Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Travel Buying Behavior in Social Network Site Users: To Buy Online vs. Offline

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Travel Buying Behavior in Social Network Site Users: To Buy Online vs. Offline

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Marketing communications have changed forever. The Internet and social networks are the favorite media choices for young people, for whom computers, tablets and mobiles are commonplace [20]. The Internet is particularly powerful in certain segments of the service industry, such as tourism, music, etc. For example, online guest ratings are increasingly important in hotel selection by customers [53]. Information technology has had specifically profound impacts on how consumers select online services. As some authors have pointed out [12], [69], the efficacy of Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites (SNS) in dealing with service customers and their impact on consumer behavior should be thoroughly studied. Some recent studies examine how hotels are using SNS as a marketing tool [51]. This study aims to fill this gap by analyzing the differences in purchase behavior among online and offline travel buyers who are SNS users.

Web 2.0 media, such as online photo albums, personal blogs, specialist travel blogs and SNS have transformed the tourism industry into one that is largely in the public domain [6], [43]. Therefore, the potential audience has greatly expanded beyond the traditional family and friends to all the internet audience or, at least, virtual communities. Online travel communities represent a great opportunity for travel searchers to find out what other people think about potential destinations and facilities (e.g., hotels, restaurants, attractions). As a consequence, these communities are causing significant changes in consumer behavior in the travel industry, as travelers tend to rely more on other travelers' opinions and recommendations to plan their routes and make their decisions [12].

Within the scope of tourism, this investigation encompasses a number of research streams. The first includes Web 2.0 - a growing and absolutely necessary marketing channel in the tourism industry- which has remained less studied due to its novelty [34]. According to the social character of these information technology tools, the social identity theory is especially adequate for this research, as some authors have pointed out [12], [40]. As a second major line of research, this paper addresses the word-of-mouth communication in the online context provided by SNS. The topic of WOM is discussed in relation to buyers of travel services.

In order to study the SNS impact on clients, it is absolutely necessary to include social variables, such as social identity and altruism, and telepresence, which measure the social context of people engaged in SNS. This is especially relevant if we analyze the purchase behavior of SNS users. Therefore, an examination of some relevant social variables related to SNS users is offered in the literature review.

In order to shed more light on this issue, the following objective is proposed: to analyze the purchase behavior of SNS users who buy travel services online and offline. In order to do so, we first examine the variables that influence buying behavior for a sample of SNS users who are offline buyers of tourist services. Subsequently, we do the same for SNS users who are online buyers of travel services. Finally, we compare both types of buyers and discuss their different buying behavior.

The main contribution of this study deals with the influence of SNS on offline and online shopping in the hospitality sector.

The remainder of the paper is structured as follows. Firstly, we present a literature review. Secondly, methodology is described. Next, study results are exhibited. Finally, we provide a discussion and conclusions.

2 Literature Review

This section presents a literature review of buyers in hospitality, SNS and WOM, social variables relating to SNS, and telepresence. Finally, we show the study's analysis framework.

2.1 Influence of SNS on Purchase Behavior

Online and offline buyers are increasingly using the Internet as a source of information to assist them in purchasing, especially in experience services, in which information about the experience is difficult to gather before purchasing. …

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