For a better understanding of the study’s objective, it is important to critically analyse and review each of the factors from various relevant past literature to support testable hypotheses and achieve the desired objective. Literature review is a process that could assist the researcher to develop and define research ideas (Creswell, 2013), since it provides the theoretical structure and basic foundation of the study (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2014). In this process, the researcher needs to discuss critically, clearly explain the arguments, debate and justify the rationale of choosing a significant content (Gould, 2011). Therefore, University of Southern California (2014) summarised several types of literature review methods, which this study is employing: the ‘systematic review’ method in which the researcher develops a pre-planned strategy to analyse and incorporate existing literature, to communicate and formulate hypotheses in order to draw conclusions.
The existing literature such as online academic journals, like Journal of Tourism and Travel Marketing and American Marketing Association, books such as Consumer Behaviour and online reports from Euromitor will be particularly used in this study to develop a solid understanding of the topic. The researcher believes using the aforementioned sources could clarify the study’s idea, creating a strong basis to produce testable hypotheses and manoeuvre this study by giving it a clear direction.
1.2 Millennial’s Characteristics
Generation Y or often called millennials, is a generational group born between 1980 and 2000 (Cekada, 2012). Goldman Sachs (2015) has named millennials the biggest cohort, made up of approximately 1.5 billion people around the world (ATKearney, 2016), overtaking previous generations. Research by Euromonitor (2015) summarised that this generation is innovative-technology lover, opinion former, influencers, impulsive buyers and high-spenders to impress others (Li, Li and Hudson, 2013). Compared to their predecessor, millennial is currently positioned as the biggest purchasing power (Euromonitor, 2015; Cheng, 1999; Wolburg and Pokrywczynski, 2001) due to its spending habits (Cussen, 2017; Smith, 2012). Stahl (2016) in Forbes added that 70% of their spending would come from travel consumption. However, their spending habits come with consequences, as 53% of millennials are struggling to pay their debts (Forbes, n.d.).
Rebell (2016) in Reuters quoted a statement from Brendan Coughlin as the president of consumer lending at Citizens Bank, that regardless of their debt millennials will not trade-off their priority and their lifestyle and would rather sacrifice on food and groceries. Nonetheless, these findings predominantly stated they are big-spenders, which makes it reasonable for businesses to alter their aim to this generation in order to raise sales and profits (Loda, Coleman, and Backman, 2010).
Moreover, millennials are characterised as IT savvy (DeMaria, 2013; Ralph, et al., 2016; Bakewell and Mitchell, 2003) as they have prodigious knowledge and adaptability (Rahulan et al., 2015) which makes them learn effortlessly and used to advanced technology features (Compaine, 2001; DiMaggio and Bonikowski, 2008). Simultaneously, fast internet allows millennials to stay updated with the latest information (Head, 2013; Moriarty, 2004), interact with people conveniently, and stay engaged with global issues effortlessly (Keeble, 2013; Zillien and Hargittai, 2009).
It shifts millennials as an active internet user and converts their regime from being conventional to more digitalised. As far as travelling goes, for instance, previous generations tend to consult their itinerary with a travel agent (Bonn, Furr, and Susskind, 1998), but nowadays customers prefer going online to look for information and if possible, make reservations (Jeong, Oh, and Gregoire, 2003) with a high level of trust (Hargittai and Hinnant, 2008). Additionally, the capability of the internet to conveniently unite people has led millennials to construct broader social interactions by connecting with communities and sharing their thoughts (Palfrey and Gasser, 2011; Tapscott, 1998). For example, millennials can pronounce their opinions and obtain information based on other users’ experiences (Bounie et al., 2008) from online reviews in order to reduce decision making uncertainty (Olshavsky and Granbois, 1979). Consequently, researchers characterise them as “market maven” (Smith, 2012; Gerzema and D’Antonio, 2010) for their ability to interact and influence their associates by sharing their judgements and ideas about certain things (Vaux, Halliday and Astafyeva, 2014).
