sophisticated internet marketing strategies.
To measure the degree to which hotels in Ghana have adopted sophisticated internet strategies, each of the five dimensions are analysed in several features as shown in table 3. This is in line with Angehrn’s , (1997) and Sigala, (2003) analysis of the internet marketing mix model, the features of each of the five dimensions are characterised as low or high sophistication depending on the extent to which the interactivity and connectivity capabilities of the internet are exploited by the hotels. In table 1.0, features under the heading low sophistication represents activities of low sophistication whereas features under the heading high sophistication represent activities of high sophistication.
To measure the transformation degrees of each of the five dimensions the ratio of the sum of all the aspects used to the total number of the aspects within the dimension is calculated with all the aspects having the same scale.
3.2.1 Dimensions of Internet Marketing Mix
Transformation of Product (VIS): According to Angehrn, (1997) simply creating a web site does little to stimulate interest, It only establishes contact. Thus the availability of static information on the hotel Web site is characterized as low sophistication aspect, whereas the remaining aspects represent high sophistication because they reflect the use of multimedia features as well as the use of customer information for providing customized interfaces and products/services (Angehrn, 1997).
Transformation of Pricing (VTS): The availability of prices on the hotel Web site is characterized as of a low sophistication aspect in the VTS. Whereas hotel websites that make provisions to regularly change their prices online depending on demand, guest profiles, and/or when customers could negotiate room rates online (i.e., bidding/auctions), are classified as high sophistication because they reflect the use of the networking and informalization (i.e., reach and richness) capabilities of the Internet (O’ Connor, 2002; Sigala et al., 2001cited Sigala, 2003).
Transformation of Place (VDS): The two features of the VDS indicating unavailability of online booking options (i.e., bookings received by email requests) as well as the hotel website promoted on the Internet (e.g., through search engines, infomediaries) are characterized as low sophistication. The provisions of online bookings and secure payments indicates high sophistication aspects as their provision requires the use of higher and more complex technological functionality (Wen et al., 2001; Zott et al., 2000)
Table 3.1 Extended internet marketing mix
Transformation of Product (VIS)
Transformation of Pricing (VTS)
The availability of product-related information online
The availability of interactive entertainment multimedia
The customization of products/Web page for individual or groups of customers
The participation of customers in the specification and design of itineraries, hotel rooms, and/or amenities/services
The availability of pricing information online
The dynamic customization of prices based on either personal information or on demand patterns
The availability of online price negotiation either on property website or on partners Web site
Transformation of Place (VDS)
Transformation of Promotion (VCS)
The availability of e-mail request for bookings
The promotion of the Web site on the Internet
The availability of online booking
The availability of secured online payment
The use of online advertising
The use of online promotions such as sales and discounts
The customization of online promotions
Links with other organizations in organizing online promotions
Transformation of Customer Relations
Low sophistication: NULL
The provision of online customer service
The online identification and tracking of customers to provide customized services
The provision of online communications to customers
The creation of online communities for customers
The solicitation of online feedback from customers
Sources: Adapted from Sigala, (2003): The extended internet marketing mix
Transformation of Promotion (VCS): the features reflecting the use of the Internet for advertising and for the provision of online promotions characterized low sophistication use of Internet tools, whereas the last two aspects were characterized as of a high sophistication because they fully exploit the informalization and networking capabilities of the internet to customize promotions and allowing customers to customise promotions depending on customer profiles and preferences (Gretzel, et al., 2000; Rowley, 2001).
Transformation of Customer Relations: all the features of the customer relation dimension were characterized as high sophistication because to make use of them requires the exploitation of advanced technological tools.
4.0 Research Methodology
This section provides a description and an outline of the methods that will be used in this research as well as the theoretical basis behind the approaches. It will also provide a clear understanding for readers as to how the research was carried out. It includes: General research perspective, data collection and brief discussion about validity of the study.
