Previous research explored the circular economy practices of different businesses in various contexts; however, limited contributions have focused on the responsible production and consumption of food (Huang et al., 2022; Van Riel et al., 2021). Even fewer articles sought to explore environmental, social and governance (ESG) dimensions relating to the sustainable supply chain management of food and beverages in the tourism context.
This special issue will shed light on the responsible practices in all stages of food preparation and consumption in the tourism and hospitality industry. It raises awareness on sustainable behaviors that are aimed to reduce the businesses’ externalities including the generation of food waste on the natural environment. It shall put forward relevant knowledge and understanding on good industry practices that curb food loss. It will identify the strengths and weaknesses of extant food supply chains as well as of waste management systems adopted in the sector. It is hoped that prospective contributors identify laudable and strategic initiatives in terms of preventative and mitigating measures in terms of procurement and inventory practices, recycling procedures and waste reduction systems involving circular economy approaches.
Academic researchers are invited to track the progress of the tourism businesses on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. They are expected to investigate in depth and breadth, how tourism businesses are planning, organizing, implementing and measuring the effectiveness of their responsible value chain activities. They may utilize different methodologies to do so. They can feature theoretical and empirical contributions as well as case studies of organizations that are: (i) reusing and recycling of surplus food, (ii) utilizing sharing economy platforms and mobile apps (that are intended to support business practitioners and prospective consumers to reduce the food loss and waste), (iii) contributing to charitable institutions and food banks, through donations of surplus food, and/or (iv) recycling inedible foods to compost, among other options.
The contributing authors could clarify how, where, when and why tourism businesses are measuring their ESG performance on issues relating to the supply chain of food and beverage. They may refer to international regulatory instruments and guidelines (Camilleri, 2022), including the International Standards Organization (ISO) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, among others, to evaluate the practitioners’ ESG performance through: a) Environmental Metrics: The businesses’ circularity; Recycling and waste management; and/or Water security; b) Social Metrics: Corporate social responsibility; Product safety; Responsible sourcing; and/or Sustainable supply chain, and; c) Governance: Accounting transparency; Environmental sustainability reporting and disclosures.
They could rely on GRI’s Standards 2020, as well as on GRI 204: Procurement Practices 2016; GRI 303: Water and Effluents 201; GRI 306: Effluents and Waste 2016; GRI 306: Waste 2020; GRI 308: Supplier Environmental Assessment 2016 and GRI 403: and to Occupational Health and Safety 2018, to assess the businesses’ ESG credentials.
Prospective submissions ought to clearly communicate about the positive multiplier effects of their research (Ahn, 2019). They can identify responsible production and consumption behaviors that may result in operational efficiencies and cost savings in their operations (Camilleri, 2019). At the same time, they enable them to improve their corporate image among stakeholders (hence they can increase their financial performance). They can examine specific supply chain management initiatives involving open innovation, stakeholder engagement and circular economy approaches that may ultimately enhance the businesses’ legitimacy in society. More importantly, they are urged to elaborate on the potential pitfalls and to discuss about possible challenges for an effective implementation of a sustainable value chain of food-related products and their packaging, in the tourism and hospitality industry (Galati et al., 2022).
It is anticipated that the published articles shall put forward practical implications for a wide array of tourism stakeholders, including for food manufacturers and distributors, airlines, cruise companies, international hotel chains, hospitality enterprises, and for consumers themselves. At the same time, they will draw their attention to the business case for responsible consumption and production of food through strategic behaviors.
Potential topics may include but are not limited to:
– Responsible food production for tourism businesses
– Responsible food consumption practices in the hospitality industry
– Circular economy and closed loop systems adopted in restaurants, pubs and cafes
– Open innovation and circular economy approaches for a sustainable tourism industry
– Recycling of inedible food waste to compost
– Measuring performance of responsible food production/sustainable consumption
– Digitalisation and the use of sharing economy platforms to reduce food waste
– Artificial intelligence for sustainable food systems
– Sustainable food supply chain management
– Food waste and social acceptance of circular approaches
– Stakeholders’ roles to minimize food waste in the hospitality industry
– Food donation initiatives to decrease food loss and waste
Ahn, J. (2019). Corporate social responsibility signaling, evaluation, identification, and revisit intention among cruise customers. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 27(11), 1634-1647.
Camilleri, M. A. (2019). The circular economy’s closed loop and product service systems for sustainable development: A review and appraisal. Sustainable Development, 27(3), 530-536.
