IND802 Marketing Strategy of Hospitality Industry During Social Distancing Assessment Answer
THE MARKETING STRATEGY OF HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the fast-paced spreading of the virus, various service-based organisations are experiencing grave threats from the reduction of financial, as well as, operational performance. The hospitality industry is one of the sectors that have been majorly damaged due to the impacts of the social distancing, country-wide lockdown and international travel restriction bans. They are experiencing a reduced number of customers, hotel occupancy rates and as suggested by psychological experts, these effects are likely to persist even after the COVID-19 is overdue to the emotional stress and fear that the worldwide population is experiencing. The findings of the current study imply that with the implementation of efficient marketing strategies, hospitality organisations can attract and engage consumers and influence their purchase decisions. However, the findings further imply that hospitality companies must personalise and customise the service offerings to fulfil the health and safety, as well as, other psychological needs of the consumers.
1.1 Background and problem statement
The key topic that has been addressed in the present study include the marketing strategies implemented by organisations in the hospitality industry to cope with social distancing. The study examines social distancing and how it has rippled the standard marketing strategies employed. Further, the study focuses on collecting and interpreting a wide range of data to recommend marketing strategies that may be implemented by hospitality businesses to cope with the feasible impacts of COVID-19 and the psychological impacts of social distancing.
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis that has been causing massive public death and psychological damage, social distancing has been implemented by worldwide governments as a common mechanism to fight against the impacts of the pandemic. With the new social distancing norm introduced, businesses that were based on people-oriented service provision and delivery are being subjected to substantial rigorous changes. According to PhocusWire (2020), due to COVID-19, the hotel occupancy rates in Australia have fallen below 20%. On the other hand, Zheng, Goh & Wen (2020) imply that the emotional distress and psychological aftermath will impact the business of the hospitality and tourism industries for a long time even after the social distancing regulations and international travel bans are lifted. To cope with these challenges, it is pivotal for hospitality organisations to develop appropriate and relevant marketing strategies that would allow them to maintain their brand identity, resonance and awareness to ensure that they can maintain competitiveness. The evaluation of the marketing strategies is also necessary to address the necessity of ensuring that the offerings, as well as, the personnel associated with the businesses including the employees, vendors, suppliers, customers and community members are safe from the virus.
1.2 Overview of the literature
Many service-based organisations, especially those in the hospitality industry, are facing grave threats that may come in the form of major policy and regulation changes, massive financial losses and reduced employment among others. The policies and regulations that previously governed how hospitality service organisations operated are being changed as a mechanism to meet the needs of consumers and ensure their safety and security. In the wake of the new policies, social distancing and nationwide lockdown norms, it is pivotal that hospitality organisations reconsider the marketing strategies.
1.2.1 Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing can allow businesses to disseminate business-related information rapidly and accurately. As per Hoffman & Fodor (2010), SMM allows organisations to spread business awareness and connect with potential consumers to inform them of the offerings. The use of SMM is further associated with creating consumer engagement. In terms of business success, creating consumer engagement is a pivotal element. Social media facilitates instant dissemination of information to a follower-base that a company’s social media pages have. Social media further personalised the interaction between brands and clients through online chatting and comments on social media posts (Hudson, Huang, Roth & Madden, 2016). SMM can be used by hospitality organisations as a means of disseminating information, visual and graphic content concerning how the businesses are preparing to cope with the spread of COVID-19. It may enable the businesses to create a positive reaction among the audience and consequently, improve the image of the brands.
With SMM, gathering consumer opinions and feedback are further facilitated. The companies can conduct online surveys and polls to analyse the behavioural patterns of the consumers that can be used to personalise the company offerings to suit their alternated needs in the wake of social distancing. Furthermore, with SMM, target market-specific advertisement is also possible in both a cost and time-friendly manner. For instance, once the international travel bans are lifted and the spread of the COVID-19 is within control, it is expected that millennials will be the first to approach the domains of travel and tourism due to them being more adventurous and fearless compared to other generations. The companies can target this segment specifically through advertisements to create consumer attraction for the offerings.