4.1 Research Perspectives
Research methodology is defined as the procedural framework within which the conduction of a research is guided (Remenyi, et al., 1998; Saunders, et al 2007). A methodology is largely dependent on the perspectives the researcher chooses to approach a study. According to Saunders et al (2007), the perspectives that usually shape a research work can be broadly grouped under five umbrellas as shown in Figure 4.1
Figure 4.1 The research “onion”
Source: Adapted from Saunders, et al., (2007)
4.2 Research Purpose
Research purpose is basically a broad statement of what the research hopes to achieve and it is mostly classified according to the researcher’s knowledge about the problem before the commencement of the study (Ghasemi, 2000). According to purpose, research could be broadly divided into exploratory, descriptive and explanatory (Saunders, et al., 2000, 2007; Cooper and Schindler 2006; Aaker and Day 1994; Yin 2003; Zikmund, 2000).
An exploratory research is a study that is conducted to “define and clarify the nature of a problem and to seek new insight and understanding to phenomena with the aim of coming out with ideas and hypothesis for future research” (Robson, 2002; Yin, 2003). It is mainly used when a researcher wants to clarify an ambiguous problem or have a clearer understanding of a situation or a problem, where the area of study is so new or vague (Zikmund 2000). Methods such as searching documented materials, seeking the opinion of expert’s and conducting focus group interviews are mainly employed
A descriptive research is a study that seeks to “portray an accurate profile of persons, events or situations” (Robson 2002). Zikmund (2000) is of the view that descriptive is used to describe the characteristics of a population or phenomenon. Samouel et al. (2003) says, descriptive research uses descriptive statistics such as frequency counts (how many), measure of central tendency or measure of variation. In summary, it involves formalizing the study with definite structures in order to present facts about a population or phenomenon as it is perceived or as it is in reality.
An explanatory research is a study that seeks to establish relationship that exists between variables. In other words its purpose is to identify how one variable affects the other; it seeks to provide an explanation to the causes and/or effects of one or more variables (Saunders, et al., 2000, 2007; Cooper & Schindler, 2006). In this type of study the emphasis is on studying a problem or a situation with the aim of explaining relationship between variables. They are also used when the purpose of the study is to answer ‘why’ in a given context.
This study is primarily descriptive as we sought to describe or portray a reality regarding the internet marketing strategies that are being pursued by hotels in Ghana and to understand the internet marketing mix dimensions that are being transformed in the Cyber space. The study also provides a background and a relatively accurate picture of the situation.
Also the study is exploratory as the researchers seek to have a clearer understanding of the internet marketing strategies that has been adopted by hotels in Ghana.
4.3 Research Philosophy
Research philosophy refers to the assumptions and beliefs that govern the way we view the world. According to Saunders, et al., (2000; 2007); Easterby-Smith, et al., (1991); Cooper & Schindler, (2006); Sullivan, (2001) and Malhotra and Birks, (2007) research can be influenced by positivism or phenomenological beliefs. Easterby-Smith, et al., (1991) elaborates the main elements and key features of the two philosophy alternatives:
Operationalising concepts so that they can be measured
Using multiple methods to establish different views of phenomena
Taking large samples
Small samples investigated in depth or over time
Source: Easterby-Smith, et al., (1991)
According to Saunders et al., (2000: 2007) Positivism approach was influenced by the scientific discoveries made during the 18th and 19th centuries, it was clear during that time that a body of knowledge existed independently of whether people know it or not and the scientific task was to discover this body of knowledge. It was widely assumed that social behaviour is as a result of external pressure acting on relatively passive people and there were such things as absolute truth and that it could be used to create a better society. This approach leads to the development of methods that concentrate on producing objective data usually in the form of statistics.
Phenomenologist deny what positivists assert that humans can be studied using the same philosophical base as used in studying physical objects or other animals. Phenomenologist are of the opinion that there is a difference between the subject matter of sociology and natural science and humans are active, conscious beings and capable of making choices (ibid)
In summary, research philosophy is said to be positivism when “knowledge or the world is thought to exist independent of people’s perceptions of it and that science uses objective techniques to discover what exist in the world” (Sullivan, 2001). It is phenomenological where “reality of the world is thought to arise out of the creation and exchange of social meaning during the process of social interactions” (Sullivan, 2001).
