Overall Degrees of Transformation of each of the Internet Marketing Dimension
No. used aspect/items
Expected No. of items/Aspects
Degree of transformation (%)
Source: field data (2011)
The percentages of hotels with transformed dimensions are the valid percentages of the case summary of the multiple responses analysis of each dimension as shown in table 5.12 below. The table indicates valid frequencies and percentages as well as missing frequencies and percentages. In this situation the missing cases are not considered by convention to mean that they did not provide answers or did not take part in the survey but rather those who had not designed their web sites to provide any of the features within the dimensions, hence answered no throughout all the items. Since we set up dichotomies we counted values as 1 (“Yes” responses) the statistics for each dimension is based on all the cases with valid data in the specified range.
Table 5.12 Case summary statistics of the Hotels Internet Marketing Mix
Internet Marketing Mix Dimensions
Dichotomy group tabulated at value 1 Source: Field data
Table 5.12 indicates that, all the surveyed hotels have web sites or uses the internet to provide at least an aspect/feature in the product and place dimension. Majority 46 (52.9%) of the hotels have not transformed any of the features in the customer relation dimension. 31 (35.6%) and 34 (39.1%) of the hotels do not provide any of the aspects in the price and promotion dimensions respectively
The overall degree of achievement of the surveyed Hotels along the dimensions of the internet marketing is shown in figure 5.11
Figure 5.11 Dimensions of Hotels’ Internet Marketing Mix and Their Degree of
Transformation Source: Field Data
Figure 5.11 shows the overall degree of transformation of the surveyed hotels and the percentages of hotels with transformed dimensions along the internet marketing mix dimension. It indicates that out of the five dimensions it is only place that recorded a transformation degree of 59.8% which is above 50% indicating that hotels have transformed more than one half of all the aspects in the place dimension.
The rest of the dimensions have a transformation degree less than 50% meaning hotels are not implementing even one half of all the features in the other dimensions. Even though the transformation degrees are low in these dimensions they do not share the same degree of transformation. Product has a transformation degree of 38.9% while hotels have transformed 25.6% of the promotion dimension. Customer relation and price have the least transformation degree of 25.1% and 20.2% respectively.
The results also indicate that all the respondents 100% use the internet in the product and place dimensions. 64.4% of the hotels have transformed the price dimension whiles 59.8% use the internet to promote their facilities. 41.1 % of the hotels use the internet in the customer relation dimension
6.0 Discussion of Findings, Conclusion and Implications
This chapter includes the answers to research questions and some commentary on research problem area. The chapter also includes conclusions and some implication of findings for managers and for further research.
The purpose of our study was to find out what internet marketing strategies are being followed by hotels in Ghana. In literature review different internet marketing models for marketing on the internet were discussed in details. On the basis of investigating internet marketing strategies of hotels in Ghana, the Internet Marketing Mix model (Sigala, 2003) was used. The model which consists of five main dimensions (Transformation of; Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and Customer Relation) were taken as our Frame of Reference.
In Chapter Five, data collected from the survey were presented and analyzed. This chapter will give details of our findings and conclusions on the basis of this study.
6.1 Discussion of Findings
The findings of this research in the form of answers to five research questions are presented below. Also a summary of demographic data collected is presented. In all, the conceptual understanding of variables and theory, data gathering and then analysis of data are the basis of these findings.
6.1.1 Profile of the Respondents
From the survey conducted it was found out that majority of the hotels in Ghana are independently operated this is especially so because most of these are family owned, some few hotels are under hotel chain with only one hotel reported to be under franchise hotels. Also most of these hotels have employed managers with either HND or Bachelors Degree as their educational qualification. It is also evident that majority of the surveyed hotels are in the 1star, 2star and 3star category with minority being in the 4star and 5star category. In terms of the hotel size, there seems to be fairly equal distribution of the hotels along the three classifications (small, average and large). Also in terms of location of hotels majority of the surveyed hotels 65.5% in total are located in the Western, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions. These findings are unexpected, considering that the three major cities in the country are located in these regions; Secondi-Tarkoradi in the Western region, Kumasi in the Ashanti region and Accra the capital city in the Greater Accra regions. Also Economic activities in these 3 regions are among the highest in the country (Ghana Statistical Service, 2007) All the 3 regions listed above have an airport and a seaport with the exception of Ashanti region that has no seaport. In addition from the However the three northern regions in Ghana compared to other regions within the country have the least number of hotels. This can also be attributed to the fact that economic activities in these regions are low compared to other regions (Ghana Statistical Service, 2007).