For travel firms, millennials’ characteristics are unique and an important suggestive source. The aforementioned findings have defined how millennials are becoming more independent in information-seeking (Pan and Fesenmaier, 2006) and getting involved in online experience-discussions (Smith, 2012). Moreover, their purchasing power is a magnet for businesses to appreciate and serve this cohort’s characteristics more comprehensively (Neubourne, 1999). For instance, Gerzema and D’Antonio (2011) exemplified that the company which provides an interactive environment builds stronger relationships with the customers, which is important in the long-run (McCasland, 2005). Despite its significance, the research that scrutinises millennials’ characteristics is scarce. Most of it mainly discusses these from psychological perspectives, rather than regarding their implementation in the business field. Therefore, this paper is determined to genuinely assess millennials’ characteristics, especially on how they use online sources to search for information and its importance for online travel companies.
1.3 Millennial’s Preferences
Despite a number of studies and reports discussing millennials’ characteristics and how they differ from another generation cohort (Parment, 2013, Lissitsa and Kol, 2016), a specific examination on their preferences is limited. Essentially, academics have attempted to define the concepts of customer’s preferences in several study areas. In marketing terminology, the customer’s preference is considered the tendency to choose one thing over another (Kontot, Hamali, and Abdullah, 2016), whilst in economic terms it is described as someone’s prepossession which is being evaluated by the utility of numbers of goods (Sowunmi, Omigie and Daniel, 2014). Additionally, a psychological perspective views customer’s preferences as individual’s demeanour towards a group of objects that trigger their behaviour in an either simple or more complex decision making process (Lichtenstein and Slovic, 2006). It is a process where individuals gather information about products and services, features according to their preferences before selecting the value to choose other options (Hawkins, Mothersbaugh, and Mothersbough, 2013). This study will refer to millennials as travellers are looking for lodging information.
Due to technological advancements, customers have become addicted to technology in the decision-making process and they somehow create their own features, preferences that meet their needs and enhance the experience (Xiang, Magnini and Fesenmaier (2015). Buhalis and O’Connor (2005) stated that the continuous advancement of technology used in tourism activities led online travel businesses to focus on travellers’ preferences and their “consumer-centric” technologies, simultaneously ensuring an interactive experience (Ye et al., 2014). Being exposed to the internet, they expect to have an interactive experience (Luck and Mathews, 2010) with colourful attractive media (Sweeney, 2006).
For instance, professionally designed websites, bright colours, interactive media and adequate video and picture quality will attract millennials’ attention (Jumisko, Ilvonen, and Väänänen-Vainio-Mattila, 2005; Smith, 2012), since the quality of the experience is more holistic than the quality of the service (Jumisko and Hannuksela, 2008). Moreover, millennials expect customisable features (Bethapudi, 2013; Sweeney, 2006) and information that matches their individual context which can make communication more dynamic (Buhalis and Law, 2008; Chung and Law 2003; Doolin, Burgess and Cooper, 2002).
According to Szonpiński and Staniewski (2016), current technology allows tourism firms to analyse customers’ preferences and requests in a simple and quick manner which helps them adjust the offers according to the customers’ desires (Luchhetti and Arcese, 2014). Large data and customer’s online profiles in particular enable firms to identify travellers’ patterns, to improve their experience according to the traveller’s interest (Buhalis and Law, 2008). This helps the firms save internal resources and achieve maximum return on investment as well as compete in the aggressive business environment (Li et al., 2015). Several studies have suggested that it is important for tourism websites to pay attention to their customers’ preference, identify their complete preference profile (Tanford, Raab, and Kim, 2012), and understand their requirements (Wilkins, 2010) to provide them, especially millennials, with a more dynamic, interesting and immersive experience while looking for information (Ku and Chen, 2015; Pantano and Di Pietro, 2013). Smith (2012) believes taking their preferences into consideration would push the performance of marketing activities, hence giving firms a key to business success (Rong et al., 2012).
1.4 Smart Tourism Technology
Tracing back to 2012, Molz proposed smart tourism as a process of using technology such as mobile digital connectivity to create more meaningful, intelligent and sustainable relationships between businesses and customers. Koo et al. (2016) also defined smart tourism as the use of technology in the context of travelling scheme by integrating data with the physical structure, as well as managing and delivering intelligent experience and services offered by smart tourism ecosystem participants such as consumers and travel agencies. In addition, Boes, Buhalis and Inversini (2016) argued that smart tourism emphasised the role of digital technology in developing the collaborative action between providers at destination level (coopetition) and co-creation between customers’ experiences and their destination, mediated by real-time technological attributes that provide direct interaction. Therefore, it can be concluded that technology plays an important role in the development of the tourism industry and helps them become more competitive and efficient, hence revolutionising the whole business process to adopt smart tourism (Koo et al., 2016).