Considering the research problem and objectives, this study is more phenomenological than positivism as the focus is on understanding the internet marketing strategies being pursued by hotels and present the totality of the situation.
4.4 Research Approach
Research may be approached qualitatively or quantitatively. The choice of research approach largely depends on the defined research problems and the kind of data required in solving these problems (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).
According to Yin (2003) when the purpose of the study is to test hypothesis and generalise results; then quantitative method is used. In quantitative research, the researcher employs cause and effect thinking, reduction to specific variables and hypothesis and questions, use of instruments and observations and test of theories. According to Nueman, (2003) and Cooper, (2006) quantitative approach is generally characterized with quantifiable and numeric data usually expressed in numbers and statistics. It is also associated with large amount of samples, high concern for representation as well as a highly structured data collection method. Thus in quantitative research, the focal point is variables and relationships not processes. Quantitative research borders on measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables. (Neuman, 2003; Zikmund, 2000)
Qualitative study is basically a study conducted to understand a social or human problem, based on primarily building on a complex holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of informants and conducted in a natural setting (Creswel, 2003). Crewel (2003) did mention that, whiles researchers make use of post positivist claim for developing knowledge in quantitative study, investigators primarily make knowledge claims based on constructivist perspective in qualitative study (i.e., the multiple meaning of individual experiences, meaning socially and historically constructed, with an intent of developing a theory or pattern.
In contrast to quantitative research where data is expressed in numbers and statistics, qualitative approach involves data in the form written or spoken words, actions, sounds, symbols, physical objects, or visual images and its primarily involves small sample, unstructured methods for data gathering as well as little attention on representative. (Yin, 2003; Neuman, 2003)
Choosing a research approach largely depends on the definition of the research problems, research questions, objectives and the data needed to solve the problems or to achieve the stated objective. In this study the objective is to investigate the internet marketing strategies that are being pursued by hotels in Ghana. To carry out this study a model developed from literature review was used and a questionnaire was designed and used to survey the Ghanaian hotel industry. Considering the above issues and reviewing literature the study will be quantitative.
Research may be approached from deductive or inductive perspectives. It is deductive when it begins with the development of a theory or hypothesis and proposition and a strategy is designed to test it in a context to verify or reject its self generated hypothesis or proposition. So it is thinking from general to specific (ie., from rule to case to result).
According to Saunders, et al., (2000) the following characteristics are associated with deductive approach;
There is a search to explain casual relationship between variables.
Data collection method is usually quantitative. (,..This is not to say that deductive method may not use qualitative data)
Deductive approach controls to allow the testing of hypothesis
Concepts need to be operationalised in a way that allows facts to be measured quantitatively.
Deductive approach is about generalisation and in order to generalise about regularities in human social behaviour it is important to select sample of sufficient numerical size (ibid)
On the other hand, the approach is inductive where the research begins with an observation of a phenomenon in an environment, then data is collected upon which a theory is developed or generalization is made. Thus, thinking from specific to general. (Saunders, et al., 2000)
In this study, we have carefully selected an existing model from literature and tested them with an empirical data, thus the research approach is deductive.
4.5 Time Horizon
Research design can be longitudinal or cross-sectional. A cross-sectional study focuses on particular phenomenon at a specific period of time (Saunders, et al., 2000). In a cross-sectional study, one sample of a population can be taken and studied at a particular time as in a single cross-sectional study or two or more samples of a target population could be studied once as in multiple cross sectional study (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
A study is said to be longitudinal where a particular phenomenon is studied at different periods of time. This can also take a form of a single longitudinal study where only one sample is studied at different time periods or multi-longitudinal where two or more samples are studied at different periods of time.
In this study we chose a cross-sectional study because data was collected from a cross section of hoteliers once and not for different periods of time.