1.2.2 Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing approach aided with the increment of online communication and interaction among followers and content creators. An influencer refers to an individual that has a substantial number of followers in different social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube among others. Influencer marketing refers to the process of establishing contracts with such person to use their influence to reach a broadened target market (Glucksman, 2017). Influencers are typically perceived as experts in their specific domains by the followers whereby they spread the word on specific company offerings (i.e. products and services) through their social channels. Influencers may share and reflect on either their personal experiences or their thoughts/opinions concerning an offering. With positive reviews from influencers, companies can garner immense positive reactions from intended consumers leading to higher chances of business success.
1.2.3 4P’s of Marketing during Social Distancing
The 4P’s of marketing, often referred to as the marketing mix, address the elements that are entailed in the marketing of an offering that may be either tangible or intangible. The 4P’s stand for product, price, place and promotion. Dadzie, Amponsah, Dadzie & Winston (2017), in this context, argue that the marketing mix is limited by the intrinsic and extrinsic elements in the overall environment of the businesses and interact considerably with one another. The marketing mix can be used by businesses to determine key components for their offerings such as what the consumer demands or needs are and how an offering can meet such demands, how the offerings may be perceived in the world, what distinctive features differentiate the offering from the competitors and how they should approach or interact with consumers. The 1st element, product, refers to the feature of an offering and how it fulfils an existing consumer demand. As opined by Abril & Rodriguez-Cánovas (2016), a newly invented offering can be so compelling that consumers may perceive the offering to be worthy of buying leading to the development of new demand. The 2nd component is the price that allows marketers to link the cost of the product to the real, as well as, the perceived value of the product among the consumers. A 3rd component is a place that allows marketers to determine the platforms through which a product/service would be offered to consumers and the mode of service delivery. Finally, the 4th component, being promotion, refers to the advertising and public relation strategies that are performed to not only promote the offerings but also to create effective public relation strategies to attract consumers.
1.3 Research objectives
The primary objective of the research is to explore and reflect on the marketing strategy of the hospitality industry during social distancing. Besides, the study also aims to draw on a vast literature to assess whether or not the offerings of the hospitality organisations can be attractive for customers during social distancing. It further seeks to explore whether the implementation of marketing strategies and product/service modifications may allow hospitality organisations to influence consumer’s buying choices and maintain their sales or not.
1.4 Research questions
To meet the objectives mentioned above, the following questions will be addressed by this research.
- Can marketing strategies help the hospitality industry during social distancing to ensure customer satisfaction?
- Can the offerings of hospitality organisations be attractive to customers during social distancing?
- How the implementation of marketing strategies can influence more customers to purchase offerings during social distancing?
- Can special menu and promotion strategies allow the businesses to increase their sales amidst social distancing?
METHODS, DATA AND ANALYSIS
2.1 Data collection
The current study has collected and interpreted information in the form of secondary research. The emphasis has been placed upon drawing on a wide range of academic articles, industry publications, government reports and case studies that address how social distancing amidst COVID-19 has been impacting hospitality businesses. Due to COVID-19 being a relatively new disease emerged in late 2019, the secondary form of research is practically more suitable for the data collection since there is a lack of understanding among general business respondents regarding how to design their marketing strategies to cope with the effects of social distancing. The scope of primary research, therefore, is very constrained and vague. On the other hand, secondary sources such as academic journals, government databases and industry publications have been addressing the issues that are going to be faced by both individuals and businesses due to social distancing and how they can prepare to cope with the issues. Hence, a secondary research method is much more feasible and relevant in the context of the current study. The study further considers only qualitative information since COVID-19 and social distancing norms are very recent and the range of existing quantitative information-carrying practical implications for the success of marketing strategies of hospitality industries amid the situation remains extremely limited.
