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- Consumer Psychology in Tourism and Hospitality Service
Consumer psychology plays important role in management and marketing of tourism and hospitality service because it determines provisional demand for the organizational products (Sharpley 2006). Consumer behaviour decision-making process can be explained by consumer behaviour models adapted for tourism, which focus their attention on influences, motivation, knowledge or previous experience and consumers’ interests and needs (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel 2011). Moreover, not all consumer behaviour theories relate specifically to tourism and hospitality service. This is because of the following aspects: specific decision making process in tourism; factors, which affect consumer’s level of involvement and decision making; marketing management philosophy used in tourism and leisure psychology (Swarbrooke and Horner 2009; Hoyer and Maclnnis 2010).
Therefore, the following questions should be answered in the research paper: a) What role does consumer psychology play in decision making and what marketing and managements aspects can influence it? b) How these concepts and ideas can be applied in the context of tourism and hospitality service?
The following methodology is used to answer abovementioned questions: a) analysis, which helped to determine motivation, values, knowledge, and marketing techniques in decision making process; b) synthesis, which helped to emphasize consumer behaviour theories adapted for tourism; c) comparison, which helped to determine main phases of decision making process of tourists' consumer behaviour; d) evaluation, which helped to describe how concepts and ideas of consumer behaviour can be pertained in tourism and leisure psychology.
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The structure of research includes description of consumer behaviour models, identification of the level of consumer’s involvement, real life application of consumer behaviour theories and models, comparison between theoretical and practical aspects of decision-making process, evaluation of marketing strategies and management techniques.
Research Background and Conceptual Framework
- Models and Theories of Consumer Behaviour
Consumer behaviour can be defined as the process, through which people go through in order to satisfy their need or desire for product’s consumption (Solomon, Russell-Bennett, & Previte 2010). The following steps are part of decision making process regarding the product: a) searching for information about the product; b) selection of the preferred product or service; c) purchasing or using the product; d) evaluation of the product in the post-purchase phase (Solomon et al 2010). Tourism is seen as a product in this chain, the need for which can be satisfied with a help of motivation as a complex element of tourism demand (Sharpley 2006). Motivation influences judgments, which imply recalling of knowledge about accessible experience, needed for making informed decision and getting satisfaction (Schwarz 2004). Feedback and memory process determine these judgments and include the following stages, which take place in the memory: a) identification of decision problem; b) behaviour generation; c) informational search; d) appraisal and making a choice; e) behaviour implementation; f) providing feedback (Betsch & Haberstroh 2009; Solomon et al 2010). Therefore, external events induce consumer’s response to the stimulus, which increases learning with frequency of repetitions (Solomon et al 2010). Associations affected by learning and provided by memory create attitudes, which codetermine decision-making process on the grounds of argumentation, generation of alternatives, knowledge, meta-cognition, and feedback-processing (Betsch & Haberstroh 2009; Schwarz 2004).
Therefore, decision-making process in tourism includes the following stages: a) realization of the need or desire to travel; b) collection and evaluation of information; c) decision to travel; d) preparation and actual experience of travelling; e) evaluation of travelling experience (Ivanovic 2009). Realization of the need or desire to travel stage is triggered when consumer is exposed to either internal or external stimulus e.g. advertising promotion (Lamb et al 2011). Information search and evaluation stage includes examination of non-marketing and marketing controlled sources, which consist of personal experiences, sources recommended by friends, blogs, advertising, and the Internet (Lamb et al 2011). Consumers tend to have cognitive dissonance, which represents inconsistencies between their values and opinions on the stage of making a decision about a travel (Solomon et al 2010; Lamb et al 2011). Consumer-marketer relations help to reduce this cognitive dissonance by keeping the consumer away from seeking new contradictory information about justified decision. They also make marketers guarantee product's superiority in advertisements from (Solomon et al 2010; Lamb et al 2011). Evaluation of consumer’s satisfaction brings appropriate focus on product (like hotel in the destination location), specific attributes (accessibility of places of interest from that hotel); or specific benefits (was it fun to stay in that hotel and was it comfortable to visit places of interest from it) (Giese & Cote 2002).