4.6 Research Strategy
Research strategy is defined by Yin (2003) as a plan showing how a researcher will go about answering the research questions. In the context of Social Sciences research, there are five main research strategies: Experiments, Surveys, Archival analysis, Histories and Case studies. According to Yin, (2003) the selection of a research strategy depends on: the type of research questions, extent of control the researcher has over behavioral events and the degree of focus on contemporary as opposed to historical events.
In this research the survey method will be used. In selecting the survey method the table below guided us.
Table 4.2 Research Strategy
Form of research questions
Requires control over behavioural events
Focus on contemporary events
Who, What, Where, How much
Who, What, Where, How much
Source: Yin (2003)
The main purpose of the research is to find out the internet marketing strategies that are being pursued by hotels in Ghana. The study focuses on contemporary events and does not require control over behavioural events and the research questions are in what, how many, how much thus a survey method best suit this research. The method is considered as one of the most appropriate tools for quantitative studies and it also provides us with the flexibility to collect quantitative data from a relatively large sample.
4.7 Sample Selection
Sampling is a tool that helps researches to draw conclusion about the entire population by selecting some representatives in the population. According to Cooper and Schindler, (2003) lower cost as compared to census, greater accuracy of results, speed of data collection and the availability of populations are among reasons for sampling.
Deciding on a sample method to be used in a study largely depends on theoretical and practical issues such as the nature and objectives of study, availability of time and funds.
A population is the abstract idea of a large group of many cases from which a researcher draws a sample and to which results from a sample are generalized. In simple terms it consists of all elements or individuals, items or objects whose characteristics are being studied. The concretely specified large group of many cases from which a researcher draws a sample is also called the target population (Neuman, 2006). The population in this research consists of hotels in Ghana that have web sites.
4.7.2 Sampling Frame
The sampling frame for any probability sample is a complete list of all cases in the population from which your sample will be drawn. It is simply a listing of the population of interest (Saunders, et al., 2000; Curvin and Slater, 2007; Neuman, 2006). As the research purpose and questions or objectives in this study focuses on hotels that have websites, the sampling frame is complete list of all hotels in Ghana with web sites.
However there is no existing list of hotels in Ghana with web sites. In order to get access we needed to get a list of existing hotels with web address (URL). To create this list; a web search using the key words Hotels and Ghana in two search engines (Google and Yahoo), three local directories (Yellow pages, hotel association of Ghana, Ghana tourism board ), two travel directories (Trip adviser and hotels in Ghana) was used. Using web search to identify a study population has been used by many researchers for the identification and study of online practices (Gilbert, et al., 1999; Murphy, 1996; Sigala, 2003). Many researchers such as O’Connor, (2002); Zott et al., (2000) and Chen, (2001) have highlighted the appropriateness in using web search to identify a study’s population for the identification and study of online practices.
The Web search was conducted in May 2011 and after adding up the results from each search engine, and travel directories a total of 624 hotels with web addresses was found. The results of the Web search including hotels’ names, addresses, and URL were copied and pasted into a hotel database in a Microsoft Excel file. Considering the fact that, the Web sites of several hotels were listed in more than two directories and/or search engines the database was filtered to eliminate data duplication. The remove duplicate tool in Microsoft Excel was used to eliminate multiple entries. Finally, we arrived at 226 hotels with Web sites. All 226 Web sites were visited for the following reasons: (a) investigate whether the Web sites existed and were functional at the time the research was conducted, (b) get an overall picture of the category of the hotels, and (c) investigate whether contact information is provided. It was found that some of the Web sites were not functioning so we took them out of the database and arrived at 215. All the 215 hotel Web sites had their contact information (email address, telephone number and postal addresses) published. However, a careful examination of the database revealed that multiple entries of contact information existed. Upon investigating the reason for the latter, it was found that in Several Web sites, the contact information provided were the same, because the hotel were chain hotels hence was managed under the same owner. Similar to Sigala (2003) we decided not to require information for more than one hotel property to avoid duplicate responses from the same hotel property that will result in artificially increasing the response rate and also biasing the results. Thus the database was checked for multiple entries and finally arrived at 206 unique hotels with web site address and contacts information as well as their locations forming the sampling frame.