Apparently, the existence of smart tourism cannot be separated from the advancement of information and communication technology (ICT). It is expected to obtain, process, and comprehend knowledge about customers from big data, as well as convert their experience profit, respond quickly and accurately to new circumstances (Rudas and Fodor, 2008). ICT development allowed tourism businesses to adopt the internet as a new distribution channel, as well as to administer business-to-consumer (B2C) since the 1990s (Werthner and Ricci, 2004). At the same time, development makes travellers easily access and discover real-time information, which enhanced their adaptability and familiarity towards mature internet and technology tools (Liu and Fan, 2013; Xiang et al., 2014), hence increasing their confidence in purchasing products or services through their smartphones (Berger, Lehmann and Lehner, 2003).
This was an opportunity for traditional tourism businesses to implement smart tourism practices, by incorporating technology and internet altogether (Pan et al., 2010) in facilitating customers’ needs more conveniently and effectively. Thus, in the context of this study, website technology means accommodation websites such as Booking.com (Gretzel et al., 2015), emerging to subsidise the circumstances where customers can search for hotel information and book rooms in an effective manner. According to Huang et al. (2017), a website is considered a smart tourism “product” which is usually used in the early stages of the customer’s decision-making process whilst looking for information, and also a tool for businesses to gain competitive advantages such as cost reduction, revenue growth, customer retention and better marketing research development (Morrison et al., 1999).
Moreover, the conjunction of smart tourism and businesses’ demand has been discovered by early studies. Zhang, Li and Liu (2012) implied that the employment of smart tourism would enhance businesses technology capability hence meeting the tourists’ needs for high-quality, satisfying and more personalised services, which later would increase their satisfaction level (Li et al., 2016), making customers the central focus and the main user of smart tourism technology (STT).
Gretzel et al. (2015), stated that the technological foundation in smart tourism aims to offer credible knowledge, better service accessibility and interactivity for customers, anticipate their needs by giving personalised context-based information and enabling them to share their whole experience through social media.
Yao and Lu (2013) suggested that applying modern information technology in tourism businesses would create an interactive tourist experience as the centre, where its development was not only beneficial for businesses but also to the public and government as a whole. It helps businesses adapt in the ever-changing business and economic environment of tourism industry and serves as a comprehensive application platform to meet tourist needs (Liu, et al., 2013). Generally, smart tourism focuses on providing features such as relevant and accessible services, personalised and credible context (Koo et al., 2016; Yoo et al., 2016) supported by innovatively interactive technological features (Buhalis and Law, 2008), which then assist tourists’ travel decisions and offer a better experience in the information-seeking process (Yoo et al., 2016).
Although smart tourism is a widely discussed phenomenon, there is still lack of critical literature from previous studies to scrutinise the smart tourism application and its relationship from a behavioural viewpoint. Therefore, this research genuinely seeks to understand how the STT application namely accommodation website (Huang et al., 2016) offers have met customers’ demands, in this case based on millennials’ preferences and characteristics.
1.5 Customer’s Travel Information-Seeking Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction is oftentimes discussed by numbers of academics and past literati. It is conceptualised as an overall experience evaluation of products and services by customers based on their expectation, whether it has been fulfilled, from a single prolonged set of services encountered (Grönroos, 2007; Johnson and Fornell, 1991; Oliver, 1980; Parasuman, Zeithaml, and Berry, 2002). It is also viewed as the customer’s behaviour during the decision-making process, affecting the future likelihood of returning to the same service or product (Kotler, 1997; McDougal and Levesque, 2000). Hence, it can be presumed that customer satisfaction is the foundation of firms’ success (Chung-Herrera, Goldschmidt and Hoffman, 2004; Hu, Kandampully and Juwaheer, 2009).
However, the expansion of websites affects customer behaviour during online purchasing processes which usually consist of multiple web visits where customers gather and evaluate the information, including customer reviews to make a better buying decision (Mallapragada, Chandukala and Liu, 2016; Pham and Ahammad, 2017). When the customer’s needs are achieved, they will most likely be satisfied, hence creating a new definition of online customer satisfaction, which is the total user experience when using and interacting with digital sources and how technologies could satisfy the customers’ needs (Calvo-Porral, Faíña-Medín and Nieto-Mengotti, 2017).