6.1.2 RQ1. What is the composition/structure of the hotel’s Internet Marketing Mix?
The hotel internet marketing mix is made up of 5 broad dimensions. These areas are product, price, place, promotion and customer relations. From the research conducted among hotels in Ghana it was found out that all the hotels surveyed are applying all the 5 dimensions in their online activity although in varying degrees.
Out of the 5 dimensions, only 2 dimensions i.e., place and product dimensions have been developed by all the hotels surveyed in Ghana. This indicates that all the hotels are concentrating their efforts on having a presence in the information and distribution virtual spaces.
A little more than half of the hotels in Ghana have developed the promotion and price dimensions within the internet marketing mix. Less than half of the Ghanaian hotels use the internet in the customer relations dimension.
Tables 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9 and 5.10 shows detail composition of the hotel internet marketing mix along the five dimensions. The results shows that within the product and place dimensions all the hotels surveyed have written information on their web sites provide email request for booking while majority of the hotels have pictures of their facilities. Although most of the hotels have published price information on their websites, very few of them allow for dynamic pricing or online negotiation of their hotel rooms.
6.1.3 RQ2. Which dimensions of the Internet Marketing Mix are being transformed by the
hotels? The research shows that all the five dimensions within the hotel internet marketing mix in Ghana are being transformed at varying degrees with price being the least transformed and place the most transformed. None of the dimensions have been transformed beyond 59.8%.
All the dimensions except place has a transformation degree less than 50% meaning many hotels in Ghana have transformed few of the aspects within each dimension with many of the aspects within the price dimension not being transformed. This shows that most hotels in Ghana have aimed at increasing presence in distribution and transaction virtual spaces.
6.1.4 RQ3. What internet marketing strategies are being pursued by hotels in Ghana?
The transformational capability of the internet offers organizations opportunities to transfer their marketing activities onto the internet (Wen, & Chen, 2001). As pointed out in the frame of reference, the traditional marketing mix (4Ps) can be transformed to each of the virtual spaces of the ICDT model and the number and type of dimensions being transformed indicates the type of business strategies being pursued.
Analysis of internet marketing strategies of hotels with respects to the number and type of dimension of the Internet Marketing Mix reveals that, place and product dimensions are the most transformed dimensions meaning most hotels in Ghana focus the use of their websites on having presence in the information and distributions virtual spaces. All the surveyed hotels (100%) use the internet in the product and place dimensions indicating hotels are following a strategy mainly aim at increasing their distribution channels and visibility in the virtual space. With VIS presence, hotels are pursuing globalization strategy; aim at increasing the visibility and improving perception of products and services as well as making product and services available at any time (Angehrn, 1997; Sigala, 2003). From the survey it is evident that most hotels in Ghana have pursued this strategy by primarily putting pictures and written information about their hotel facility online, targeted at the prospective customers located in and out of Ghana.
The transformation of the place dimension (i.e., VDS presence) reflects a strategy aim at cutting cost and lead time, improving quality and innovating product and services by distributing them directly to customers through the internet fostering disintermediation. With provisions of email request for booking, availability of online booking and in some few cases availability of secure online payment system; customer are gradually moving away from intermediaries who charge commissions for their services to making their own bookings via hotel’s web site.
The above findings is consistent with Argehrn and Meyer (1997) assertions that; in terms of engaging the virtual space, the VIS and the VDS are the spaces that has attracted the most attentions by organization.
Although not all the surveyed hotels have developed their internet marketing strategies other three dimensions (price, promotion, and customer relations) a little more than half of them have develop strategies along the promotion and pricing dimensions. This shows that a substantial number have design web sites for marketing activities to complement the efforts of their product (VIS) and place (VDS) strategies. Again hotels with VIS and VCS presence are pursuing a globalization strategy whiles those with VDS and VTS are pursuing disintermediation strategy.
From the survey, it is evident that hotels in Ghana are pursuing mass marketing as less emphasis is being placed on customization and personalization of their services. Majority of the websites surveyed do not collect or gather information about prospective customers with the aim of providing customization. It evident that hotels are not taking advantage of the paradigm shift from traditional mass marketing to relationship marketing as the customer relation is the least developed
6.1.5 RQ4. What is the level of sophistication/transformation of the hotels Internet
Marketing Mix dimensions? From the results of the study, the level of sophistication of the internet marketing mix is relatively low. Majority of the hotels have been able to transformed most of the aspects classified as low sophistication primarily aimed at using the internet as a medium for dissemination of information whereas very few are using the internet for more enhanced and sophisticated activities. Except for the availability of online booking and pictures in the place and product dimensions respectively, less than half of the hotels uses the internet to innovate other aspects classified as higher sophistication within the dimensions of the internet marketing mix.