4.7.3 Sample Size
Decisions about sample size is an important issue because samples that are too large tend to waste time, resources and money whereas samples that are too small may lead to inaccurate results. According to Neuman, (2006) a researcher’s decision about the best samples size is guided by; (a) the degree of accuracy required (b) the degree of variability or diversity in the population and (c) the number of different variables examined simultaneously in data analysis. He also relates that everything being equal, large samples is needed if one wants high accuracy and is needed when the population has a greater deal of variability and there is the need to simultaneously analyse many data variables. In contrast to the former, smaller samples is sufficient when less emphasis is placed on accuracy and also when there is homogeneity in the population.
The issue of sample size can be addressed from two perspectives: one is to make assumptions about the population and use statistical equations about random sampling processes. A second method is a rule of thumb – a conventional or a commonly accepted amount (Neuman, 2006).
In this research a rule of thumb was used to select a suitable sample size because we rarely have the information required by the statistical method and the rule of thumb method gives sample sizes relatively close to those derived from statistical method. According to Neuman, (2006) for small populations (under 1,000), a researcher needs a large sampling ratio (about 30 percent) to give a higher degree of accuracy. Since our final sampling frame consisted of 206 hotels and falls under 1000, we chose a large sampling ratio of 50 percent representing a sample size of 103. We also believe that, with this sample size a higher degree of accuracy or representation will be achieved and the results could be generalized as in the case of most probability sampling. Moreover sample size of one hundred and three (103) respondents was selected because of cost and time constraints. Using all the 206 members in our sampling frame in this survey would require large financial resources which we could not afford. Again, the time limit within which the research was to be completed would not permit the use of larger sample size.
4.7.4 Sampling Technique
Sampling method can be divided into two broad categories: probability (representative or random) sampling and non probability (Judgmental) sampling (Saunders et al., 2003; Cooper & Schindler 2006).
Non-probability sampling is a technique which elements of the population do not have a known zero chance of being selected depending on researcher subjective judgment. Thus non-probability sampling is arbitrary and selection of the sample is not necessarily made with the intention of being statistically representative of the population. Rather the researcher uses subjective methods such as personal experience, expert judgment and convenience.
In contrast, Probability sampling is a type of sampling which every member of a population has an equal chance of selection and it is mostly used for survey based research were emphasis is placed on making inferences of a population from a sample. Probability sampling ensures that the sample is representative (Saunders, et al., 2003).
Probability sampling can be categories into five groups; simple random, systematic, stratified random, cluster and multi stage (Saunders, et al., 2003).
Simple random sampling:- involves selecting the sample at random from the sampling frame using a purely random process (eg. Random-number tables and computer programming).
Systematic Sampling: is a sampling technique where every Kth element in the population is sampled, beginning with a random start of an element in the range of 1 to k. it entails selecting the sample at regular intervals from the sampling frame by every 1/k case (Cooper & Schindler, 2006).
Stratified sampling: involves creating a sampling frame for each categories of cases normally referred to as strata. A random sample is drawn from each of the strata after which they are put together to form the sample.
Cluster sampling: similar to stratified sampling, it involves creating a sampling frame for larger cluster units prior to sampling. With cluster sampling the sampling frame is the complete list of clusters rather than a complete list of individual cases within the population (Saunders, et al., 2003).
Multi stage sampling: it is a complex form of cluster sampling and mostly employed when the study involves a geographically dispersed population. It involves randomly sampling a series of clusters.
In selecting the sample of 103 respondents a systematic sampling was used. Systematic sampling is a statistical method involving the selection of elements from an ordered sampling frame. In this method, instead of using list of random numbers the researcher calculates a sampling interval and the interval becomes the quasi-random method. The sampling interval k is calculated as;
where n is the sample size and N is the population or sampling frame size. The sampling interval tells the researcher how to select elements from the sampling frame by skipping elements in the frame before selecting one for the sample (i.e., selecting every kth element). After calculating the sampling interval the starting point must be selected at random and from the starting point choices thereafter are at regular intervals.