Prior studies suggested numerous items that could lead to customer satisfaction when seeking information, including their preferences, characteristics and technological experience, which will be measured in this study. Firstly, Buhalis and Foerste (2015) mentioned that analysing customer’s personal preferences and motives through refining offers and enthusiastically seeking a solution to their needs is a crucial process in providing personalised information to customers. For instance, providing tailored information or giving recommendations according to the current situation of the customer is a value added to their experience, increasing their satisfaction (Buhalis and Foerste, 2015) and stimulating them to further interact with the system to reveal more of their personality. Second, understanding their characteristics is also a crucial element that needs to be considered. Yoo et al. (2016) suggested that STT should be adapted based on customers’ characteristics. In their study, Yoo et al. (2016) stated that online travel companies could adopt distinct strategies to enhance customers’ information-seeking satisfaction during travel planning. For instance, administering customisation to STT according to customers’ ability to use technology could help the information and overall service become more useful and persuasive. Lastly, Calvo-Porral, Faíña-Medín and Nieto-Mengotti (2017) studied that user experience in utilising STT conjuncts positively with their satisfaction. See-To, Papagiannidis, and Cho (2012) added that an encouraging and favourable customer experience led to a higher level of engagement and satisfaction.
For example, Calvo-Porral, Faíña-Medín and Nieto-Mengotti (2017) found that information credibility and relevance were essential as part of STT because the customers could become more genuinely engaged with the content because the information relevancy met their needs and interests (Zaichkowsky, 1985). According to Calder, Malthouse and Schaedel (2009), a specific content is perceived to be practical and enjoyable for customers because they believe it provides valuable information due to their utilitarian experience. Therefore, credible and interesting content may generate greater satisfaction (Jung, Perez-Mira, & Wiley-Patton, 2009).
Satisfaction is a critical element that should be achieved, as the bond between customers and firms will be forged (Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman, 1996) and it will affect their behaviour towards the company, leading to purchase intention (Seiders et al., 2005). A study by Kim, Lee and Yoo (2006) stated that satisfied customers expressed loyalty and greatly associated with the firm’s financial performance (Olsen, Witell, and Gustafsson, 2014). Hence satisfaction should be considered as the heart of all marketing activities (Machleit and Mantel, 2001) and an important basis to provide unique offerings that attract customers’ interests (Calvo-Porral, Faíña-Medín and Nieto-Mengotti, 2017) covering the customer’s whole online experience from information retrieval through post-purchase services (DeLone and McLean, 2003).
Calvo-Porral, Faíña-Medín and Nieto-Mengotti (2017) suggested that future research could focus on the customer’s attitude towards technology, as well as on understanding the customer’s lifestyle and preferences. That could help achieve satisfaction. Therefore, this study is focusing on millennials to genuinely discover and examine their satisfaction during STT usage based on the aforementioned aspects.2.6 Conceptual Framework and Hypotheses
In this study, preferences, characteristics and STT application variables have been developed to measure travel information-seeking satisfaction, which can be regarded as the main function of STT utilisation. Studies regarding STT use have been examined through previous research which has discussed several constructs, such as satisfaction, IT skill, accessibility, interactivity, credibility and information quality (Yoo et al., 2016), personalisation (No and Kim, 2015) and web-design quality (Yoo, Kim and Sanders, 2015) and lastly, technology (Buhalis and Law, 2008). Thus, measurements for each constructs will be employed based on these studies. The relationship between the research variables is illustrated in Fig. 2.1, and the comprehensive discussion will follow in the next sub-chapter.
126.96.36.199 IT Skill
The pervasive adoption of technological products such as internet, cable TV, laptops, PC and mobile phone by millennials urges businesses to keep-up with the technology in order to reach their target market (Loda, Coleman, and Backman, 2010). At the same time, it is pivotal to understand millennials’ technology skills used for accommodation information-seeking and travel planning (Xiang, Magnini, and Fesennmaier, 2014).
