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Marketing has been an important part of any business since it has a significant contribution to the success of businesses. Production and supply processes rely on marketing. Marketing can be defined as the process of introducing and promoting goods and services into the market.
It also entails influencing buyers or consumers to buy the goods and services that are available in the market (Haegele 2012). With the growing number of products and services, business corporations have been forced to come up with new innovations in marketing. It is on this basis that e-marketing has been utilised by companies to enhance sales. This has even been facilitated by the process of proliferation of the internet (Haegele 2012). This paper provides a critical discussion of e-marketing and its impact on tourism markets.
A Critical Discussion of e-Marketing
Electronic marketing, otherwise known as e-marketing, is defined as the application of marketing standards and techniques through the electronic media, especially the internet. The term e-marketing is often used interchangeably with internet marketing or online marketing. Many scholars have researched and extensively written on the concept of e-marketing (Haegele 2012).
Numerous scholars acknowledge the fact that e-marketing generally implies the promotion of goods and services over the internet (Luar & Chen 2006).
However, they do not realise that this is a narrow definition of what e-marketing as a concept encompasses. Even though e-marketing is rightly defined this way, it is important to note that its scope goes beyond the internet; it also entails marketing activities conducted through wireless media and emails.
Other scholars have expanded the meaning of e-marketing to include digital customer data and the electronic customer relationship management systems (Luar & Chen 2006). Considering all these facts, it is clear that e-marketing ties together the technical and creative aspects of the internet, including development, advertising, design and sales.
E-marketing can be categorised into three types: Pay Per Click or impression, Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media Marketing. In this respect, the specialists have defined Pay Per Click or impression as a situation where advertisements for products and brands are conducted on a pre-decided website; it assists in generating leads for firms (Chaffey 2012).
Furthermore, they have labelled Search Engine Optimisation as the procedure of improving the prominence of websites in search engines through free search outcomes. It is important to critically look at these types of e-marketing from the perspective of different scholars.
According to Chaffey (2012), Pay Per Click or impression is similar to the known conventional advertising. In this regard, he argues that a relevant text advert with a specific link to a company’s page is displayed when search engine users type in a specific phrase. A study has shown that many users do click on paid listings.
This is reported to be highly cost-effective for companies; this can drive a substantial amount of business deals for the search companies. Even though Chaff (2012) points out that there is a similarity between Pay Per Click advertising and the conventional advertising, he is able to acknowledge that there are two significant distinctions between the two.
First, he recognises that in Pay Per Click, the advertiser never pays for the advertisement to be displayed. Cost is only met when the advert is clicked on and the user is directed to the advertiser’s website.
Second, he also realises that the Pay Per Click is highly targeted as compared to the conventional advertisement. This implies that the relevant advert with a link to a specific destination website page is only displayed when an internet user types in a specific phrase.
Dan and Dan (2011) argue that Search Engine Optimisation is an odd area of marketing that is seemingly B2B in nature, but bordering on business to computer in real conduct.
Search Engine Optimisation marketing tries to establish the optimum mix of contents and meta-data to enhance the Search Engine’s Automated review of the website’s content. However, although Search Engine Optimisation is officially viewed as a form of promotion and advertising, there is a probability that it may have become the first foray into a human-Artificial Intelligence barter programme.
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The last type of e-marketing is the Social Media Marketing. Kabani (2013) describes Social Media Marketing as the process of promoting a business or website through the use of different social media channels. This is true given that very many people have joined and continue to join various social media.
These people are interconnected in a way that they are able to share information within a very short time. This has made the social media to be a podium that is available to all and sundry. Consequently, various companies have taken the advantage of the increased communication and the reduced cost to market their goods and services.
E-marketing has both advantages and disadvantages. With the internet being free for everyone, e-business is prone to a significant number of threats. One of the threats is to do with issues of security. It is important to note that as the number of internet users rises, the number of cyber-criminals also increases.