2.2 Data analysis
Content analysis has been used to analyse and interpret the collected data. According to Krippendorff (2018), content analysis allows researchers to identify the presence of specific concepts or themes within the collected qualitative information. Due to the recent status of the COVID-19 and social distancing norms, it is practical to draw the data from a wide range of secondary qualitative sources. It may be stated in this context that although quantitative information might have been more successful in terms of investigating and authenticating the chances of success of the marketing strategies to be implemented by hospitality organisations during social distancing, the lack of such information makes quantitative research invalid and irrelevant at the time when this article is written.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
3.1 Addressing research questions and Practical Implications
Depending on the type of company in addition to that type of product/service that an organisation is offering, marketing strategies can differ significantly. However, it is agreeable that regardless of the situation, marketing strategies, in general, allow brands to reach and interact with potential, as well as, actual consumers. The implementation of marketing strategies, as suggested by Chong, Ch’ng, Liu & Li (2017), can allow brands to foresee changes in the needs and wants of the consumers. As more stringent measures are being adopted by worldwide governing authorities, the implications of the measures necessitate service-based industries such as the hospitality sector to keep people, regardless of whether they are employees or consumers, physically apart to ensure their safety and security.
In this context, it is assumed by psychological experts that the psychological costs of the long-term social distancing, stress, anxiety, boredom or even the sense of loneliness may be prevalent among a large population even after the social distancing and travel ban regulations are lifted. The implementation of marketing strategies can allow the business to predict the alternating needs of the consumers to effectively prepare organisations in terms of satisfying these changes. The implementation of marketing strategies, as opined by Pappas (2016), can significantly improve the quality of consumer experience. Due to the uncertainty, it is a must for service-based organisations to instil confidence among consumers. A hospitality company, therefore, must ensure that the marketing strategies allow the brands in terms of reflecting on the measures that are being taken to ensure the safety needs of the consumers. Furthermore, the implementation of such strategies may allow the brands in terms of showing empathy and prioritising good customer experience and garner positive reactions from the clientele.
In practice, the marketing strategies of the brands may be based on showing and explaining to consumers as to what measures are being taken to ensure their safety. The brands may post video graphic content on their social media profiles of sanitising the hotel rooms, providing PPE training, as well as, contactless service delivery training to showcase their expertise and practices of dealing with the situation and instilling confidence among consumers.
With the ongoing social distancing, country-wide lockdown and international travel restriction regulations, it may be stated that services such as visiting destinations and staying in hotels are far from being started to an efficient level. As opined by He & Harris (2020), the psychological impacts of the fast-pacing spread of COVID-19 may significantly alternative consumer purchase decisions and behaviours. During COVID-19 and social distancing norms, it is highly likely for consumers to look for purchasing intangible experiences rather than tangible products. The hospitality organisations, therefore, need to base their offerings on improving the quality of the intangible services and making the offerings as intangible as possible. Meeting consumer expectations is necessary for the context of marketing products or offerings to ensure consumer satisfaction and fulfilment. Training and development are two of the most essential elements that allow brands to ensure that the skills, attributes and knowledge of their team members are high enough in terms of effectively delivering the service offerings of the businesses (Chadha, 2018). Therefore, the provision of training to the workers is necessary and an augmented part of the marketing strategies to make the products and offerings of the brands more attractive for the consumers.