This technique was chosen because the sampling frame consisted of a list of hotels that have web sites and the list was formed without any kind of cycle or pattern, thereby eliminating any fear of non representativeness or bias. Also considering the sample size of one hundred and three (103) and a sampling frame of two hundred and six (206), the method can be easily applied to achieve the desire results.
The sampling interval was calculated and the resulting sampling interval was 2 using the formula (k= ) (i.e., k=). With a sampling interval of 2 we randomly picked a starting point which was between the 1st and 2nd element which eventually turn out to be the second element. Starting from the second element every 2nd count was selected to participate in the research to finally arrive at the sample size of 103 respondents.
4.8 Data Collection Method
4.8.1 Types of Data Collected
There are two types of data: Secondary and Primary data (Yin.2003).
Primary Data: “primary data is a data originated by the researcher for the specific purpose of addressing the research problem” (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). It is basically what the researcher collects on his/her own based on the research purpose and questions through observation, interviews or questionnaires from the sample or target population. In this study, primary data were obtained from the questionnaire and the websites of the hotels.
Secondary Data: “Secondary data are data collected for some purpose other than the problem at hand.”(Malhotra & Birks 2007). Secondary data has to do with data that are collected from secondary source such as publications, personal records, census among others that have already been collected by other researchers for another purpose. In this study secondary data was collected from search engines, websites of hotels used for the study, online articles and journals. The data was used to develop the frame of reference, research question for the study.
4.8.2 Questionnaire Design
Questionnaire is a collection of queries used by the researcher to collect and record needed information when conducting a study. The questions are arranged putting together all the important variables for the research and may be completed by the respondents in the presence or absence of the researcher (Cooper & Schindler, 2006)
Many researchers have agreed that, in the use of survey strategy, the main instruments used are self-administered/interviewer administered or structured/unstructured interviews and questionnaire or a combination of both (Saunders, et al., 2000; Neuman, 2003; Cooper & Schindler, 2006; Malhotra & Birks, 2007). They also claim that generally the questionnaire can be used for descriptive or explanatory study, and must have a good layout, unambiguous questions, complete items, non-offensive but relevant items, logical arrangements of items, and the ability to elicit willingness to answer in respondents (ibid).
Self administered questionnaire are usually completed by the respondents. It is further categorized into three sub groupings based on the method of administering the questionnaire; on-line questionnaire (delivering and returning the questionnaire electronically using the internet), Postal questionnaire (sending and receiving the questionnaire by post) and Delivering and collection questionnaire (delivering and collecting the questionnaire to and from the respondents by hand)
In contrast, Interviewer Administered questionnaire are recorded by the researcher on the basis of the respondent’s answer. This can be done through the telephone (Telephone questionnaire) or structured interview where the interviewer meets with the respondents face to face and asks the questions (Saunders, et al., 2000; Nauman, 2006)
Questionnaires can be open-ended and close-ended. In open-ended questionnaires, respondents are not restricted to a number of answers to choose from, they are at liberty to give any answer they want to the questions. Open-ended questionnaire forms give in-depth responses and unanticipated findings may be discovered but they are difficult to code. With close-ended questionnaire, respondents are restricted to a fixed set of responses from which to choose from. Close-ended questions are easier and faster for respondents to answer and they are also easier to compare, code analyse statistically. However close-ended questions may restrict respondents from giving in-depth response ( Neuman, 2006).
In this study a combination self administered questionnaire using method and interviewer administered using the structured questionnaire method were used. We used self administered questionnaires in certain cases because this method has advantages such as lower costs, sample accessibility more time to collect facts about the questions as well as enough time to complete the questionnaire without rushing through them. To ensure a good response rate and clarify any questions that might arise, we appeal to our respondents to fill the questionnaire in our presence. It was part of the strategy to directly explain the questions to the respondents and to provide additional information such as cover letter to introduce us students.
We also employed interview administered questionnaire because it afforded us the opportunity to probe further to ensure that questions are understood and also to avoid missing data as well as to have more correctly filled questionnaires within a shorter time.