Considering also the transformation degrees of the dimensions as shown in figure 5.11 it is obvious that the dimensions within the internet marketing mix do not share the same level of sophistication. Place have the highest level of sophistication whiles price is the least among all the dimensions.
6.1.6 RQ5. Are hotels in Ghana fully exploiting the internet capabilities and features?
The extent to which hotels in Ghana are re-strategizing their marketing activities to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the internet is depicted by Tables 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9 and 5.10 and figure 5.11 As stated in literature, two main internets enabled capabilities: interactivity and connectivity are available for hotels to exploit.
Majority of the surveyed hotels make very limited use of internet tools to fully take advantage of internet enabled capabilities as, much of the focus is on exploiting the internet as an information centre and reservation medium. Hotels in Ghana do this by publishing their facilities and services on offer and advertising and promoting their web sites on the Virtual Distribution Space. Even though majority of the hotels are making efforts to move to an advanced form of conducting e-commerce in terms of conducting transaction online in real time, only about 9% provide for online reservation and secure payment system. This means that most of the hotels have just provided booking facilities online but have not fully exploited it to gain advantage (reference to literature with examples. However, all the hotels provide for email reservation request.
Hotels trying to transform their business activities online have exploited the interactive capabilities of the internet in a very limited manner. The survey shows that, very few hotels allow customization of their products and websites based on customer’s profile. Furthermore, few other hotels identify, keep track and reward loyal customers. Among the factors contributing to the low level of exploitation are the failure on the part of the hotel websites to gather customer information as well as solicit for feedback about their products and services. Even hotels that make provision for online booking collect very little data about the customer - most often just requiring names and email addresses of customers.
In addition to the above, very few of the hotels have tried to move to an even more advanced stage of internet exploitation: business transformation on the virtual space. Less than 14% of the hotels allowed for dynamic pricing based on customer profile and demand patterns as well as online negotiations of their rooms and services
The connectivity capabilities of the internet have also been exploited in a limited way. Majority of the hotels have just taken advantage of the shared global market space which the connectivity capability (open and global nature) of the internet offers for the purpose of having presence and to compete globally. As pointed out by Sigala (2003) The radical increase in connectivity is giving rise to new communication and coordination mechanisms across organizations and customers as well as within groups of customers themselves. As the law of network externalities imply; the value of the network increases with an increased number of patrons. This means that connectivity offers more than just having presence on the internet. From the survey very few hotels are taking advantage of the two-way communication medium of the internet to communicate with their customers. Few have also shifted gear by forming online communities for their customers to communicate and network.
The internet is considered a driving force that has the tendency to propel businesses to gain competitive advantage in the global economy. Over the years the internet in Ghana has been developing at an increasing rate and many businesses are embracing it as a way of enhancing their business activities.
Most of the hotels surveyed that uses the internet to enhance their business activities fall within 2 – 3 star category and are independently owned. They are located in 3 main regions – Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western. Many of the surveyed hotels are managed by HND or Bachelor Degree holders.
The study has shown that many hotels in Ghana understand the need to put their businesses on the internet. As a result, many hotels have websites although their functionality is mainly skewed towards providing information about their facilities and services. This cut across all the five dimensions within their internet marketing mixes i.e. Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and Customer Relations though in varying degree.
The hotel industry in Ghana has concentrated most of its internet marketing efforts towards generating transactions by using the internet as a publishing medium rather than putting in place internet tools aimed at building long term relationships with the customer. These hotels have simply transformed their existing business strategy in their brick and mortar businesses to the internet.
The application of the Internet Marketing Mix model to the current internet marketing strategies of hotels in this study reveal that all the hotels have focused their internet strategies on a massive but relatively simple and generic transformation of the product and place dimensions (i.e., simple and generic VIS and VDS presence. More than have transformed the price and promotion with customer relation attracting the least attention but support limited number of internet base transaction in terms of providing price information, offering discounts and providing secure payment systems for completions of booking online.
Most of the hotels are operating at low levels of sophistication relating to the 5 dimensions of the internet marketing mix. In that regard most Ghanaian hotels have failed to exploit the interactivity and connectivity capabilities as well as the transformational impact of the internet to model their internet strategies for competitive advantage. This situation presents opportunity for improving on their internet marketing strategies in order to attract a bigger share of the hospitality market globally. It is widely supported in literature that hotels that have developed sophisticated as well as extended internet marketing mix stand to gain the most benefits such additional channel for making reservation and carrying out transaction, repeated sales and visits as well as web site stickiness (Sigala, 2002:2003; O’Connor, 2002; Zott, et.al., 2000; Liu and Arnett’s, 2000)
In all, as customers demand for customize products and services, transparent on line transactions as well as superior customer services online, this coupled with influx of international hotels brands that significantly dominate the online market with their sophisticated and more extended internet marketing strategies; hotels in Ghana should seriously think of developing sophisticated internet marketing strategies to stay in competition.