IT skill is the user’s competency, knowledge and skilfulness in using smart tourism application features (Yoo et al., 2016). When the IT skill is high, users will tend to increase their cognitive resources (Altobello, 2007; Marquart and Naderer, 2016) and get deeply engaged with the information they are looking for (Garcia-Marques and Mackie, 2001). In contrast, when users have less IT skill while using the smart tourism application, they would stumble with the website and be unable to assess the quality of information they need because they do not know how to do it (Marquart and Naderer, 2016). Additionally, the user’s ability to operate a website also depends on how it provides enjoyable and interactive features (Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw, 1992; Venkatesh, 2000) which users perceive as easy to use and useful (Childers, et al., 2002). When users can operate the offered features, it creates a value experience and engages them to interact with the system more (Buhalis and Foerste, 2015). Kotler et al. (2008) argued that dynamically designed offerings and features that meet user’s skill and characteristics, will generate satisfaction and positive outcomes from millennial users looking for accommodation information. These findings lead to the first hypothesis:
H1: The ability to operate STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
Interactivity is defined as the facility a person or organisation uses to communicate directly with one another regardless of time and distance (Blattberg and Deighton, 1991). It is the ability to address a person and gather information from them (Deighton, 1996) and the degree in which the information can influence and synchronise (Liu and Shrum, 2002). ‘Online review’ is a feature that reduces the communication barrier (Smith, 2012) between people and companies, gaining and sharing travel experience to reduce uncertainty and risks before making reservations (Wen, 2009). A website with active reviews, like inquiries, compliments and complaints (Harrison-Walker, 2001) can help users contribute or solicit information to get more specific and useful details (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004).
Additionally, digital social interaction creates new demand where customers require faster response from other counterparts. Johnson et al. (2006) stated that online interactivity was where users distinguished a website to be reciprocal and with a speedy response. Klein (2003) found that interactivity is low if the website provides irrelevant and repetitive feedback. In contrast, a highly interactive website helps customers be efficient in seeking information (Klein, 1998) and leads to satisfaction (Garrity et al., 2005) because customers will perceive the company as reliable and listen to their opinion (Yoo et al., 2013). However, this could come with a price, as companies should keep up with customers around the world to answer their inquiries immediately.
Few studies have examined the positive relationship between website interactivity and customers’ satisfaction even though those focused on millennials are still scarce. Experts suggested that an interactive website could enhance customers’ positive experience as they may perceive it as entertaining (Eroglu, Machleit and Davis, 2001; Sautter, Hyman and Lukosuis, 2005). This leads to better personalisation and customisation of their queries (Buhalis and Law, 2008). Eventually, building an interactive relationship is an opportunity for companies to co-create value alongside the customers (Grönroos, 2008). Hence the second hypothesis:
H2: STT interactivity has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
As discussed previously, ICT has ultimately created a ‘consumer-centric’ era, where companies must understand consumers’ needs by creating a marketing strategy that meets their expectations, using technology features to enhance their experience (Buhalis and Amaranggana, 2015). According to Kaynama and Black (2000), offering personalised and customised information options to customers is important for online travel companies, to show its individualised care for them.
Website personalisation is a process of generating individualised website content that includes products, sales and promotion communication, and pricing (Oberoi, Patel and Haon, 2017) between companies and customers (Loiacono, Chen and Goodhue, 2002). From customers’ perspective, personalisation is the unlimited opportunity and ability of customers to manage unique and specific information according to their needs (No and Kim, 2015; Marathe and Sundar, 2011; Go et al., 2015). However, some studies employed ‘personalisation’ and ‘customisation’ interchangeably despite both concept’s disparities. According to Karpinski (1997), customisation uses push technology that allows customers to adjust the interface and/or obtain information based on their preferences, although it does not give the well-supplied feedback the company needs to improve quality (O’Leary, 1999). Personalisation recognises customer’s movement through interaction which is useful for future purposes (Kaynama and Black, 2000). Nonetheless, personalisation is an aspect that could increase travellers’ experience satisfaction (Huang et al., 2016) since this service records and collects customers’ information to improve management of future relationships with them (Picolli et al. 2003).