Camilleri, M. A. (2022). The rationale for ISO 14001 certification: A systematic review and a cost–benefit analysis. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 29(4), 1067-1083.
Galati, A., Alaimo, L. S., Ciaccio, T., Vrontis, D., & Fiore, M. (2022). Plastic or not plastic? That’s the problem: Analysing the Italian students purchasing behavior of mineral water bottles made with eco-friendly packaging. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 179, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.106060
Huang, Y., Ma, E., & Yen, T. H. (2022). Generation Z diners’ moral judgements of restaurant food waste in the United States: a qualitative inquiry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2022.2150861
Van Riel, A. C., Andreassen, T. W., Lervik-Olsen, L., Zhang, L., Mithas, S., & Heinonen, K. (2021). A customer-centric five actor model for sustainability and service innovation. Journal of Business Research, 136, 389-401.
Big businesses are breaking down traditional silos among their internal departments to improve knowledge flows within their organizations and/or when they welcome external ideas and competences from external organizations (Aakhus & Bzdak, 2015; Chesbrough, 2003; Chesbrough & Bogers, 2014). Open innovation is related to the degree of trust and openness with a variety of stakeholders (Chesbrough, 2020; Leonidou et al., 2020; Zhu et al., 2019). Debately, this concept clearly differentiates itself from closed innovation approaches that are associated with traditional, secretive business models that would primarily rely on the firms’ internal competences and resources. In the latter case, the companies would withhold knowledge about their generation of novel ideas, including incremental and radical innovations within their research and development (R&D) department. They would be wary of leaking information to external parties. This is in stark contract with open innovation.
Open innovation is rooted in the belief that the dissemination of knowledge and collaboration with stakeholders would lead to win-win outcomes for all parties. Chesbrough (2003) argued that companies can maximize the potential of their disruptive innovations if they work in tandem with internal as well as with external stakeholders (rather than on their own) in order to improve products and service delivery. His open innovation model suggests that corporations ought to benefit from diverse pools of knowledge that are distributed among companies, customers, suppliers, universities, research center industry consortia, and startup firms.
Chesbrough (2020) distinguished between different types of insider information that could or could not be leaked to interested parties. He cautioned that sensitive information (he referred to as the “Crown Jewels”) ought to be protected and can never be revealed to external stakeholders. Nevertheless, he argued that an organization can selectively share specific communications with a “Middle Group” comprising key customers, suppliers, and/or partners in order to forge closer relationships with them. The companies’ internal R&D departments can avail themselves from their consumers’ insights as well as from external competences, capabilities, and resources, to cocreate value to their business and to society at large.
Chesbrough (2020) went on to suggest that a company should open-up their “long tail of intellectual property to everyone.” He contended that organizations may do so to save on their patent renewal fees. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses joined forces and adopted such an intercompany open innovation approach to mass produce medical equipment. For instance, Ford Motor Co. sent its teams of engineers to consult with counterparts at 3M and General Electric to produce respirators, ventilators, and new 3-D-printed face shields, for the benefit of healthcare employees and COVID-19 patients (Washington Post, 2020).
Corporations are increasingly collaborating with experts hailing from diverse industry sectors to innovate themselves and to search for new sources of competitive advantage (Porter & Kramer, 2011; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018). They may usually resort to open innovation approaches when they engage with talented individuals who work on a freelance basis or for other organizations, to benefit from their support. There is scope for companies to forge fruitful relationships with external stakeholders, who may be specialized in specific fields, to help them identify trends, penetrate into new markets, to develop new products, or to diversify their business model, to establish new revenue streams for their firm (Camilleri & Bresciani, 2022; Centobelli, Cerchione, Chiaroni, et al., 2020; Su et al., 2022). These stakeholders can add value to host organizations in their planning, organization, and implementation of social and environmentally sustainable innovations (Camilleri, 2019a; Sajjad et al., 2020).
Open innovation holds great potential to create shared value opportunities for business and society (Aakhus & Bzdak, 2015; Alberti & Varon Garrido, 2017; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018). This argumentation is closely related to the strategic approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and to the discourse about corporate sustainability (Camilleri, 2022a; Eweje, 2020). Previous literature confirmed that open innovation processes can have a significant effect on the companies’ triple bottom line in terms of their economic performance as well as on their social and environmental credentials (Gong et al., 2020; Grunwald et al., 2021; Mendes et al., 2021; Testa et al., 2018).
