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The reason behind the selected study area is because of
personal interest in marketing and branding, by which have always been part of
my passion throughout my academic years due to the complex psychological and
behavioral elements that these subjects entail. Acknowledging best practices in
the way marketing and branding are applied within technology nowadays is
crucial due to the rapid growth and high dependency on the internet, which is
significant within the tourism industry. 

The use of online affiliates to drive marketing and branding
facilitates dissemination of viral content, allowing consumers to control what
to be shared and in what ways. The study will focus on the supply side and
analyze perceptions and attitudes of hoteliers in relation to internet-based
promotion. Internet communication technology has radically changed the way
firms interact with their consumers and how consumers communicate with
organizations which resulted in a complete shift of effectiveness and efficiency
within the tourism industry. On the other hand, new brands find it hard to gain
the trust factor from potential customers of the industry since they have not
reached a certain number of visitors to have a positive enough
customer-experience background or their websites are so poorly informative.

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1.1      
Definition of Affiliate Marketing

AM is defined as “the online act of promoting someone else’s
goods and services to earn commissions from sales leads provided” (Hoffman, L. and P. Novak, 2000). Thus, an affiliate
(or advertiser) enters an agreement with a merchant/publisher to promote
products on that affiliate’s site for a commission paid by the merchant. The main
objectives of AM are to promote and sell products/services through old-style
distributions, by driving web traffic to affiliates and generating transactions
from online users in return for a commission.

Affiliate marketing(AM)
brings together sharp-performance incentives with the higher efficiencies of
online advertising. In particular, AM compensation is often entirely
performance-based—offering perhaps ranging from $2 to $5 or 5% to 10%
advertising fee for every single purchase. Under standard rules, each affiliate
earns a commission in case 1) user navigates to that affiliate’s site, 2) the
user clicks on the affiliates specified link to the merchant, and 3) the user
purchases products from the merchant. (Edelman, 2013) These additional
requirements significantly differ from other well-known methods of online
advertising: The vast-majority display ads (“banner ads”) need the advertiser
to pay the moment a web site displays those ads to the user, and most search
ads require the advertiser to send in the fee as soon as a user clicks on the
ad.

 

1.2      
Problem Definition

Building customer trust to gain customer loyalty has always
been a top priority in the tourism industry, even with or without the era of
technology. Through the traditional methods, each brand may have acquired its
potential customers in a certain market. But for those brands reaching for new
regions or nation-wide market, they can be considered a strange competitor and
struggle building its image over the local competitors. On the other hand, new
born hoteliers competing to make a name for themselves would face quite the
same problems.

1.3    Aim
of the Research

The consumer factor, playing as final decision makers and,
therefore, as the determining factor of a commercial success is widely
acknowledged. Given that the holiday trip decision-making process is a complex
construct, it was addressed from various angles. In this regard, the criteria
of trust gained significant attention. Trust has been identified as a key
factor in building relationship between purchasers and commercial websites and,
therefore, the determinants and outcomes of trust have been studied widely (cf.
Beldad, de Jong, and Steehouder 2010). However, consumer trust in the context
of AM remains underresearched. Hence, this research aims to dig deeper into
determinants of trust in travel-related AM ads from both the perspectives of
consumers and AM practitioners.

1.4    Research
Questions

Trust is a significant influencing factor in the consumer
decision making process. Researches over the past years explored and discovered
determinants of trust in online shoppin. However, there remains a remarkable
gap in the literature when it comes to trust in affiliate websites.

Q1: Are AM websites for consumers searching tourism products
an adequate and trustable distribution channel?

Given the potential for tourism product suppliers to create
revenue via AM channels as well as the large complexity and engagement in the
purchasers decision-making process of tourism products, it is of crucial
importance for both marketing specialists and AW operators to study the
understanding of the factors that control consumer trust.

Q2: What specific factors control consumers’ opinion of the
trustworthiness of tourism-related affiliate sites?

The specification of affiliates’ perception of consumer trust
in their own sites is vital to identify the current issues and to gain a deeper
understanding of the status quo of online trust in tourism-related AWs.

