Abstract

This study was conducted to investigate the impact of consumer-perceived value on the propensity to use sports tourism event websites. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data from 530 sport tourists who participated in three major sporting events. The correlation analyses show that there was a significant relationship between consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use the websites. This study also portrayed that flexibility and reliability had contributed 11.3 percent of the total variance of the propensity to use the websites. The findings were useful for designing a distinctive website on how to market the products and/or services effectively.

Keywords: consumer-perceived value, online marketing, sports tourism event websites, sports tourists

Introduction

Undeniably, the Internet is now part and parcel of our culture and an integral part of business in the future of the sport and tourism industries. The largest number of consumers using the Internet can be found in Asia followed by Europe and North America (Internet World Stats.com, 2007). As referred to by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC, 2008), Malaysia was in second place (57.8 percent) in terms of the number of Internet consumers among ASEAN countries after Singapore (60.9 percent).

Hence, the Internet influenced various organizations to develop their own websites in order to provide information to online consumers, encourage online shopping, methods to enlarge the market scale, and strategies to create awareness among new customers (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Malhotra, 2005). Organizations tend to utilize websites as their marketing tools due to some factors which include the website's interesting features as well as a considerably lower charge required in order to develop a website. Previous researchers claimed that from the business perspective, “to be competitive in today’s new marketplace, companies must learn to use the Internet to market their products and services or risk being left behind” (p. 247) (Kotler, Armstrong, & Cunningham, 2005). In conclusion, the website is recognized as a comprehensive apparatus to market products and/or services that covers almost every field required (Evans & Smith, 2004).

Research related to sports marketing indicates that sporting events have been revolutionized. It is heavily influenced by trends, which must consistently be evaluated by sport and tourism industry businesses to meet changing demand from consumers. In the context of this study, consumers are also referred to as sports tourists who travel for the purpose of sport as participants, officials, organizers, and spectators (Turco, Riley, & Swart, 2002). For sports events organizations to attract and retain consumers, it is essential to provide consumer’s values, and hence, from the perspective of organization marketing strategy and investments, it seems important not to waste capital or other resources on developing website features and content which consumers want to do or care about (Verma, Iqbal & Plaschka, 2004). Obviously, the sports events market is very competitive, which requires event organizers to be more creative and possess entrepreneurial skills when marketing their sports events.

Thus, developing sports tourism event websites should stress more on the consumers' perceived value rather than the interests of the tourism organizations or the service providers per se. In the realm of sport tourism, much of what sells relates to consumers’ interests and motivation, but it also relates to the amount of information they have about their options. It is here that information supply, promotion, and the media are very important. If the potential sports tourists are unaware of opportunities, he or they will never choose to visit a destination or a sporting event.

For instance, tourists would most likely use the tourism’s websites for the purpose of obtaining essential information on tourism-related services and products such as transportation, accommodation, tour packages, and tourist destinations provided by the organization. Likewise, as far as sporting events are concerned, they would likely browse through the Internet for the related websites to acquire detailed schedules about the events, timing, venues, competitions, and other ancillary services and products offered by the organizers. Moreover, some of the sporting events are required and encourage the participants and spectators to register or purchase the tickets online for participating in the respective events.

Most studies on consumer-perceived value in relation to travel and tourism websites focused on the attributes, consequences, and the desired end-states (core value, purposes, and goals) associated with the product (Woodruff, 1997; Lexhagen, 2008). However, in regard to the Internet consumers, little work so far has been explored the propensity to use sports tourism event websites, particularly in the Malaysian context. Thus, this study was conducted to determine the relationship between the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism event websites and the propensity to use the websites and to examine the influence of the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism event websites on the propensity to use the websites. Eventually, the findings from this study enable the sports tourism providers’ gain a better understanding of a diversity of tourists’ perceptions relating to the benefit values of sports tourism event websites and their propensity to use the websites.

Research questions

1. Do tourists prefer to use sports tourism event websites before participating in the events?

2. Is there a relationship between the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism event websites and the propensity to use the websites?

3. Does the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism event websites influence the propensity to use the websites?

Literature review

Perceived value

Consumer-perceived value of the services and/or products is becoming important in business success. Woodruff (1997) explained that the consumer-perceived value is considered a basic requirement for long-term success. According to Ziethaml (1988), consumer perceived value refers to the consumers’ overall assessment of the utility of a product or service based on what is received and what is given. However, consumers’ overall assessment can only be made after he or she accepts the product or service. Likewise, Patterson and Spreng (1997) defined perceived value as a consumer’s overall evaluation of the net benefit of a product or service based on a consumers’ appraisal. Nevertheless, in line with Cronin, Brady, and Hult (2000), consumer-perceived value in this study refers to a concept that is believed to, directly and indirectly, affect the consumers’ propensity to use sports event tourism websites. Cronin et al. (2000) specified that consumer value is marketing concepts of quality, loyalty, and satisfaction all of which are believed to, directly and indirectly, affect behavioral intentions.