The questionnaire was based on research questions and mentioned conceptual research model adopted from Sigala (2003). The questionnaire was constructed by the researchers using all the aspects under each of the five dimensions in the internet marketing mix model and was adjusted to fit the purpose of this study. There are two parts in the questionnaire. In the first part, demographic questions were asked to collect information about three key hotel characteristics; hotel size (number of rooms), hotel category (1,2,3,4, and 5 star) being the hotel ratings and management arrangement (independently, chain, or franchised managed hotel). Also the first part included the level of education of the hotel managers and the location of the hotel. The second part of the questionnaire asked respondents to indicate whether their websites are designed to include the aspects in the five identified marketing dimensions (i.e., Product, Price, Place, Promotion and Customer relation) as mention in chapter 3. All the questions took close-ended forms to capture many responses easily and faster. Also questions in this form are much easier to code and analyse statistically. The questions in the questionnaire are in the form of multiple-item scale for easier coding and analysis. However the questions in the second part of the questionnaire are dichotomous variables in the form of Yes/No in which respondents are to indicate whether their websites are designed for such activities or not. This format was chosen despite its disadvantage of providing less information because the objective is to gather information on whether the surveyed hotel web sites was designed and used for practices in any of the five internet marketing dimensions as shown in table 3.1.
4.8.3 Pre-testing and Final Administration
Saunders, et al., 2000; and Copper & Schindler, 2006 are of the view that, it is important to pre-test questionnaires to ensure reliability and validity before final administration. The purpose of pretesting is to refine the questionnaire so that respondents will not have problems in answering the questions (Saunders, et al., 2000). Although the questionnaire was constructed from our research questions and an adopted model from literature, it was necessary to pre-test the research instrument to curtail any unforeseen ambiguity.
In this study the pre testing was done in two stages; the initial draft of the questionnaire was consulted with two master’s students in marketing and one marketing lecturer in a face to face interview to access its content and constructions. They checked for any phrasing and relatedness of the statements within the questions for better adjustments and compatibility with Ghana’s environment. With feedback about the questionnaire some modifications were made to the primary questionnaire.
In the second stage of the pre-testing, a pilot study was performed with ten (10) hotel managers to check and approve the final questionnaire. They answered the questionnaire and indicated any ambiguous and difficult to understand questions. Some ambiguous expressions were modified. The final version of the questionnaire is in Appendix A.
The final questionnaire was administered to the sampled hotels through personal contact by the researchers (Edem and Charles) and five (5) trained research assistants - all students of the Catering and Hotel management department of Ho Polytechnic. Prior to arrival at the hotels, telephone calls are place to book appointment with the respondents. The respondents were mainly different from hotel to hotel depending on the persons that handle the hotel marketing activities or have knowledge of the hotel internet marketing activities. When we come into contact with respondents we first informed them of the purpose and the benefits of the study to the hotel sector, assured anonymity and confidentiality of responses. Some of respondents filled their questionnaires in our presence and a few insisted that we leave the questionnaires with them and come back for them in a later date. Upon completion and collection we checked for omissions and draw the respondent’s attention to it.
With other respondents we read the questions to them and they were to indicate to us their responses whiles we did the filling for them. This exercise was done between the periods of 19th July and 29th August 2011.
In order to get a more representative sample, we sorted out the hotels in to the ten regions in Ghana and we divided them among the researchers base on proximity to administer the questionnaire.
Table 4.3 shows the sample design and the response rate according to hotel star category.
Table 4.3 Sample Design and Response Rate
Source: field data 2011
Out of the one hundred and three (103) questionnaires that were administered to the one hundred (103) hotels, eighty seven (87) completed questionnaire was obtained representing 84.50%. Out of this there were; eighteen responses from hotel category 1 star, thirty (30) responses from 2 star hotel category, thirty one (31) from 3 star, nine (9) from 4 star and three (3) from 5 star hotel category.
4.8.4 The Questionnaire
The questionnaire is divided into two parts; first demographic information about hotel is asked (Table 4.4), secondly question about the transformation of the five internet marketing mix dimensions are brought (table 4.5)