Although a number of studies stated that personalisation service would enhance customer experience satisfaction (Srinivasan, Anderson, and Ponnavolu. 2002; Mimoun, Poncin, and Garnier, 2017; Gurău, 2012; Parris, 2010), a research by Smith (2011) begs to differ. In her study, personalisation is not the most effective strategy, even though it is one of the most important features, because other features could attract and retain millennials better (Taken-Smith, 2011). She stated that the progress of personalisation advancement grew over three periods, but it grew slightly (Taken-Smith,2011).
Nonetheless, No and Kim (2015) said that personalisation showed a positive relationship with satisfaction because it is responsive to individual customer’s needs (Eshghi, Roy, and Ganguli, 2008; Ye et al., 2014) since it collects the customer’s identity (Buhalis and Law, 2008) and makes relevant predictions, reducing the difficulties customers might encounter while looking for information (Kourouthanassis et al., 2017; Prabhu, Chandy, & Ellis, 2005; Todorova & Durisin, 2007).
Huang et al. (2016) asserted a higher level of personalisation can persuade travellers to use the STT more in travel planning, and a promising scenario for smart tourism to offer better value, convenience and more significant information to the customer (Gretzel et al., 2015) which will further increase their satisfaction. These findings lead to the next hypothesis:
H3: Personalisation in STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
188.8.131.52 Information Quality
The advancement of technology allows the internet to offer numerous records with valuable information, which grant travellers access to diverse information for travel planning (Yuan et al., 2016), more economically and efficiently (Gursoy and Mcleary, 2004). However, large information could lead to ‘information overload’ which refers to the bigger task customers may face in exploring relevant information according to their needs (Park and Lee, 2009; Gao, Liu & Wu, 2010) and ‘data-sparsity’ which refers to the difficulty customers may experience in understanding information and making a decision due the extremely large amounts of information (Tanca, Bolchini and Orsi, 2011). Therefore, Buhalis and Law (2008) state that it is crucial for companies to offer easily accessible high-quality relevant information to travellers (Lee et al., 2014).
First, quality refers to the extent to which a product meets customers’ requirements (Juran and Gryna, 1988). Kahn, Strong and Wang (2002) expand the perspective by defining information quality as the usefulness of information the customers perceived as strong and cogent, which adds value to their task (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986). (Petty and Cacioppo, 1986). When the information is recognised as justified and compelling, customers find it of high quality (Bitner and Obermiller, 1985). In tourism context, information quality should effectively support tourists’ decisions (Lamsfus et al., 2015) and provide persuasive arguments (Bhattacherjee and Sanford, 2006).
In order to measure the quality of information, Wang and Strong (1996) demonstrate a framework consisting of several items such as value-added, relevancy, timeliness, completeness and interestingness. Also, some studies expand the criteria for online information quality with accuracy, understandability, dynamism, personalisation, variety, timeliness, concise nature, relevance, reliability and completeness (Jeong and Lambert, 2001; Madu and Madu, 2002; DeLone and McLean, 2003; McKinney, Yoon and Zahedi, 2002; Jingjing, 2008). These criteria should be available throughout the information-seeking process (Steinbauer and Werthner, 2007) to ensure customer’s experience satisfaction (Buhalis, 1998; Buhalis and Foerste, 2015; Calder, Malthouse and Schaedel 2009) during the travel planning stage (Xiang et al., 2014)
Tourism businesses should provide high-quality information because of their information-based nature (Chung et al., 2015; Ho and Lee, 2007). When a website provides relevant, up-to-date and comprehensive information, it affects customer’s satisfaction in a positive manner (Bailey and Pearson, 1983; Fesenmaier, Vogt, and MacKay, 1992; Jeong, Oh and Gregoire, 2003; Schertler, Maier and Rohte, 1995; Jung, Perez-Mira, & Wiley-Patton, 2009) because it helps their decision-making easier (Chung et al., 2015; Yoo et al., 2015). Prior studies (Okazaki and Hirose, 2009; Wang, Park and Fesenmaier, 2012) contributed with complimentary evidence that if customers perceived the information as insignificant, confusing, disappointing, they would likely return to offline sources or switch to another website that more credible (Delone and McLean, 1992). Therefore, when an STT reduces customers’ cognitive endeavour by providing high quality information, they will be easily persuaded and it will mean better decisions and experience satisfaction (Yoo et al., 2016). Finally, these findings lead to the next hypothesis:
H4: The information provided in STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
184.108.40.206 Web-design Quality
As previously discussed, providing high-quality information is essential for information-based firms such as online travel companies. However, high-quality information should come with the website’s visual appearance to enhance overall experience (Chang et al., 2014; Schenkman and Jönsson, 2000). Website-design quality refers to the website features that incorporate interactivity (Ghose and Dou, 1998), meet customers’ requirements and emphasise the overall superiority of the website (Afshardost, Farahmandian, and SadiqEshaghi, 2013). Lee and Gretzel (2012) found that a nicely-designed website affects customers’ experience satisfaction, leading to further purchase intention and a long-lasting attitude. Despite its significance, Villa and Kuster (2011) noticed that only small numbers of travel firms gave significant funds to enhance their website in exchange for customer’s interaction experiences.