The businesses’ ongoing engagement with their valued employees may result in a boost in their intrinsic motivations, morale, job satisfaction, and low turnover levels and could increase their productivity levels (Camilleri, 2021; Chang, 2020; Kumar & Srivastava, 2020; Schmidt-Keilich & Schrader, 2019). Their collaboration with external (expert) stakeholders may lead to positive outcomes including to knowledge acquisition, operational efficiencies, cost savings, and to creating new revenue streams from the development of innovative projects, among others (Ghodbane, 2019; Huizingh, 2011). Open innovation agreements are clearly evidenced when businesses forge strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders to help them plan, develop, promote, and distribute products (Bresciani, 2017; Camilleri, 2019b; Chesbrough & Bogers, 2014; Greco et al., 2022; Loučanová et al., 2022; Troise et al., 2021). They may do so to be in a better position to align corporate objectives (including to increase their bottom lines) with their social and environmental performance (Alberti & Varon Garrido, 2017; Herrera & de las Heras-Rosas, 2020; Mendes et al., 2021).
This paper provides a clear definition of the most popular paradigms relating to the intersection of open innovation approaches and corporate sustainability, as reported in Table 1.
Table 1. A list of the most popular paradigms relating to the intersection of open innovation approaches and corporate sustainability
“The following section synthesizes the content that was reported in past contributions. The researchers deliberate about open innovation opportunities and challenges for host organizations as well as for their collaborators”.
Open innovation opportunities
In the main, many commentators noted that open innovation approaches have brought positive outcomes for host organizations and their collaborators. The research questions of the extracted contributions (that are reported in Table 2) indicated that in many cases, companies are striving in their endeavors to build productive relationships with different stakeholders (Mtapuri et al., 2022; Peña-Miranda et al., 2022; Shaikh & Randhawa, 2022), to create value to their businesses as well as to society (Döll et al., 2022; Ghodbane, 2019; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018). Very often, they confirmed that open innovation practitioners are promoting organizational governance (Aakhus & Bzdak, 2015; Sánchez-Teba et al., 2021), fair labor practices (Chang, 2020; Herrera & de las Heras-Rosas, 2020; Kumar & Srivastava, 2020; Schmidt-Keilich & Schrader, 2019), environmentally responsible investments (Aakhus & Bzdak, 2015; Cigir, 2018; Mendes et al., 2021; van Lieshout et al., 2021; Yang & Roh, 2019), and consumer-related issues (Greco et al., 2022; Loučanová et al., 2022; Wu & Zhu, 2021; Yang & Roh, 2019), among other laudable behaviors.
Many researchers raised awareness on the corporate sustainability paradigm (van Marrewijk, 2003) as they reported about the businesses’ value creating activities that are synonymous with the triple bottom line discourse, in terms of their organizations’ social, environment, and economic performance (Chang, 2020; Döll et al., 2022; Su et al., 2022; van Lieshout et al., 2021; Yang & Roh, 2019).
Other authors identified strategic CSR (Fontana, 2017; Porter & Kramer, 2006) practices and discussed about shared value perspectives (Abdulkader et al., 2020; Porter & Kramer, 2011) that are intended to improve corporate financial performance while enhancing their social and environmental responsibility credentials among stakeholders (Ghodbane, 2019; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018; Sánchez-Teba et al., 2021).
Mendes et al. (2021) argued that strategic CSR was evidenced through collaborative approaches involving employees and external stakeholders. They maintained that there is scope for businesses to reconceive their communication designs with a wide array of stakeholders. Similarly, Aakhus and Bzdak (2015) contended that stakeholder engagement and open innovation processes led to improved decision making, particularly when host organizations consider investing in resources and infrastructures to be in a better position to address the social, cultural, and environmental concerns.
Firms could implement open innovation approaches to benefit from outsiders’ capabilities and competences (of other organizations, including funders, partners, and beneficiaries, among others) (Alberti & Varon Garrido, 2017). They may benefit from the external stakeholders’ support to diversify their business and/or to develop innovative products and services. Their involvement could help them augment their financial performance in terms of their margins and return on assets (Ben Hassen & Talbi, 2022).
Ongoing investments in open and technological innovations in terms of process and product development can result in virtuous circles and positive multiplier effects for the businesses as well as to society. Practitioners can forge cooperative agreements with social entrepreneurs, for-profit organizations, or with non-profit entities. Many companies are increasingly recruiting consultants who are specialized in sustainable innovations. Alternatively, they engage corporate reporting experts to help them improve their ESG credentials with stakeholders (Holmes & Smart, 2009).