6.3 Limitations and Delimitations of the Study
The main limitations of this study are resources and access constraints. The materials and financial resources needed for a large and dispersed sample size was inadequate. It is also not likely the researches would have access to every hotel in every region to fill the questionnaire. In addition some of the hotels were not interested in participating in the research. Furthermore this research was a replication of similar study conducted in Greece (Sigala 2003) and due to lack of access to the following data: the number of annual visits on the Web page, the number of annual Web-generated requests for information/reservations, the proportion of reservations generated through the Internet during the past year, and the average daily rate (ADR) of Internet-generated reservations expressed as a proportion of the hotel’s rank rate. We could not test for the efficiencies and effectiveness of the internet marketing strategies but could only rely on theory
The study was delimited to hotels located within Ghana. Again, only hotels that have websites were used in this study for analysis. Furthermore, this study did not attempt to investigate internet marketing strategies by each of the hotels in the sample. Finally the sample of this study is delimited to a sizeable number of 103 hotels.
6.4 Implications for Managers and Industry
From the data which was gathered and analyzed base on our frame of reference and research questions as well as the findings of the study brings out the following implications:
The Ghana Tourism board and the Association of Hotels and in Ghana must lobby and liaise with the banking sector to open up online payment platforms to enhance electronic payment for online transactions which has hitherto been absent. There is also a need for them to upgrade their web site to a portal that opens up for corporate users - potential partners, suppliers, or distributors within the hotel sub-sector this will provide an avenue for - close user group interaction and discussions of industry trends via on-line forums. This social space would build up relationships and potential sources of information which might pave the way for future commercial collaboration - like virtual trade fairs. Of course, monitoring and contributing to such communication spaces may require the creation of new jobs.
It is suggested hotels in Ghana should engage marketing practitioners in the process of designing their website so as to address the limited focus on the sophisticated marketing strategies online. But it should be pointed out that this is not a one-off effort. If hotels want people to return to their site, and to build website stickiness, then they need to regularly update the content of its pages. And that requires dedicated personnel, and investments in multimedia competencies.
It must be noted that simply creating a Web site does little to stimulate interest. It only establishes contact but if the aim is to connect with customers and other economic agents then the information and other online activities must be relevant. Relevance can be enhanced by customising the channel, so that the pages are tailored to user groups. For example, potential business partners such as tour operators and travel agents require different company or product information needs from potential consumers. It was surprising to find out from our online visit to the hotel website, information about property location was not on their website. Choi & Hsu (2001) stress that the absence of location information may significantly frustrate or lose a potential customer who wants to visit the property on time.
It is suggested that hotels should provide information about their profile. The presence of such information is not only a public relations strategy but it will also be a drawing for some potential customers to patronise the hotels facilities.
The VCS presence of most hotels in Ghana remains underdeveloped because hotels are still not sure what objectives it might serve. Part of the problem, is that the interface with customers has traditionally been the responsibility of marketing and sales executives and they are still following the traditional broadcasting (one-to-many) as opposed to exploiting the narrow casting (one-to-one) communication potential of the Internet. The VCS provides an opportunity for Hotels to exchange information and opinions through e-mail, in on-line forum discussions, or more advanced 3D- and virtual reality interaction spaces. Discussions among visitors regarding their experiences with the hotels’ services and facilities have an unforeseen payoff for the hotel. Besides helping to differentiate the hotel from the crowd, it may highlight untapped market segments.
Management of Ghanaian hotels must make it a policy to regularly pay the subscription of their domain names and update their website regularly to reflect changes within the hotel as many websites visited had not been updated since creation.
It is suggested that all hotels must display their prices online in order for the prospective customer to make a decision. This is necessary because it is so easy for the prospective client online to move from website to website without much inconvenience and cost in a bid to get all the needed information and make a booking.
It is suggested that with the current influx of global brands like Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, Best western, Holiday Inn hotels into the country indigenous hotels that serve similar targets need to improve their internet marketing strategies in order for them not to lose out in the competition to the bigger brands.
6.5 Implications for further research This study mainly investigated internet marketing strategies being followed by hotels in Ghana. It used a questionnaire in a survey and took quantitative approach. Similar area of study but different methodology could be used.