Previous researchers have devoted their effort in conducting earlier research on consumer-perceived value related to numerous fields, including pre-purchase search and decision-making (Oorni, 2004), tourism destinations (Cai, Feng, & Breiter, 2004), consumer behaviors (Jang, 2004), and challenges in new technology adoption (Gilly, Celsi, & Schau, 2012). In addition, previous studies were also focused on consumer-perceived value in relation to information technology (Overby & Lee, 2006; Yadav & Varadarajan, 2005), e-commerce (Woodruff & Gardial, 1996), mobile service delivery (Kleijnen, Ruyter, & Wetzels, 2007), and dimensions and expressions of consumer-perceived value in travel and tourism websites (Lexhagen, 2008).

In addition, the previous literature also indicates that the benefits perceived are often used interchangeably with the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism websites. The benefits perceived are accessibility, flexibility, interactivity, and reliability (Mircheska & Hristovska, 2010). In this study, the consumer-perceived value was derived from the SWAM model developed by Hur, Ko & Claussen (2011) which was based on the Theory of Acceptance Model (Davis, 1989) and the Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Initially, the SWAM model has listed four belief attributes about sports websites which include the perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, perceived enjoyment, and perceived trustworthiness.

Propensity to use sports tourism event websites

The propensity to use sports tourism event websites is derived from the intention behavior towards the technology adoption. It was conceptualized as the degree to which online consumers’ perceived disposition to use sports event tourism websites and is reflected in the volitional aspects of their behavior. The propensity to use websites reveals online consumers’ tendency towards using the Internet, particularly the sports event tourism websites; the degree to which online consumers act to influence their environment and to achieve their goals of consuming the Internet. A higher level of propensity to use will increase the online consumers’ intention to use the websites.

According to Buhalis (2003), the use of Internet technology has transformed tourism organizations thoroughly in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, it changed the way that tourism businesses are performing in the marketplace as well as consumers’ interaction with the respective organizations. Although the benefits brought by the Internet were acknowledged by researchers, there was a lack of study on how best to employ it (Angehrn, 1997; Sigala, 2003).

Nevertheless, the existence and use of technologies through the developments of search engines, carrying capacity, and speed of the network have enabled travelers to plan and experience their travel experiences. The development of the Internet has led to the diversity of its consumers. Previous studies stressed the number of sports fans seeking information related to their team sports through online service (Duncan & Campbell, 1999; Brown, 2003). Hence, it encouraged preliminary growth in the design of the websites (Kitchin, 2006). From a Malaysian perspective, researches on online marketing have been examined extensively. It focused on variables that linked consumers’ to online marketing. The studied variables have been determined as factors that influence or hinder consumers to online marketing (Ghani, Said, Hashim, & Mohd Nasir, 2001). Amongst those variables are the demographic profiles of the online consumers’ (Gupta, Pitkow, & Recker, 1995; Haque & Khatibi, 2005; Khatibi, Haque, & Karim, 2006) and consumers’ characteristics (Haque & Khatibi, 2005; Harn, Khatibi & Ismail, 2006).

Previous findings indicated that the Internet has fundamentally reshaped the way tourism-related information is distributed and the way people search for and consume travel (Beldona, 2005; Gretzel, Ferenmaier & O’Leary, 2006; Kahn, Vogt, & MacKay, 2006; MacKay, McVetty, & Vogt, 2005). According to Koumelis (2008), the Internet connection to the tourism, travel, and hospitality industries has changed the original structure of several industries including management and marketing. He added that the Internet intervention has affected the marketing structures and practices as well as the process of distribution channels. However, in order to optimize the effectiveness of the marketing activities, we need to understand how consumers make their decision to buy, use or engage in sports tourism products and services. Then, we know where and when we need to intervene in this process to achieve the desired results.

The relationship between consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites

There are limited kinds of literature that comprehensively discussed the relationship between consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites. Existing literature on travel and tourism often discussed the consumer-perceived value in relation to the product or service feature. For instance, research has suggested that the relationship between interactivity and value outcomes, as perceived by buyers and sellers, is moderated by product characteristics (Yadav & Varadarajan, 2005).

From the sports tourism perspective, it is clear that information on the websites influenced consumers’ decision-making to attend particular events since they are aware of the events and marketing websites. Indeed, effective websites, communication in terms of social situational and psychological factors would influence them to make a final decision upon their participation. Some researchers identified that website marketing was becoming a main resource that is competent in transforming individuals’ awareness towards particular events, as well as attraction through knowledge acquisition (Funk & James, 2001).