Such open innovation approaches are intrinsically related to key theoretical underpinnings related to CSR including the stakeholder theory, institutional theory, signaling theory, and to the legitimacy theory, among others (Authors; Freudenreich et al., 2020). Firms have a responsibility to bear toward societies where they operate their business (in addition to their economic responsibility to increase profits). Their collaborative stance with knowledgeable professionals may provide an essential impetus for them to improve their corporate reputation and image with customers and prospects.
The open innovation paradigm suggests that it is in the businesses’ interest to engage with stakeholders through outside-in (to benefit from external knowledge and expertise), inside-out (to avail themselves of their extant competences and capabilities), and coupled (cocreation) processes with internal and external stakeholders (Enkel et al., 2009; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018). Its theorists claim that outside-in processes are intended to enhance the company’s knowledge as they source external information from marketplace stakeholders including suppliers, intermediaries, customers, and even competitors, among others.
Many researchers emphasize that there are a number of benefits resulting from coopetition among cooperative competitors. Their inside-out collaborative processes stimulate innovations, lead to improvements in extant technologies, and provide complementary resources, resulting in new markets and products. Competing businesses can exchange their ideas and innovations with trustworthy stakeholders, outside of their organizations’ boundaries in order to improve their socio-emotional wealth (Herrera & de las Heras-Rosas, 2020). The proponents of open innovation advocate that businesses ought to foster an organizational culture that promotes knowledge transfer, ongoing innovations, and internationalization strategies.
Michelino et al. (2019) held that organizations ought to engage in ambidextrous approaches. These authors commended that practitioners should distinguish between exploratory and traditional units of their business model. They posited that it would be better for them if they segregated the former from the latter ones, especially if they want to develop new processes, products, and technologies in mature markets. The organizations’ exploratory units could be in a better position to flexibly respond to ongoing changes in their marketing environment.
Other researchers noted that it would be better if the businesses’ R&D activities are attuned with the practitioners’ expertise and/or with their stakeholders who are involved in their open innovation knowledge sharing strategies (Talab et al., 2018). Companies can generate new sources of revenue streams, even in areas that are associated with social issues and/or with green economies, if they reach new customers in different markets (Centobelli, Cerchione, & Esposito, 2020; Chang, 2020; Su et al., 2022; Yang & Roh, 2019). They may partner with other organizations to commercialize their (incremental or radical) innovations through licensing fees, franchises, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, spinoffs, and so forth.
Many commentators made reference to coupled processes involving a combination of outside-in and inside-out open innovation processes (Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018). The businesses’ transversal alliances involving horizontal and vertical collaborative approaches with external stakeholders can help them co-create ideas to foster innovations (Greco et al., 2022; Rupo et al., 2018). Several open innovation theorists are increasingly raising awareness on how collaborative relationships with stakeholders including consumers, lead users, organizations who may or may not be related to the company per se, universities as well as research institutions, among others, are supporting various businesses in their R&D stages and/or in the design of products (Khan et al., 2022; Naruetharadhol et al., 2022). Very often, their research confirmed that such cocreation processes are utilized in different contexts, for the manufacturing of a wide range of technologies.
The findings from this review reported that, for the time being, just a few researchers are integrating open innovation’s cocreation approaches with corporate sustainability outcomes. A number of contributing authors insisted that there are many advantages for socially and environmentally responsible companies to embrace open innovation approaches (Carayannis et al., 2021; Cigir, 2018; Mendes et al., 2021; Yang & Roh, 2019). In many cases, they argued that the practitioners’ intentions are to broaden their search activities and to avail themselves from talented employees and external experts in exchange for enhanced social legitimacy, thereby availing themselves of innovation capital for future enterprising activities (Greco et al., 2022; Holmes & Smart, 2009).
Hence, businesses may benefit from the competences and capabilities of individual consultants and organizations (from outside their company) to tap into the power of co-creation, to source ideas for social and green innovations (van Lieshout et al., 2021). These alliances are meant to support laudable causes, address the deficits in society, and/or to minimize the businesses’ impact on the natural environment (Altuna et al., 2015; Khan et al., 2022). For-profit organizations can resort to open innovation approaches to avail themselves of resources and infrastructures that are not currently available within their firm. This way they can reduce their costs, risks, and timescales when diversifying into sustainable business ventures, including those related to social entrepreneurship projects (Peredo & McLean, 2006; Shapovalov et al., 2019). They may do so to leverage their business, to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
Open innovation challenges
Open innovations could expose the businesses to significant risks and uncertainties associated with enmeshed, permeable relationships with potential collaborators (Gomes et al., 2021; Madanaguli et al., 2023). Various authors contended that practitioners should create an organizational culture that is conducive to open innovation (Herrera & de las Heras-Rosas, 2020; Mohelska & Sokolova, 2017). Generally, they argued that host organizations should communicate and liaise with employees as well as with external partners, during the generation of ideas and in different stages of their R&D projects. Some researchers noted that open innovation practitioners tend to rely on their external stakeholders’ valuable support to diversify their business models, products, or services (Chalvatzis et al., 2019; Park & Tangpong, 2021; Su et al., 2022).
