Knowledge Main Headline

Research explores in-destination online shopping by tourists

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese
The rise of visitors persisting with Internet shopping for souvenirs and other items in a place they are actually visiting is a novelty that could revolutionise retailing in tourism hubs. Research funded by IFTM aimed to understand tourists’ behaviour related to ‘in-destination online shopping’, and how retailers could better serve visitors’ needs

A team of researchers, including two representatives from IFTM, has recently concluded a study about ‘in-destination online shopping’ by tourists. It is an emerging trend, where tourists jump on the Internet to shop for physical goods available in the actual destinations they are visiting. A key part of the research was to understand why they do it.

The results indicated a positive link between an individual tourist’s “innovativeness” and their intention to do in-destination online shopping, triggered by a sense of serendipity. Innovative tourists, as “early adopters” of novel ideas, “are motivated to use online channels during their cross-border shopping journey,” noted the researchers.

They concluded that the intention to adopt in-destination online shopping could be heightened by a perception of unanticipated discovery, underscoring the importance of serendipity in shopping opportunity exploration.

However, the research team highlighted consumers faced ‘transaction costs’ – related to time and effort – in order to ensure successful transactions, including due to any changes occurring during the transaction.

IFTM Assistant Professor Dr. Hazel Xu Yueying and Ms. Mandy Leong Man Ka, a student in IFTM’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Master’s Degree Programme, conducted the research, along with Dr. Fiona Yang Xi, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Macau.

The study, funded by IFTM, resulted in the academic paper “In-destination online shopping: A new tourist shopping mode and innovation for cross-border tourists”, published last year in the scholarly journal Tourism Recreation Research. (Click here for access to full paper.)

The research comprised two separate parts. The first, qualitative, addressed the lack of relevant academic literature in the field of in-destination online shopping. That portion of the research involved in-depth interviews with 14 individuals that had previous experience of in-destination online shopping. The second part, a quantitative survey, looked at a sample of 319 cross-border tourists to Macao, focusing on their respective intention to do in-destination online shopping.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggested that tourism destinations should promote the adoption and proliferation of such shopping. This was in order to cultivate a competitive image of the particular tourism hub as a place with diverse shopping options. One strategy could be to support the setting up of a greater number of e-shopping platforms, as well as logistics services locally, to promote such trade.

The researchers also recommended making use of online-based key opinion leaders (KOL), also known as ‘digital influencers’, to endorse the use of in-destination online shopping. The study team emphasised the need to highlight in any promotional messages the benefits of in-destination online shopping. They also suggested the use of “proximity marketing through location-based mobile apps to deliver customised push notifications” to visitors and inform them of nearby promotions.

Moreover, the researchers stressed that e-retailers at particular destinations “should provide more serendipitous information and expectation-surpassing deals to entice tourists to try online stores”. This could involve offering digital coupons, exclusive products only available to e-shoppers, and creating what the researchers termed enjoyable online shopping experiences, using new technologies.

The research team concluded that as online shopping becomes widespread, “removing or lowering e-shopping barriers” for tourists “must be a strategic endeavour for destinations and their retail partners”. The study authors suggested use of online services – such as online tracking systems – and offline services, including in-store pickup and real-time customer services with a human touch, to help reduce barriers for tourists to adopt such shopping habits.

“Speedy delivery and a free return policy could greatly alleviate all the perceived risks of in-destination online shopping for cross-border tourists,” argued the researchers.