Existing literature added that attractive event features that are being communicated in the website content would strengthen existing mental associations for previous attendees or assist in creating awareness of these features among non-attendees visiting the website (Gladden & Funk, 2002). Indeed, researchers stressed strategies to build consumer attitudes-intentions behaviors through product knowledge improvement, special discount offered promotion strategy, and offer a trial product (Butch & Benet, 1998).

Since the appearance of the Internet in the late 1990s, a growing concern has been marketing communication on tourism, particularly destination websites (Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008; Park & Gretzel, 2007; Xiang & Fesenmaier, 2006). The bulk of the research has focused on identifying how potential tourists make travel decisions (Kaplanidou & Vogt, 2006; Park & Gretzel, 2007; Weaver, Weber, & McCleary, 2007). The correlation between a website surfers’ perceived value and consequent behavior has been confirmed in many tourism studies. For example, Ahmad and Juhdi (2008) suggested that positive beliefs (perceived value) about the use of travel websites can predict the propensity to use travel e-services in the future. Furthermore, based on content analysis of 203 existing websites, Jeong and Choi (2005) demonstrated the effects of the consumer-perceived value of willingness to purchase a product or service.

Methodology

This study was part of a larger study that explores factors affecting the tourist’s propensity to use sports tourism event websites. A quantitative approach with a correlational research design was used in this study.

Population and sample

The population consists of sports tourists’ who travel to attend three major sporting events conducted in three different venues in Malaysia in 2013. It was estimated that 135,000 populations were involved in these events, particularly 35,000 in Standard Chartered KL Marathon, 2,000 in Port Dickson International Triathlon, and 98,000 in Monsoon Cup Terengganu. A simple random sampling technique was used to select the respondents of this study. As a result of the sampling process, the total sample consisted of 530 respondents (59.4 percent male and 215 or 40.6 percent female). There were 47 (8.9 percent) respondents aged below 20 years, 300 (56.6 percent) aged between 20-29 years, 119 (22.4 percent) aged between 30-39 years, 46 (8.7 percent) aged between 40-49 years, and 18 (3.4 percent) aged 50 years and above. With regards to participation in sports event tourism in a year, it was reported that 244 (46 percent) respondents were involved at least once or twice, 161 (30.4 percent) involved three to four times a year, 46 (8.7 percent) five to six times, and 79 (14.9 percent) seven times and more.

Instrumentation

A self-administered questionnaire was utilized to obtain data pertaining to study variables. The questionnaire consists of three sections. Section A contained 10 questions related to the subjects’ personal characteristics which include gender, age, nationality, race, marital status, academic qualification, employment status, monthly family income, number of dependents, and frequency of involvement in sports events in a year. All items are rated based on closed-ended response questions.

Section B consisted of 21 questions and is focused on the propensity to use the websites, particularly on consumer-perceived value. This section was designed by referring to the website attributes adapted from the SWAM by Hur et al. (2011) and previous literature. The website attributes included in this section were accessibility, flexibility, interactivity, and reliability. All items are rated on a 7-point Likert Scale response format with values ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree).

Section C consisted of five items related to the propensity to use sports tourism event websites. Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) is applied in this section due to the significant relationship between intention and behavior. A 7-point Likert Scale response format with values ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree) was used to measure the variable.

The research instrument of this study had been tested for validity and reliability. The measurement scales were found to be psychometrically sound. The Cronbach’s Alpha Coefficient of the measurement scales was larger than 0.70 which is reasonably high reliable and appropriate to be used in the study (Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, & Tatham, 2006).

Data collection

The distribution of the questionnaire took place only after the researcher managed to identify the respondents of the study. The questionnaire distribution process was assisted by post-graduate students from one of the northern region's universities in Malaysia. Their involvements in this survey were on a voluntary basis. Prior to the actual survey, they have been contacted in advance and briefed about the study. The respondents have been approached by the researcher and enumerators on the day of the event. Each distributed questionnaire was noted with a specific date respectively, for the data coding purposes. The confidentiality and anonymity for participating in the study were explained to the respondents. Since the questionnaire took about 10 minutes or lesser to be completed, the researcher waited whilst respondents’ completed the questionnaire and collected them immediately.

Data analysis

All gathered data were analyzed by using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Version 19.0. A descriptive analysis was performed to provide information on the personal characteristics of the sample. Then, factor analysis and reliability testing were carried out to test the validity and reliability of the questions employed. This study utilized inferential statistics using Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis to determine the relationship between the whole set of independent and dependent variables in the research framework.