A number of academic commentators argued that practitioners have to set clear, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals to them before they even start working on a project together (Alberti & Varon Garrido, 2017). In many cases, they maintained that host organizations are expected to foster a strong relationship with collaborators. At the same time, they should ensure that the latter ones comply with their modus operandi (Dahlander & Wallin, 2020). In reality, it may prove difficult for the business leaders to trust the new partners. Unlike their employees, the external parties are not subject to the companies’ codes of conduct, rules, and regulations (Chesbrough, 2020; Shamah & Elssawabi, 2015). A few authors indicated that senior management may utilize extrinsic and intrinsic incentives to empower and motivate internal as well as external stakeholders to pursue their organization’s open innovation objectives (Chang, 2020; Greco et al., 2022; Holmes & Smart, 2009; Roszkowska-Menkes, 2018; Schmidt-Keilich & Schrader, 2019).
Some researchers identified possible threats during and after the implementation of joint projects. Very often, they contended that host organizations risk losing their locus of control to external stakeholders who are experts in their respective fields (Madanaguli et al., 2023). The latter ones may possess unique skills and competences that are not readily available within the organization. A few authors cautioned that the practitioners as well as their collaborators are entrusted to safeguard each other’s intangible assets. A number of researchers warned and cautioned that they may risk revealing insider information about sensitive commercial details relating to their intellectual capital (Gomes et al., 2021). As a result, companies may decide to collaborate on a few peripheral tasks as they may be wary of losing their return on investments if they share trade secrets with their new partners, who could easily become their competitors. Their proprietary knowledge concerns are of course real and vital for their future prospects. Therefore, their relationships with internal and external stakeholders should be based on mutual trust and understanding in order to increase the confidence in the projects’ outcomes (Ferraris et al., 2020; Sánchez-Teba et al., 2021).
The companies’ ongoing engagement with internal and external stakeholders as well as their strategic CSR initiatives and environmentally sustainable innovations can generate economic value, in the long run. This review confirms that for-profit organizations are increasingly using open innovation approaches. At the same time, they are following ethical practices, adopting responsible human resources management policies, and investing in green technologies to gain institutional legitimacy and to create competitive advantages for their business. Many authors reported that their corporate sustainability behaviors can enhance their organizations’ reputation and image among customers as well as with marketplace stakeholders. At the same time, their laudable practices may even improve their corporate financial performance.
During COVID-19, many businesses turned to open innovation’s collaborative approaches. Various stakeholders joined forces and worked with other organizations, including with competitors, on social projects that benefit the communities where they operate their companies. In many cases, practitioners have realized that such partnerships with certain stakeholders (like researchers, knowledgeable experts, creative businesses, and non-governmental institutions, among others) enable their organizations to find new ways to solve pressing problems and at the same time helped them build a positive reputation. Indeed, open innovation approaches can serve as a foundation for future win-win alliances, in line with sociological research demonstrating that trust develops when partners voluntarily go the extra mile, to create value to their business and to society at large.
Yet, this research revealed that there is still a gap in the academic literature that links CSR/corporate sustainability with open collaborative approaches. At the time of writing, this paper, there were only 45 contributions on the intersection of these notions.
In this case, this research identifies the factors that are influencing the adoption of travel apps, in the aftermath of COVID-19. It examines the effects of information quality and source credibility (these measures are drawn from IAM framework), as well as of technical functionality, relating to electronic service quality (eSERVQUAL), on the individuals’ perceptions about the usefulness of these mobile technologies and on their intentions to continue using them on a habitual basis (the latter two factors are used in TAM models), to shed light on the consumers’ beliefs about their usability and functionality features.
This study suggests that consumers are valuing the quality of the digital content that is presented to them through these mobile technologies. Apparently, they are perceiving that the sources (who are curating the content) were knowledgeable and proficient in the upkeep and maintenance of their apps. Moreover, they are appreciating their functional attributes including their instrumental utility and appealing designs. Evidently, these factors are influencing their intentions to use the travel apps in the future. They may even lead them to purchase travel and hospitality services. Furthermore, they can have an impact on their social facilitation behaviors like positive publicity (via electronic word of mouth like online reviews, as well as in-person/offline), among other outcomes.