This study also extends previous internet marketing researches to an under-researched part of the world; Ghana’s hospitality industry: Also based on our conclusions and a number of issues that confronted us during the research process, the study provides avenues to be explored by interested researchers.
Although it is reported in literature that organizations with sophisticated internet marketing mixes that exploit the fully exploits the capabilities and features of the internet stand to gain the most benefits and offer them competitive advantage, due to its effectiveness and efficiencies. It is also evident in evaluations of internet marketing strategies that sophisticated and multidimensional internet marketing mixes can lead to great inefficiencies and waste of resources if not well coordinated (Sigala, 2003). Hence further research is required to investigate in depth how hotels in Ghana are restructuring their management and organizational practices and policies to successfully adopt internet strategies.
Measuring of web site marketing effectiveness is widely reported in literature (Murphy, et.al., 2001: Gretzel, et.al., 2000: O’Connor, 2002: Schlosser, et.al., 1999: Sigala, 2002; 2003) with varying opinion. But what is consistent among them is the fact that marketing efforts and investments on the internet should translate into improvement in revenue. However due to our inability to access statistical data, the efficiency scores of the internet marketing strategies were not measured. Again interested researchers can research into evaluating the effectiveness of hotels internet marketing mix as well as the effect of demographic factors on the level of sophistication of internet marketing mixes and its efficiency.
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QUESTIONNAIRE FOR HOTELS
Dear participant, this questionnaire is designed to collect information about your hotel internet marketing activities. We are Msc Students of Lulea University of Technology, Sweden and University of Education, Winneba (Kumasi Campus) studying Marketing and e-commerce.
Please tick [√] the appropriate box for your answers.
Part One (1): General Information
Name of Hotel………………………………………………………………
What kind of management arrangement does your hotel operate under?
[ ] Independent [ ]Chain [ ]franchise
How many rooms does your hotel have?
[ ] 1-25 [ ] 26-50 [ ] above 50
What is the level of education of the Hotel Manager?
[ ] Volta Region [ ] Western Region [ ] Greater Accra Region
[ ] Ashanti Region [ ] Northern Region [ ] Central Region
[ ] Brong Ahafo Region [ ] Upper East Region [ ] Upper West Region
[ ] Eastern Region
Part Two (2) Internet Marketing Mix Dimensions
You are to indicate whether your web site is designed for the activities. If you web site is design for any of the activities listed under each dimension thick “Yes” otherwise thick “No”
Does your website have written information about the hotel facilities?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website have videos of the hotel rooms and other facilities?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website have pictures of the hotel rooms and other facilities?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website have audio information about the hotel?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Is your product information on your website customized for different categories of clients?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Do customers have the opportunity to participate in any of the following?
Hotel room design [ ] Yes [ ] No
Suggest Services on offer by the hotel [ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website provide information on price?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website provide customized prices based on personal information?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website provide customized prices based on demand patterns?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website provide price negotiation for prospective customers?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Do partner websites provide price negotiation for prospective customers?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your website provide email request for bookings?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel promote its website on the internet?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel website make provision for online booking?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel website have a secure online payment facility?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel advertise on the internet?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel use online promotions such as sales discounts?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel customize its online promotions depending on quest profile?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel link with other organizations to offer online promotions?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Customer Relations Dimension
Does your hotel provide customer service online?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel identify and track customers online with the aim of providing customized services?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel communicate with customers via the internet?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Has your hotel created an online community for customers?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Does your hotel solicit for feedback from customers via the internet?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
INFORMED CONSENT INFORMATION
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this study. This form outlines the objectives of the study and provides a description of your involvement and rights as a participant.
This study is part of a joint Msc in Marketing and e-Commerce programme at the Lulea University of Technology (LTU) and University of Education, Winneba, Kumasi Campus. Its purpose is to Investigate Internet Marketing Strategies of Hotels in Ghana. A questionnaire will be used for the Hotels for information.
The outcome of the study:The information from this study will be used to write a thesis about Internet Marketing and Hotels in Ghana. The study report may be used as a reference for other thesis.
We guarantee that respondents’ anonymity is fully assured and that your participation in this research is voluntary; and you have the right to withdraw at any point of the study, for any reason, and any corresponding information will be destroyed.
INFORMED CONSENT FORM
I Confirm that I have read and understand the purpose of the above study and have had the opportunity to ask questions
I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw at any time, without giving any reason.
I agree that the information I give can be anonymised in an academic paper.
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Name of participant Date Signature
Name: Charles Kofi Ogbeh Name: Paul Deladem Koku
Address: P.O. Box FN 815 Kumasi Address: P O Box HP654, Ho - VR