Research in the field of tourism found that website design subsidised effective products and brand image delivery (Bai, Law and Wen, 2008; Liu, Arnett and Litecky, 2000; Perdue, 2001). It also keeps the customers engaged in exploring the website further without mental interruption (McDowell, Wilson and Kile, 2016; Menon and Kahn, 2002). Additionally, a designed website creates a strong impression (Bloch, 1995) which increases users’ trust in the company (Schlosser, Barnett, & Lloyd, 2006). For example, as quoted from Dedeke (2016), a survey by Genex shows that two-thirds of online customers will leave a poorly-designed website, even the affluent ones. This result is complimented by studies arguing that the website with a “good image” will significantly influence users’ decision-making and attitude (Alhemoud & Armstrong, 1996; Baloglu and McCleary, 1999; Beerli and Martin, 2004; Echtner & Ritchie, 1993; Hausman & Siekpe, 2008).
Visinescu et al. (2015) argued that website design has substantial outcome on the absorption of customer feels, such as converting visitors to customers (McDowell, Wilson and Kile, 2016). Academics have listed the criteria to be included for a solid web-design quality: attentive interface layout design, graphics and website aesthetic (Chowdhury et al., 2014; Dedeke, 2016; Di Blas, Garzotto and Poggi, 2009). For example, no matter how aesthetic the overall graphic design is, a website is considered problematic if users encounter an illogical interface layout (Casey and Poropat, 2014; Chang et al., 2014; Gaspar et al., 2014; Ozok et al., 2014). Therefore, the availability of those aspects surpasses customers’ expectations and promotes a positive experience (Hsu and Tsou, 2011; Zeng, Proctor and Savendy, 2012). Liu et al. (2016) and Hasanov and Khalid (2016) postulated that there was a positive relationship between web-design quality and customer’s experience satisfaction, which this study applies for the next hypotheses:
H5: Web-design quality of STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
2.6.3 Smart Tourism Technology
Internet and website adoption have reached maturity, which implies that they will remain as the primary source of information for travel planning (Xiang, Magnini and Fesenmaier, 2015). Consequently, as the demand for dependable information increases (Brogan and Smith, 2010), online travel websites such as Booking.com are expected to serve credible information as a part of service quality (Kim, Lee and Hiestra, 2004; Novak, Hoffman and Yung, 2000). Credibility itself is a topic that has been widely discussed (Cugelman, Thelwall and Dawes, 2008) by previous studies, and yet there are still many interpretations of its concept due to its vagueness. It is defined as how customers perceive, interpret and acknowledge information (Grewal, Gotljeb and Marmorstein, 1994; Sternthal, Dholakia and Leavitt 1978) and their belief towards the provider and their technological system, which could minimise their uncertainty and purchasing regrets (Schaupp and Bélanger, 2005). It is also described as the perception of confidence with respect to the provider’s reliability and integrity (Belanger, Hiller, and Smith, 2002).
A past study by Hovland and Weiss (1951) says the evaluation of credibility is based on three factors: source, media and message credibility. A recent study by Ginsca, Popescu and Lupu (2015) proposed the following main factors of credibility: trustworthiness, expertise and reliability. Further, Sundar (2008) expanded the factors under Modality, Agency, Interactivity, Navigability (MAIN), a model that can be seen in table 2.1. However, this study will use three factors to measure: popularity as reputation, reliability and trustworthiness as credible.