This contribution implies that there is scope for future researchers to incorporate a functionality factor in addition to ITAM, IAM and/or TAM ‘usability’ constructs to investigate the individuals’ dispositions to utilize technological innovations and to adopt their information. It confirms that the functionality features including their ease of use, responsiveness, organized layout and technical capabilities can trigger users to increase their app engagement on a habitual basis.
The results from this study reveal that the respondents hold positive perceptions toward interactive travel apps. In the main, they indicate that these mobile technologies feature high quality content, are organized, work well, offer a good selection of products and are easy to use.
This research posits that mobile users appreciate the quality of information that is presented to them through the travel apps, in terms of their completed-ness, accuracy and timeliness of information. Yet, the findings show that there is room for improvement. There is scope for service providers (and for the curators of their travel apps) to increase their credentials on source trustworthiness and expertise among consumers.
The results suggest that information quality had a more significant effect on the respondents’ perceived usefulness of travel apps than source credibility. Moreover, they also suggest that consumers are willing to engage with travel apps as they believe that they offer seamless functionality features, including customization capabilities and fast loading screens. Most probably, the respondents are cognizant that they offer differentiated pricing options on flights, hotels and cars, from various service providers. They may be aware that many travel apps also enable their users to access their itineraries even when they are offline and allow them to keep a track record of their reward points (e.g. of frequent flyer programs) on every booking.
In this day and age, consumers can utilize mobile devices to access asynchronous content in webpages, including detailed information on tourism service providers, transportation services, tours to attractions, the provision of amenities in tourist destinations, frequently answered questions, efficient booking engines with high resolution images and videos, quick loading and navigation, detailed maps, as well as with qualitative reviews and quantitative ratings. Very often they can even be accessed through different languages.
A number of travel apps allow their users to log in with a secure, random password authentication method, to keep a track record of their credit card details and past transactions. Most of them are also sending price alerts as well as push notifications that remind consumers about their past searches. These services are adding value to the electronic service quality as opposed to unsolicited promotional messages, that are not always related to the consumers’ interests.
Tourism and hospitality service providers are already using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) software, to improve their consumers’ online experiences and to emphasize their brand positioning as high-quality service providers. In the foreseeable future, it is very likely that practitioners could avail themselves of Metaverse technologies that could teleport consumers in the cyberspace, to lure them to book their flight, stays, car rentals or tours. Online (and mobile) users may be using electronic personas, called avatars to move them around virtual spaces and to engage with other users, when they are in the Metaverse.
This interactive technology is poised to enhance its users’ immersive experiences, in terms of their sensory inputs, definitions of space and points of access to information, particularly those that work with VR headsets. Hence, travel and hospitality businesses could avail themselves of such interactive technologies to gain a competitive advantage.
This is an excerpt from one of our latest academic articles (that was accepted by the Journal of Services Marketing).
Previous studies reported that interactive websites ought to be accessible, appealing, convenient, functional, secure and responsive to their users (Crolic et al., 2021; Hoyer et al., 2020; Kabadayi et al., 2020; Klaus and Zaichkowsky, 2020; Rosenmayer et al., 2018; Sheehan et al., 2020; Valtakoski, 2019). Online service providers are expected to deliver a personalized customer service experience and to exceed their consumers’ expectations at all times, to encourage repeat business and loyal behaviors (Li et al., 2017; Tong et al., 2020; Zeithaml et al. 2002).
Many service marketing researchers have investigated the individuals’ perceptions about price comparison sites, interactive websites, ecommerce / online marketplaces, electronic banking, and social media, among other virtual domains (Donthu et al., 2021; Kabadayi et al., 2020; Klaus and Zaichkowsky, 2020; Rosenbaum and Russell-Bennett, 2020; Rosenmayer et al., 2018; Valtakoski, 2019; Zaki, 2019). Very often, they relied on measures drawn from electronic service quality (e-SQ or e-SERVQUAL), electronic retail quality (eTailQ), transaction process-based approaches for capturing service quality (eTransQual), net quality (NETQual), perceived electronic service quality (PeSQ), site quality (SITEQUAL) and website quality (webQual), among others.