Discussion and Conclusion

The results of this study revealed that the propensity to use sports tourism event websites was moderately high among the online sports tourists attending events at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, Port Dickson International Triathlon the Monsoon Cup Terengganu. These findings corresponded with the finding from research conducted by Kleijnen et al. (2007) when they discovered that the online consumer’s propensity to use the websites due to the online service characteristic, including online services, types of online services offered, and pricing issues. In addition, the online services appear to create an exchange relationship between consumers and the website retailers. Moreover, previous researchers agreed that technological advancement and the tourism industry have witnessed some connections for years (Beldona, 2005; Gretzel et al., 2006; Kahn et al., 2006; MacKay et al., 2005; Weber & Roehl, 1999). They revealed that the use of websites enables online connections and channels of communication marketing. Furthermore, they provide information on the promotion, product distribution, management and encourage future research on website development.

This research used four constructs - interactivity, reliability, flexibility, and accessibility adapted from the SWAM in the context of the consumer-perceived value of sports tourism event websites. The results of this study revealed that there was a significant relationship between consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites. The findings seemed to be paralleled with some previous results of Gladen and Funk (2002), Mircheska and Hristovska (2010), and Yadav and Varadarajan (2005) who provided initial support to the findings of this present study that consumer-perceived value is driven by the benefits of online services offered will likely lead to the propensity to use sports tourism event websites.

In this regard, the research findings suggested that the more favorable the sports tourism event websites were, the more they were accepted by the tourists. Thus, the propensity to use sports tourism event websites will increase in the future among sports tourists. Specifically, of the four elements of consumer-perceived value, the results of this research showed that the elements of reliability and flexibility were found to be positively significant affecting the three major events tourists’ propensity to use the websites. The element of flexibility in the sports tourism event websites was found to be one of the significant predictors as a determinant for sports tourists to use the websites in the future. This was probably due to the organizations being permitted online information to be modified and updated from time to time. These findings were consistent with the findings by Kuk (2003) when he defined a flexible website as a consumer-friendly website that eventually influences the consumers’ approval, encouraging consumers and return visits to a website.

Besides, reliability was also recognized as a significant predictor in this study. The result could be associated with the online information which appeared on the websites to be made consumers-oriented. This finding was consistent with the findings by Kotler et al. (2005). They stated that online consumers tend to make decisions towards a particular product and/or service only after they assess and obtain as much online information as possible from the Internet. Therefore, organizations should put some extra effort into providing comprehensive information to cater to the needs of their target consumers. The reliability of online information allows consumers to perform comparative shopping, search for alternative information, and exploration for data, pictures, and testimonials of the desired products and/or services prior to their own consumption (Kotler et al., 2005).

Likewise, the results of this research supported the previous literature which reported that consumer-perceived value was derived from many factors, including the criteria of the websites which are interactivity, reliability, flexibility, and accessibility (Janal, 1998; Papacharissi et al., 2002; Kuk, 2003; Kotler et al., 2005, Radzliyana et al., 2013). For example, consistent with this study, previous literature also indicated that successful websites that were being valued by online consumers were measured based on the content of information delivered and the technique applied to present such content of information. Indeed, sports tourists’ are keen on reliable information.

This study could contribute to the knowledge of Internet technology adoption in the marketing of sports tourism events. This study has demonstrated the importance of travel and tourism websites in the relationship between consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites among sports tourists’ in Malaysia. Thus, as referred to in the research findings, sports tourism organizations must plan their website development vigilantly by taking into account in terms customer perceived value especially the reliability and flexibility elements of the websites. Thus, the findings of this study could provide sports organizers with a better understanding of the current issues related to online marketing specifically in consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites in order to contribute to the development of sports tourism in Malaysia. Furthermore, it could also enable to provide managers in the sport tourism industry with a thoughtful knowledge of how consumers use those given websites as well as to increase the chances of making future contact and even to develop fruitful relationships with them.

However, there are several aspects that restrict the findings of the study. These restrictions provide some directions for future researchers to conduct or maybe replicate it into other fields of interest. The study focused on the influencing factors on the propensity to use sports tourism event websites. The variables that became the interest in this study could be applied to other service sectors related to tourism such as educational tourism or medical tourism services in relation to consumer-perceived value and the propensity to use the websites. This limitation, however, presents an opportunity for future research in this area. Finally, this study suggests that future research should examine the relationship between perceived value and the propensity to use sports tourism event websites by exploring other components of perceived value or other attributes as portrayed in other theories or models. The moderating effect of other factors such as motivation and personal characteristics of tourists using other quantitative or qualitative approaches would probably yield further insight into the study.