This means that e-businesses are prone to cyber-attacks. Moreover, maintaining online contents may prove to be relatively expensive as e-businesses need to update their information every often. Besides, the e-businesses are also prone to public abuse or de-campaigning from users of the internet. For instance, the internet users may make negative comments on e-business marketing messages effectively distorting the integrity of the business. Therefore, businesses need to be careful when doing e-marketing (Luar & Chen 2006).
However, e-marketing has some advantages that encourage businesses to adopt it. The first advantage of e-marketing is that businesses are able to reach out as many potential customers as possible. This has been occasioned by the fact that the internet transcends geographical boundaries.
Again, the internet is cheap; this makes e-marketing cheaper than the conventional marketing strategies. This enables businesses to gain some significant profit margins. The concept of e-marketing allows marketers to do marketing around the clock. This is because the internet is always available at any time of the day or night. Finally, e-marketing helps businesses to build customer profiles by keeping information on what customers purchase most.
The Impacts Electronic Marketing has on Tourism
According to Pawlicz (2009), one of the researchers who have explored how e-marketing impacts tourism, argues that the internet tends to be an indispensable tool of modern tourism promotion. According to him, the internet is broadly used by restaurants, transport firms, hotels and other tourism enterprises.
The tourism enterprises create websites on which they update information regarding the availability and nature of travel destinations. Through the websites, they also provide information about the tourism structures available in certain parts of the world.
The indispensability of the internet as a tool for modern tourism is elaborated by other literatures that indicate that many tourism firms in various countries now exploit networks and clusters, by embracing the use of new technologies (Luar & Chen 2006).
This has made it easy for most tourism companies and destinations to provide rich information about their services to potential travellers spread across the world. It is therefore worth concluding that the internet has connected consumers directly with tourism service providers. This has made it easy for the service providers to directly provide information to their potential clients.
The impact of e-marketing on tourism has also been experienced with respect to costs. Alvarez (2010) and Ratu (2009) have concluded that an appropriately planned and efficiently targeted e-marketing campaign can assist tourism businesses reach target clients at a much lower cost when compared to the traditional marketing approaches.
This is evidenced by the various performance reports of many tourism firms that have experienced increased profitability due to e-marketing strategies (Nykeil 2007). This can be linked to the fact that the internet has enabled the firms to deal directly with their customers without the constraints of geographical borders (Rana 2009).
Many authors have also alluded to this fact through their extensive writings about e-marketing and tourism (Rana 2009; Dann & Dann 2011).
In this case, it is clear that the reduction in cost through the process of automation and utilisation of electronic media has become one of the benefits arising from the practise of e-marketing. This therefore presents a strong entrepreneurial case in terms of cost-saving, especially in the areas of costs associated with transactions, customer services, print distributions and digital media channels.
Another study also found out that e-marketing is ideally suited to tourism (Polat 2008). In this case, the researcher argues that it enables tourism firms to develop online brochures that are able to deliver rich multimedia contents, blending text, video, sound and images into multimedia documents and documentaries to overcome the intangible nature of tourism products (Polat 2008).
This finding is upheld by the fact that many tourism firms have been able to test-drive their products through videos and interactivity through the internet (Cooper & Hall 2012). Using videos to market tourism products online provides potential travellers with the visual nature of various tourism destinations. The impact of this is that a number of tourism firms have managed to experience a surge in the number of travellers they receive in their destinations.
According to other researchers, the use of social media as a marketing tool enables tourism firms to interact directly with their customers through the available different platforms (Kim & Morrison 2003). It also enables the firms to monitor and interact with clients’ opinions and assessment of products.
With respect to social media, scholars have identified different types that have been used by different tourism firms. The first type includes social networks, which imply the use of personal online pages (Kim & Morrison 2003). Personal pages allow friends and relatives to share information and contents, and communicate with one another.
The examples of social media include Facebook and MySpace. Another type that has been mentioned in various journals and other literature includes blogs. Blogs are online journals that are used to keep track of events (Kim & Morrison 2003). The overall impact of the social media is that it has enabled the tourism firms to interact with customers at personal levels. Consequently, this has resulted in more customers.