Technology adoption researchers often adapted TAM measures, including perceived usefulness and behavioral intentions constructs, among others, or relied on psychological theories like the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein and Ajzen, 195) and the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991), among others, to explore the individuals’ acceptance and use of different service technologies, in various contexts (Park et al., 2007; Chen and Chang, 2018). Alternatively, they utilized IAM’s theoretical framework to investigate the online users’ perceptions about the usefulness of information or online content. Very often they examined the effects of information usefulness on information adoption (Erkan and Evans, 2016; Liu et al., 2017).
A review of the relevant literature suggests that good quality content (in terms of its understandability, completeness, timeliness and accuracy) as well as the sources’ credibility (with regard to their trustworthiness and expertise) can increase the individuals’ expectations regarding a business and its products or services (Cheung et al., 2008; Li et al., 2017; Liu et al., 2017). ELM researchers suggest that a high level of message elaboration (i.e., argument quality) as well as the peripheral cues like the credibility of the sources and their appealing content, can have a positive impact on the individuals’ attitudes toward the conveyors of information (Allison et al., 2017; Chen and Chang, 2018; Petty et al., 1983), could affect their intentions to (re)visit the businesses’ websites (Salehi-Esfahani et al., 2016), and may even influence their purchase intentions (Chen and Chang, 2018; Erkan and Evans, 2016).
This contribution differentiates itself from previous research as the researchers adapted key measures from ELM/IAM namely ‘information quality’ (Filieri and McLeay, 2014; Salehi-Esfahani et al., 2016; Shu and Scott, 2013; Tseng and Wang, 2016) and ‘source credibility’ (Ayeh, 2015; Leong et al., 2019; Wang and Scheinbaum, 2018) and integrated them with an ‘interactive engagement’ construct (McMillan and Hwang, 2002), to better understand the individuals’ utilitarian motivations to use the service businesses’ interactive websites. The researchers hypothesized that these three constructs were plausible antecedents of TAM’s ‘perceived usefulness’ and ‘intentions to use the technology’. Specifically, this research examines the direct effects of information quality, source credibility and interactive engagement on the individuals’ perceived usefulness of interactive website, as well as their indirect effects on their intentions to continue using these service technologies.
To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, there is no other research in academia that included an interactive engagement construct in addition to ELM/IAM and TAM measures. This contribution addresses this gap in the literature. The engagement construct was used to better understand the respondents’ perceptions about the ease-of-use of interactive websites, to ascertain whether they are captivating their users’ attention by offering a variety of content, and more importantly, to determine whether they consider them as responsive technologies.
This study sheds light on the travel websites’ interactive capabilities during an unprecedented crisis situation, when businesses received higher volumes of inquiries through different channels (to change bookings, cancel itineraries and/or submit refund requests). At the same time, it identified the most significant factors that were affecting the respondents’ perceptions and motivations to continue using interactive service technologies in the future.
In sum, this research confirmed that the respondents were evaluating the quality of information that is featured in interactive websites. The findings reported they were well acquainted with the websites’ content (e.g. news feeds, product information, differentiated pricing options, images, video clips, and/or web chat facilities). The researchers presumed that the respondents were well aware of the latest developments. During COVID-19, a number of travel websites have eased their terms and conditions relating to cancellations and refund policies (EU, 2020), to accommodate their customers. Online businesses were expected to communicate with their customers and to clarify any changes in their service delivery, in a timely manner.
The contribution clarified that online users were somehow influenced by the asynchronous content that is featured in webpages. Therefore, service businesses ought to publish quality information to satisfy their customers’ expectations. They may invest in service technologies like a frequently answered questions widget in their websites to enhance their online customer services, and to support online users during and after the sales transactions. Service businesses could integrate events’ calendars, maps, multi-lingual accessibility options, online reviews and ratings, high resolution images and/or videos in their interactive websites, to entertain their visitors (Cao and Yang, 2016; Bastida and Huan, 2014).
This research underlines the importance for service providers to consistently engage in concurrent, online conversations with customers and prospects, in real-time (Buhalis and Sinarta 2019; Chattaraman et al., 2019; Rihova et al., 2018; Harrigan et al., 2017). Recently, more researchers are raising awareness on the provision of live chat facilities through interactive websites or via SNSs like WhatsApp or Messenger (Camilleri & Troise, 2022). Services businesses are expected to respond to consumer queries, and to address their concerns, as quickly as possible (McLean and Osei-Frimpong, 2019), in order to minimize complaints.