Level of consumer’s involvement in the decision-making process is defined as an amount of time and effort invested in the search, evaluation, and decision-making process. It can take the form of routine, limited, or extensive decision-making depending on the following factors: a) previous experience; b) interest demands; c) perceived risk of negative consequences; d) situation; e) social visibility of product demand (Blythe 2008).
Therefore, consumer behaviour models can explain decision-making process and its importance to marketing and tourism management (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). Stimulus-response model of consumer behaviour in tourism designed by Middleton and Clark is based on four interactive components, the main emphasis of which are on consumer’s characteristics and decision-making process (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). According to the model, motivators and determinants are separated in consumer behaviour, while main emphasize is on organization’s usage of communication channels in order to affect consumer decision-making process (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). According to the model composed by Wahab, Crampton, and Rothfield, consumer behaviour is defined as linear-rational actions aimed to maximize their benefits (satisfaction) with the trip (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). According to Mathieson and Wall, five-stage linear model of travel buying behaviour, the consumer first identifies a need or desire to travel, travels to the desired destination, and then shows his/her satisfaction during three stages of consumption process (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). According to the model composed by Gilbert, two factors influence consumers and determine the outcome of decision-making process. These factors are: a) marketing environment and communication efforts of the target market; b) experience, personality, and attitude towards marketing promotion (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009)
Therefore, consumer behaviour has a particular sequence, which is influenced by the following factors affecting tourist destination decisions. These factors are: a) health facilities; b) transport facilities; c) infrastructure; d) availability of safe boarding; e) economic condition; f) political stability (Devashish 2011). Considering the importance of these factors to tourism and hospitality organization, there are several theories that explain consumer behaviour and psychology in tourism and leisure. First, need-based (Maslow’s theory) describes marketers’ target audience on a personal level, which goes beyond product benefits. Secondly, value-based (Rokeech theory) uses value approaches of ideal models of behaviour and ideal states of existence to develop advertising massages appealing to target customers with a help of appealing motivations. Finally, work-motivation (Expectancy theory) determines the following factors that influence consumer’s decision-making: a) needs that create the desire to travel; b) choice of what to do and where to do it; c) attractiveness of holiday attributes; d) knowledge of destination characteristics; e) cost preferences and expectations limitations (Devashish 2011).
Therefore, abovementioned characteristics of consumer behaviour can be examined in the case study to identify precise features of consumer decision-making process. Specific consumer behaviour model describing consumer psychology can be selected from the available list.
Description of the Event
- Case Study Example of the Trip to Sydney
Me and my boyfriend eventually decided to make a trip to Sydney. We did not plan ahead and rushed to organize the travel. Moreover, my boyfriend had to come all the way from France to join me in Melbourne. Since we had previous experience and knowledge of the place we were going to, we did not need to make intense search or look for relevant information about the matter, so we just performed internet search and chosen the most suitable option. We did not want to go sightseeing to any particular place, our motivation was simply to see each other and Sydney was a suitable place to do it. We evaluated all possible alternatives and decided that it would be better to stay at the building manager’s house because we were offered free accommodation there. We stayed only for three days and two nights, but we were very satisfied with the trip. During this time I satisfied my hunger for seafood and visited fish market in Sydney two times.
Considering abovementioned conditions, our decision-making process was simplified because several steps were eliminated from it. The missed out steps included search for information; search for wide range of alternatives; post-selection phase was excluded as well because we had personal motivation to see each other. Our decision making process was shortened because the trip was not planned ahead and required low level of our involvement in terms of time and effort to search, evaluate, and decide on alternatives and possible problems. Moreover, we did not have the risk of making wrong decision, because the purpose of the trip was to spend time together and, therefore, our cognitive dissonance was reduced to a minimum. We did not have inconsistencies between what we strived for and what we got, because our motivation push was our destination pull. Timing and money were our only limiting factors. As it was mentioned before, we did not have time to plan the trip. However, we have satisfied our needs to travel with the affordable customer-oriented marketing offer.
