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Eleftherios Varkaris and Barbara Neuhofer
The purpose of this study is to explore “how social media influence the way consumers search, evaluate and select a hotel within the ‘evaluation stage’ of the wider hotel…
The purpose of this study is to explore “how social media influence the way consumers search, evaluate and select a hotel within the ‘evaluation stage’ of the wider hotel decision-making process”.
An exploratory qualitative research has been carried out, conducting 12 individual face-to-face, semi-structured, in-depth interviews with social media users, followed by a qualitative thematic analysis.
Social media transform the consumers’ hotel decision journey by influencing the way consumers search, decide and book hotels. The findings reveal the determinants shaping this process, by shedding light on the perceived value of using social media, consumers’ information search behaviour “then and now”, the advantages and disadvantages of social media use for decision-making, their trustworthiness and the factors that influence the consumers’ hotel decision-journey. The findings are conceptualised in an integrated theoretical model, entitled “hotel consumer decision-journey through social media”.
The study’s scope for qualitative in-depth insights into the “hotel consumer decision-journey through social media” asked for a compromise on a larger sample size and in turn the transferability of the theoretical model beyond service, hospitality and tourism consumer decision-making contexts.
This paper provides strategic implications for hospitality marketing and management for a better understanding of the influence of social media on the hotel customer decision journey. The study shows that a variety of social media with associated content sources and levels add to the complexity of hotel-related information search and decision behaviour. The developed framework not only helps hotel professionals understand consumers’ different levels (e.g. type of content, content source, content level) through which social media might influence decision-making. Various real-life scenarios presented also help practitioners understand the fine nuances of how consumers are influenced by social media and how this causes them to iteratively change their minds and make a final decision towards the rejection or selection of a hotel.
Consumers use social media for a wide spectrum of scenarios in tourism and hospitality, while the influence of social media on the consumers’ hotel decision-making process remains little understood. This study makes a theoretical contribution in that it addresses these existing gaps and bridges consumer behaviour and social media literature in the hotel context to shed light on the “hotel consumer decision journey through social media”. The core contribution is an integrated theoretical model and real-life scenarios that depict the impact of social media on the hotel decision-making.