A number of studies have also been done about the use of Search Engine Optimisation by various tourism firms. In this respect, it is argued that writing fun and interesting articles that relate to travel is relatively easy (Bush 2011; Lorber 2007).
In relation to the findings of the research studies, writing fascinating articles about unusual travel regions or localities or unknown travel issues permits tourism firms to produce supplementary targeted traffics to their company websites.
It is also evident that indexing and positioning the written promotional articles on the major search engines lets tourism websites to target niche terms and hence obtain customers across the board; the customers often have diverse, but directed, interests.
While contents are crucial for any e-business, they constitute a significant tool for e-marketing for tourism products. Many tourism firms have managed to attract more customers through creating interesting contents about travel destinations and providing accurate and attractive information (Sangpikul 2010).
Studies have also found out that RSS feeds have greatly impacted the tourism industry in terms of marketing (Sangpikul 2010). According to scholars, Rich Site Summary feeds have empowered the sharing of comparable data and information among tour and travel agencies, airlines and hotels throughout the world (Sangpikul 2010).
This claim is justifiable due to the fact that the tourism industry is very complex; it is complex because the players in the industry depend on one another for business sustenance (Sangpikul 2010). For instance, tourism service providers need to liaise with hoteliers, transport companies and accommodation service providers in order to provide a wholesome package of services (Sangpikul 2010).
Therefore, the sharing of information and data has enabled the tourism industry players to cooperate in service provision. It is important to note that travellers often need the convenience of getting all the necessary travel services as single packages. Therefore, through e-marketing, the tourism industry players have been able to convincingly inform their potential customers about the range of services available to them. The consequence of this has been an increased number of visitors travelling to various destinations of choices.
Importantly, Destination Management Systems represent another important dimension of e-marketing of tourism products. Evidence reveals that the development of Destination Management Systems enhances the competitiveness of tourism firms, especially the small scale tourism enterprises (Pyo, Uysal & Chang 2002).
A further analysis of the available information shows that Destination Management Systems have been used as links between, on one hand, tourism products, offers and suppliers with, on the other side, consumers and intermediaries so as to allow easy access in relation to destination information and final purchase of tourism products.
In the current times, there many travellers and potential travellers who look for travel information through the internet. In most cases, they utilise the internet-based portals that are developed through the Destination Management Systems.
It is worth pointing out that the systems, as e-marketing strategies, sometimes provide dynamic packaging to customers. A dynamic packaging has been defined as the process of combining different travel components that are bundled and price in real time in response to the request of customers or booking agents.
Another scholar has stated that a vital constituent of a website as a marketing medium is that it is the client who enthusiastically looks for information about tourism products of interests (Pyo, Uysal & Chang 2002). In this case, it is possible for tourism service providers to pre-screen the clients who visit their websites.
Nonetheless, while at a website, a customer is able to provide his or her feedback. The feedbacks from customers who visit the websites provide a mine of data that can be studied by the tourism service providers with a view of making sense of the trends in the data. The trends are important in determining the most appropriate ways to package services according to the needs of individual customers.
Electronic marketing has revolutionised the way products and services are promoted in the 21st Century. It has been defined as the process of introducing and promoting goods and services into the market. It has also been defined to include the influence of buyers or consumers to buy the goods and services that are already available in the market.
E-marketing has been divided into Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media Marketing and Pay Per Click or impression. The use of e-marketing has greatly impacted the tourism industry. The tourism industry players have been able to attract more customers through posting promotional information on their websites and blogs.
Besides, the use of Destination Management Systems as a marketing tool has enabled various tourism service providers to share information and data so as to provide efficient services to customers. Customers have also been able to use the systems to directly obtain or purchase tourism services from the providers.
Moreover, tourism service providers have been able to get direct feedbacks on their promotional campaigns from customers who visit their websites. This has enabled them to tailor promotional materials according to the needs of individual customers.
Most importantly, the use of e-marketing strategies has helped two companies to reduce costs of operations. Using e-marketing strategies is relatively cheap; promotional campaigns can also reach a large population of customers within a short time without the constraints of time and geographical boundaries.
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