Marketing strategies are associated with the determination of the key attributes or features of products and offerings and showcasing them to consumers to reflect on the unique value propositions of the offers and services, as well as, showing them how the offerings differ from the competitors. Therefore, the hospitality brands must emphasise on prioritising the perceived value of the services being offered to the consumers (Gössling, Scott & Hall, 2020). One of the most considerable value-generating marketing strategies is social media marketing. Through social media marketing, brands can maintain frequent and consistent interaction with consumers. The interaction can be based on satisfying the queries or doubts of the consumers through personalised solutions suitable to the individualistic needs of the consumers. The involvement of consumer feedback and opinions in the marketing and advertisement process would allow the companies to generate a significant level of interest among the consumers. Furthermore, the use of influencer marketing can be significantly beneficial for organisations as well. Influencers are perceived to be specialists in their respective segments by the followers. Influencers share their experience by accessing an offering first-hand typically along with explaining the key benefits and drawbacks of the offerings to the consumers. Therefore, the involvement of influencers would allow the organisation to not only reach an expanded potential consumer-base but also in terms of disseminating information concerning the key values offered by the companies. As opined by de Medeiros, Ribeiro & Cortimiglia (2016), the higher the perceived value of an offering is, the more it is likely for consumers to purchase the offering. In addition to that, it is necessary for organisations in the modern context to customise the offerings to meet the demands and necessities of the consumers more effectively. As opined by Bleier, De Keyser & Verleye (2018), personalising product and service offerings allow organisations to extensively research the consumer demands and necessities. As per the findings of Bleier, De Keyser & Verleye (2018), almost two-thirds of consumers are likely to switch brands if rather than individuals, they are treated as a number.
The companies can use their social media profiles to engage with the followers through sharing informative and interactive content. Disseminating information concerning how the organisations are preparing to serve consumers after the COVID-19 is over through special employee training, relevant healthcare and sanitisation policies would allow the organisation to build a positive brand image and influence consumer purchase decisions. Furthermore, social media pages can be also used to interact with consumers with innovative processes such as conducting online contests and polls. The online contests may offer consumers to win discounts or discount codes that may be applicable during their visit to the hotels or restaurant after post-COVID-19. The use of the discounting model, as opined by Cai Bagchi, R., & Gauri (2016), increases the perceived value of an offering for consumers and influences consumer purchase decisions and behaviours. The personalisation strategies, on the other hand, can be used for connecting the offerings to the exact needs of the clients. For instance, specialised menu or food options may provide consumers with a range of unique choices that they can tweak as per their necessities influencing their purchase decisions.
Although the content analysis revealed that the implementation of efficient and relevant marketing strategies may considerably assist the hospitality industry to cope with the business-related losses associated with social distancing and COVID-19, the estimation of the extent to which these strategies may generate success is currently incomprehensible. Due to the COVID-19 situation getting worsen every day throughout various major countries in the world including the UK, the US and Australia among others, there is also a certain amount of unpredictability as to when and how the travel restrictions or social distancing regulations may be lifted. Furthermore, the rate at which tourism will be increasing in the coming days cannot be predicted based on practical data as of now owing to which, the marketing strategies needed to be adopted by hospitality organisations may be subjected to further modification and alternation.
In conclusion, it may be stated that with the implementation of appropriate marketing strategies that conform to the current needs of consumers, it would be possible for hospitality organisations to sustain their businesses. Such organisations must present the value they are offering through their services to the consumers properly through social media, influencer marketing and a range of other promotional activities. Furthermore, the implementation of appropriate marketing strategies may also allow organisations to influence consumer purchase decisions.
A few recommendations can be made to improve and augment the marketing strategies of hospitality organisations amid social distancing.
a. Implementation of Digital Technology: The need of the hour is to reduce physical contact as much as possible. The implementation of digital technology to perform business operations that do not need to be conducted physically would allow the organisations to ensure safety for both employees and consumers. Departments such as sales, bookings, marketing and account keeping, among others, can be conducted online with the help of cloud software and applications.
b. Online Food Delivery: In the wake of COVID-19 and social distancing, many restaurants and hotels have started delivering foods to the doorsteps of consumers to sustain the financial performance to some extent and generate revenues. Hospitality brands having the capabilities of doing so may partner with online food delivery agencies.
c. Providing Training to Employees: The employees must be provided adequate training to conform to the safety needs of the workplace, as well as, the consumers. They must be trained concerning the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks along with using sanitisers at specific periodic gaps. Furthermore, they must be trained adequately on making service delivery as contactless as possible.