Analysis and Discussion
- Comparison between Theoretical and Practical Decision-Making Processes
Considering abovementioned example, practical decision-making process was limited because consumers had previous experience of the trip, and evaluation of alternatives was simplified by the convenient suggested option (Blythe 2008). Moreover, the first stage of decision-making process had a satisfying result in the last stage because motivation push of the trip became a destination pull of consumers’ attitude to the made decision (Sharpley 2006). Therefore, work-motivation (Expectancy theory) was practiced by consumers based on cost limiting factors (Devashish 2011). Based on the case study example, behavioural sequence model can be changed in the following way: consumers felt the need of travel → travel decision → travel experience → evaluation of travel experience (Ivanovic 2009). Therefore, consumer behaviour model adapted for tourism industry, which consists of 4 interactive components includes only consumer characteristics and travel experience, because consumers’ preferences were dominant in decision-making process and post-selection phase (Swarbrooke & Horner 2009). Moreover, consumers’ motivation influences their judgements, based on ease of meta-cognition of information, which was brought to mind and generated strong association of memory feedback (Betsch & Haberstroh 2009; Schwarz 2004). Low level of involvement was justified by other people’s options influence on decision-making process. Therefore, case study example results are similar to the findings described in literature presented above on issues of applied theories and consumer behaviour model’s specification. However, case study results are different in the issues of the content, sequence and peculiarities of decision-making process. Therefore, consumer preferences play dominant role in decision-making process when informational search and limitation factors are eliminated.
Consumer behaviour models that are specifically adapted for tourism and hospitality industry, view decision-making process as a four-phase structure of emergence of stimuli, their acceptance, and customer's responses to them. Decision-making process is affected by factors related to destination, which include evaluation of motivation, values, influences, and involvement of consumer's behavioural characteristics. Learning and memory theory based on the concept of meta-cognition experience determine decision-making process by identifying its simplicity or difficulty. Level of customer's involvement is determined by the experience, demands, risks, and situational factors. These factors can lead to cognitive dissonance when consumers experience inconsistency in their values and opinions. Projective marketing techniques are used to reduce this inconsistency through triggering presumably unreachable beliefs, attitudes, values, motivations, personality, and cognitions of consumers (Steinman 2009). These techniques generate, utilize, and verify hypothesis that help marketing strategists and managers to stay consumer-oriented (Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010).
Management techniques together with marketing strategies should be described to explain the correlation between marketing goals and consumers' decision-making outcomes. This is because consumer behaviour models focus on communication between a consumer and a marketer (Lantos 2010; Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010; Boroshok 2005). Production oriented techniques aim to change consumers' beliefs on affordable and easily available products with straightening associations of the consequences (like launching new offers of leisure) (Lantos 2010; Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010; Boroshok 2005). Product oriented technique aims to change evaluation form negative to positive e.g. offering vacation in the politically unstable but beautiful location (Lantos 2010; Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010; Boroshok 2005). Selling oriented technique is characterized by aggressive promotion of branded products with the help of adding new image to existing inferior features of the brand e.g. promotion of the well-known brand, which offers new escapade opportunities (Lantos 2010; Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010; Boroshok 2005). Marketing oriented technique helps to identify consumers’ unsatisfied needs and encourages their attitude formation based on imagined experience e.g. triggering actions, which are considered unaffordable due to social or financial risks (Lantos 2010; Hoyer & Maclnnis 2010; Boroshok 2005). Therefore, these marketing programs focus on customers and can change their attitudes, intensions, and behaviours through the application of specific management techniques.