From another perspective, credibility represents a justification to build up customers’ trust and experience in any given circumstances (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). It is assumed that it is positively built because they view the source as credible (Sichtmann, 2007; Comegys, Hannula and Väisänen 2009). Further, customer’s trust influences their experience satisfaction, which increases their trust in using the same website in the future (Johnson and Grayson, 2005). Sichtmann (2007) mentioned that firms often attempt to increase their customers’ perception by establishing credibility of their service. Studies by Yoo et al. (2016) and No and Kim (2015) concluded that there is a strong and positive relationship between credibility and satisfaction, because it establishes a distinct ‘image’ of the source to appeal to the customer to revisit the source, hence making it a critical to satisfaction (Veasna, Wu and Huang, 2013). These findings lead to the following hypothesis:
H6: Website credibility in STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction
Similarly, the significance of adequate accessibility in a website has been discussed in various studies (Bauer, Grether and Leach ,2002; Stevenson, Bruner, and Kumar, 2000), and investigated as an attribute that determines the usefulness of a website and other STT applications (Ho and Lee, 2005; Muhtaseb, Lakiotaki and Matsatsinis, 2012). Accessibility is regarded as the extent to which information provided by a website can be acquired easily and without a predicament (Ho and Lee, 2007; No and Kim, 2015). Loiacono et al. (2002) extended this definition as a feature that supports customers’ easy navigation and use, in terms of perceptive operations.
Noteworthy findings by Kaplanidou and Vogt (2006) have demonstrated that accessibility and ease of use of information offered by a website are two of the most essential attributes for customers. When accessibility is high, information provided in STT can be easily navigated despite customers’ age and technological device used (Yoo et al., 2016). However, having a high level of accessibility is not a simple task for tourism firms, since it might require some other intricate features to support its operation. For instance, accessibility could be achieved when the system provides high personalisation or precise location-based services (Höpken et al., 2008). While this is a complicated job, Yoo et al. (2016) state that this development could help tourism firms establish better and more effective STT offers, as well as create a better experience for customers.
It has been argued that offering high level of information accessibility to customers will provide a better information system, as well as an essential stepping-stone for the firm’s marketing development program (Fesenmaier, Wöber and Werthner, 2006). Concentrating on the customer’s point of view, the study by Yoo et al. (2016) proves that high-level accessibility helps customers get a more satisfying decision-making result. As Huang et al. (2016) suggest, when customers are satisfied, they will have a better experience and accordingly use the same STT source in the future. From these findings, the following hypothesis is developed:
H7: Accessibility of STT has a positive influence on their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
220.127.116.11 Technological Features
A few years back, technology was considered a crucial source for tourism innovation in the form of hardware, software and net-ware (Buhalis and Law, 2008) improving businesses’ capabilities and external communication with customers (Buhalis, 2003). In their review, Buhalis and Law (2008) suggested several technological features such as multimedia, essential for the success of this industry, since it has to provide a clear representation and tangible portrayal for customers during pre-travel planning (Xiang, Magnini, and Fesenmaier, 2014). Multimedia nowadays can be found in the form of virtual maps and ‘telepresence’ (Buhalis and Law, 2008; Fiore, Kim and Lee, 2005) which help customers to virtually connect with their destination through three-dimensional (3D) virtual interaction (Cho and Fesenmaier, 2001; Raggam and Almer, 2005) and simulate a real-life experience. This way customers can feel like they are present at the destination before they actually experience it (Baek and Ok, 2017; Steuer, 1992 which is helpful when planning their travel (Cho, Wang, and Fesenmaier, 2002). It allows customers to interact and engage with the media to simulate the destination they want (Fiore, Kim and Lee, 2005) and positively affect their experience (Gretzel et al., 2015).
However, the global standard for tourism technology has yet to be accepted worldwide (Buhalis and Law, 2008), since technological standardisation itself requires attention to details, including sustaining communication, technological capabilities globally that need to be maintained regularly (Fodor and Werthner, 2005). It would also be costly. It is hard for firms to continuously please those customers who have become more technologically savvy (Buhalis and Law, 2008). Nonetheless, Buhalis and Law (2008) say exploiting the technological advancement of the business will provide a positive experience and eventually create higher satisfaction for the customers. From these findings, the last hypothesis is proposed:
H8: Technological features in STT have positive influence to their information-seeking experience satisfaction.
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