Study involving IFTM researcher says hotel companies can drive business by having a good understanding of when consumers are trying to book rooms for their hotels online
Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)
Hotel companies have a lot to gain from understanding when their hotel websites are used by consumers, according to a new study involving a researcher from the Macau Institute of Tourism Studies (IFTM). Information on consumer usage patterns for a hotel’s website can help the company make informed decisions and improve bottom lines, the researchers said.
The study was produced by IFTM researcher Dr Irene Chan Cheng Chu in partnership with Jing Ma from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The other authors were Professor Rob Law of the University of Macao (the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong when the article was published), Professor Dimitrios Buhalis of the University of Bournemouth in the UK and Richard Hatter, director General of the ICON Hotel in Hong Kong, a property owned by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Their article, titled “Dynamics of Hotel Website Browsing Activity: The Power of Computing and Data Analytics,” was published in the June issue of the academic journal Industrial Management & Data. Systems.
The researchers concluded that understanding the fluctuations over time in online consumer behavior could help hotel managers address a number of challenges and opportunities. “Appreciating seasonality, not only in weeks and months, but also in hours, can improve the formulation of the marketing mix,” they suggested. “Delivering the right message online and on social media, when potential customers want to engage in dialogue, find additional information and make reservations, is key to making reservations easier. “
Rules of engagement (online)
The study was funded by a grant from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. A first version of the research was presented in 2019 in Hong Kong at a joint conference of the Asia-Pacific and European sections of the International Council for Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education.
Researchers analyzed a total of 29,976 hourly blogging files collected from a luxury hotel’s website in Hong Kong, recording user interactions with the website. The data covered the period August 2014 to December 2017 and referred to almost 5.5 million online visitors to the website.
The results showed that the browsing behavior of users on the hotel’s website differed on annual, monthly, daily and weekly bases, notably as measured by ‘stickiness’, that is, the ability to a website to attract visitors and retain them. On the one hand, user activity increased steadily from 2014 to 2016, but decreased in 2017. On the other hand, users were the most active from July to September of each year. On a weekly basis, activity was highest on weekdays; and every day, from noon to night.
The study suggested that hotels could take advantage of peak periods in terms of website usage, to deliver more promotional messages in real time and encourage unplanned purchases. Such a type of strategy could increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts, as a larger user base could be reached during these times, the researchers said.
However, hoteliers should not overlook periods of lighter activity on their respective websites. “The low traffic and activity means that the resources are underutilized, so it affects profitability,” the researchers noted. They suggested that hotels offer more online promotional activities during these times, to increase traffic.
“To fully utilize the hotel’s website as a marketing and distribution channel, increased collaboration with search engines and popular social media sites must be done during off-seasons, quiet days and hours. , in order to improve the visibility of the website among the target audience. The authors wrote. “All of this has direct implications for the competitiveness and profitability of organizations.”
In-depth knowledge of consumer use of a hotel website could also improve the effectiveness of dynamic pricing and revenue management, the research suggested. “If, for example, people who spend time late at night focus on finding lower rates, unlike business customers who may appreciate the facilities or the convenience over the price, [this] can lead to differential prices and alternative offers available at different times, ”it was suggested. “Understanding the time horizon for service delivery, and particularly when customers are trying to book real-time services, requires the integration of contextual information and interoperability with complementary systems for packaging and delivery. dynamic pricing, ”the researchers noted.
Other points were raised regarding the usefulness for hotels to be able to forecast peak periods in terms of website use. These included an adequate deployment of resources – including customer service staff – to deal with the extra traffic and strain on the systems. Hospitality businesses should recognize that these periods “may not reflect normal marketing, sales or reservations working hours. [staff members], but rather when consumers want to interact and make transactions, ”the researchers noted.
Dr Irene Chan Cheng Chu is a lecturer at the Institute of Tourism Studies of Macao (IFTM). She graduated from the Institute with a Bachelor of Hospitality Management and went on to earn a Doctorate in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. At the IFTM, Dr Chan gives courses related to management and quantitative methods in the service sector.
Jing ma graduated from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.
Professor Rob Law has worked in Canada and Hong Kong in the industrial and academic sectors. He joined the University of Macao in 2021: he is currently a full professor in the integrated management of resorts and tourism at this university. He holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Regina, Canada.
Professor Dimitrios Buhalis is an expert in strategic management and marketing specializing in information and communication technology applications in the tourism, travel, hospitality and leisure sectors. He is Director of the eTourism Lab and Deputy Director of the International Tourism and Hospitality Research Center at Bournemouth University Business School in the UK. Professor Buhalis holds a PhD from the UK University of Surrey.
Richard Hatter is General Manager of ICON Hotel, located in Hong Kong, which was founded by Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Mr. Hatter is also an Assistant Associate Professor in the University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
– The paper
Irene Cheng Chu Chan, Jing Ma, Rob Law, Dimitrios Buhalis and Richard Hatter: “Dynamics of hotel website navigation activity: the power of informatics and data analytics”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Volume 121, Number 6, pages 1398-1416 , 2021.