Q3: What are the trust-determining factors with regards to AM
sites from the perspective of AM operators?

2           
Research Methodology

Numerous research designs were applied in online shopping
studies. The vast majority used quantitative methods by conducting
questionnaires and participants were asked to take on specific tasks on
websites (Gefen, D., and D. W.
Staub, 2000).
A minor number of researches, on the other hand, used qualitative approaches,
such as computer experiments, observations or focus group interviews (Sillence,
E., P. Briggs, L. Fishwick, and P. Harris, 2004). This study utilized
two different approaches to research with two distinguished purposes. The first
part of the study will undertake a quantitative method in order to determine
the perceptions of affiliate operators on the question of consumer trust. This will
allow the identification of those factors that are deemed to be influential on
consumer trust. The second part of the study involved a qualitative method in
order to cross-check the perspective of operators with those of consumers.
Furthermore, it allowed more in-depth discovery of rising factors and their
influence on trust.

 

2.1      
Online Survey

The study first undertook a web-based survey in the
tourism-specified subsections of two of the largest Vietnamese-speaking
affiliate online forums. The questionnaire composes a set of 12 questions,
addressing both recurring trust determinants from previous researches on online
shopping trust, and issues on the influence of the AM business model on
consumers’ trust.

 

2.2      
Experiential Focus Group Interviews

The second part of the study involved conducting experiential
focus group interviews in order to gather insights of perceptions and opinions
of consumers with regard to trust in affiliate websites. Experiential focus
group interviews are determined as one of the primary data collection
techniques for the several reasons: they applied on numerous occasions in
previous online studies that have an exploratory nature (Sillence, E., P. Briggs, L. Fishwick, and P.
Harris, 2004),
and they offer the opportunity to gather perceptions, feelings, and attitudes
much more in-depth.

 

3           
Literature review

3.1      
Affiliate Marketing

Academic studies on AM were conducted on different industry
sectors, however mainly adopting the service provider’s perspective (Fox, P., and J. Wareham, 2010).  More recently, researches on affiliates’
perspectives have also been conducted (Benedictova, B., and L. Nevosad, 2010). However, the third
crucial element of the AM value chain—the consumer’s perspective—has not
received much attention. The necessity of information sources for consumers’ perspective
over tourism products has been mentioned (Li, X., B. Pan, L. Zhang, and W. Smith,
2009).
Thus, given the importance of AM in tourism product distributions, the tourism
industry itself needs to gain a much more in-depth understanding of consumers’
acceptance of AM practices, and their attitude toward different types of
affiliate websites (Daniele, R., A. Frew, K. Varini, and A.
Magakin, 2009).

3.2      
Consumer trust

Online purchasing requires more trust factors, since it is much
more complicated than purchasing in a traditional method. On the Internet, it
is not to be taken lightly to establish trust between the provider and consumer.
One group of researchers finds that: “Online transactions and exchange
relationships are not only characterized by uncertainty, but also by anonymity,
lack of control and potential opportunism, making risk, and trust crucial
elements of electronic commerce” (Petrovic, O., Ksela,
M., Fallenböck, M. & Kittl, C, 2003). Trust is a mental gateway
which consumers can use, when trying to limit their uncertainty of the purchase
and relationships in online markets. A frequently mentioned reason for
consumers to not purchase from online business, is the lack of trust (Petrovic, O., Ksela, M., Fallenböck, M.
& Kittl, C, 2003).

1.     
 The
concept of trust

Trust is formed totally from people’s perception of it and on
how it is experienced by individuals. The marketplace itself can be
trustworthy, but the consumers need to sense the trust before the marketplace
can be trusted. Trust is necessary to everyone, but one cannot easily identify
which factors that can strengthen the matter. To make it more solid, some
factors of trust can be specified. A betrayed trust requires significant time
to re-gain, if it is even possible. Since it is hardly able to measure trust,
it is better to look for simpler ways to express it. For instance, some sites
provide previous customer experience or third-party measurers which indicate the
sites’ trustworthiness (Rule, C. &
Friedberg, L., 2005).

 

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