This chapter is a key chapter of the dissertation, which focuses on research methodology of this study and explains sources of problems raised in our study. In this chapter, it introduces all the methods of this research; it also highlights some ethical issues of collecting and using the information and data in the empirical survey.
This study mainly surveys customers’ perceptions of hotels online brand image; it studies the challenges of hotel online brand image shaping to the hotel development, and discusses the influencing factors of hotel online brand image. In order to make this study have more practical meaning, this dissertation does not specify a hotel as a research object; instead, through a wide range of questionnaire survey and in-depth interview, it tries to reach a common value conclusion. As we all know, empirical study is a time consuming work and it takes money and energy; for the purpose of minimum spending and protecting environment, this study chooses questionnaire survey through an Internet platform to distribute and collect questionnaires. In this study, this dissertation adopts a variety of research methods, including literature research, a combination of qualitative research and quantitative research.
2. Purpose of the study (Objective) 研究目的（目標）
The purpose of the study is to assess the factors which impact customers’ perception of hotel brand image. To achieve this purpose, it needs to identify the influencing factors, and specify how these factors relate to the hotel brand image. Therefore it means a lot to study customers’ purchase behavior and loyalty for hotel service.
According to current studies, there are multiple factors which influence the perceptions of customers to hotel image. Generally believed, quality of service, the hotel features, are the most important two factors that customer will consider when choosing a hotel. According to survey, 7 customers out of 10 choose to transfer to another hotel from one hotel owing to service problem instead of product quality or price. The hotel customers pursue not just material demands but prefer spiritual demands. Only when the customers are satisfied will they become loyal. Customer satisfaction refers to the feelings of customers, which are based on comparison between expected product - service performance and customers’ expectation. If the expected performance is worse than expectation, the customers will be unsatisfied; if the expected performance conforms to expectation, the customers will be satisfied; and if the expected performance surpasses expectation, the customers will be very satisfied. And then they will come again for consumption and even recommend the hotel to other customers, namely, they will become loyal customers of the hotel, which will enhance hotel performance and publicize the “brand image” of the hotel.
The hotel characteristics such as architectural appearance, decoration design and hotel products are also important factors for customers to select hotels. Under the fierce competition situation of international hotel industry, the hotel owners and managers are striving to form comfortable and characteristic hotels. For example, in view of guest room design, Hilton has launched “guest room for sleeping soundly”, “guest room for fitness” and “guest room for mental relaxation”. Accor has launched conceptual guest room featured with “hospitality relying on high-tech”; while Starwood has formed dreamlike guest room of “Heavenly Bed”. All the above mentioned all satisfy the demands of customers on comfort and changing. The appearance personality and characteristic is also an important factor to attract customers.
3. Hypothesis Formulation
H1: The electronic word-of-mouth will have an important and positive effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
The aim of the hotel marketing is to make customer want to come to the hotel again through high-quality customer service. For the satisfied customers, if they are enjoying the hotel service experience and are willing to tell others, the hotel would benefit a lot from customers’ sharing. In the internet era, electronic word-of-mouth sharing are the most effective way to share personal emotions and feelings, therefore it will have an important and effective effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
H2: Service quality will have an important and positive effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
Service quality of hotel includes quality of tangible facilities equipment, service, environment quality, it also includes intangible service quality and other factors. Each factor consists of specific contents which affect customers’ perceptions all the time. Service quality also has an important and positive effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
H3: Webpage design will have an important and positive effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
Hotel website is the image of hotel on the Internet, which can highlight the hotel’s differentiation. A splendid website contains wonderful contents, creative ideas such as picture preview etc., can attract a lot of customers. Current days, the hotel service is with serious homogeneity, therefore characteristics of the hotel is very important. Hotel should establish a website according to the specific situation, highlight the fashion or classical of the hotel as far as possible. It would be great if the hotel website can make customers remember the image at the first glance.
H4: Price will have an important and positive effect on customers’ perception of hotel online brand image.
Price is always one of the most important factors to affect customers’ perceptions when they are choosing a hotel. It is important for a hotel to have its own price advantage. However, it is worth noting that, service quality is always the most important factor for hotel image. Price image can be meaningful only when there is a solid foundation of service quality.
4. Research Methods
Quantitative research is scientific research on determining quantity of one certain aspect, which refers to the research method and process of representing problem and phenomenon with quantity thus to conduct analysis, test and explanation in order to know meaning. Quantification bases on digital symbols for measuring. Because its purpose is to answer the attribute of quantity of matters and motions, therefore, it is named as quantitative research. Wherein, the main methods for quantitative research include survey method, correlation method and experimental method. Qualitative research is an opposite concept to quantitative research, which is the channel to define or handle problems through exploring problems, understanding phenomenon of matters, analyzing human behaviors and ideas as well as answering questions. (Taylor, 1985) Its purpose is to deeply research the opinions of researched objects, further discuss the reasons for researched objects in doing things. If quantitative research aims at researching the problem “what it is” and then qualitative research aims at researching the reasons.
Quantitative research mainly adopts methods of observation, experiment, survey and statistics to research social phenomenon, which has strict requirement on research preciseness, objectivity and value neutrality thus to obtain objective reality. It usually adopts form of data to explain various phenomena, relies on deduction method to predict theory, and collects information and evidence to evaluate or verify the predicted model, assumption or theory. Besides, it starts from transcendental idea of researchers and is a process from top to bottom. By comparison, qualitative research mostly adopts methods of observation and deep interview to obtain the first-hand materials, mainly involving methods of observation, action research and historical research method. Based on obtained materials, it adopts inductive method to transform from concreteness to abstraction thus to form theory. In addition, qualitative research is formed based on mutual connection of different materials, which is a process from bottom to top. Quantitative research and qualitative research have advantages and disadvantages respectively, combining these two kinds of modes can better avoid weaknesses, make research more accurate and scientific.