AI chatbot technologies are increasingly enabling service businesses to handle numerous interactions with online users, when compared to telephone conversations with human customer services representatives (Adam et al., 2021; Hoyer et al., 2020; Luo et al., 2019; McLean and Osei-Frimpong, 2019; Van Pinxteren et al., 2019). The most advanced dialogue systems are equipped with features like omnichannel messaging support, no code deployment, fallback options, as well as sentiment analysis. These service technologies are designed to improve the consumers’ experiences by delivering automated smart responses, in an efficient manner. Hence, online businesses will be in a better position to meet and exceed their customers’ service expectations. Indeed, service businesses can leverage themselves with a responsive website. These interactive technologies enable them to improve their positioning among customers, and to generate positive word-of-mouth publicity.
Limitations and future research avenues
This study has included a perceived interactivity dimension, namely an ‘interactive engagement’ construct within an information adoption model. The findings revealed that the respondents believed that the websites’ engaging content was a significant antecedent of their perceptions about the usefulness of interactive websites. This study also reported that the interactive engagement construct indirectly affected the individuals’ intentions to revisit them again.
In conclusion, the authors recommend that future researchers validate this study’s measures in other contexts, to determine the effects of interactive engagement on information adoption and/or on the acceptance and usage of online technologies. Further research is required to better understand which attributes and features of interactive websites are appreciated by online users. Recent contributions suggest that there are many benefits for service businesses to use conversational chatbots to respond to online customer services. These interactive technologies can offer increased convenience to consumers and prospects (Thomaz et al., 2020), improved operational efficiencies (Pantano and Pizzi, 2020), reduced labor costs (Belanche et al., 2020), as well as time-saving opportunities for customers and service providers (Adam et al., 2021).
Prospective empirical research may consider different constructs from other theoretical frameworks to examine the individuals’ perceptions and/or attitudes toward interactive websites and their service technologies. Academic researchers are increasingly relying on the expectancy theory/expectancy violation theory (Crolic et al., 2021), the human computer interaction theory/human machine communication theory (Wilkinson et al., 2021), the social presence theory (Tsai et al., 2021), and/or the social response theory (Adam et al., 2021), among others, to investigate the customers’ engagement with service technologies.
Notwithstanding, different methodologies and sampling frames could be used to capture and analyze primary data. For instance, inductive studies may investigate the consumers’ in-depth opinions and beliefs on this topic. Interpretative studies may reveal important insights on how to improve the efficacy and/or the perceived usefulness of interactive service technologies.
The benefits of using chatbots for online customer services
Frequently, consumers are engaging with chatbot systems without even knowing, as machines (rather than human agents) are responding to online queries (Li et al. 2021; Pantano and Pizzi 2020; Seering et al. 2018; Stoeckli et al. 2020). Whilst 13% of online consumer queries require human intervention (as they may involve complex queries and complaints), more than 87 % of online consumer queries are handled by chatbots (Ngai et al., 2021).
Several studies reported that there are many advantages of using conversational chatbots for customer services. Their functional benefits include increased convenience to customers, enhanced operational efficiencies, reduced labor costs, and time-saving opportunities.
Consumers are increasingly availing themselves of these interactive technologies to retrieve detailed information from their product recommendation systems and/or to request their assistance to help them resolve technical issues. Alternatively, they use them to scrutinize their personal data. Hence, in many cases, customers are willing to share their sensitive information in exchange for a better service.
Although, these interactive technologies are less engaging than human agents, they can possibly elicit more disclosures from consumers. They are in a position to process the consumers’ personal data and to compare it with prior knowledge, without any human instruction. Chatbots can learn in a proactive manner from new sources of information to enrich their database.
Whilst human customer service agents may usually handle complex queries including complaints, service chatbots can improve the handling of routine consumer queries. They are capable of interacting with online users in two-way communications (to a certain extent). Their interactions may result in significant effects on consumer trust, satisfaction, and repurchase intentions, as well as on positive word-of-mouth publicity.
Many researchers reported that consumers are intrigued to communicate with anthropomorphized technologies as they invoke social responses and norms of reciprocity. Such conversational agents are programed with certain cues, features and attributes that are normally associated with humans.
The findings from this review clearly indicate that individuals feel comfortable using chatbots that simulate human interactions, particularly with those that have enhanced anthropomorphic designs. Many authors noted that the more chatbots respond to users in a natural, humanlike way, the easier it is for the business to convert visitors into customers, particularly if they improve their online experiences. This research indicates that there is scope for businesses to use conversational technologies to personalize interactions with online users, to build better relationships with them, to enhance consumer satisfaction levels, to generate leads as well as sales conversions.
The costsof using chatbotsfor online customer services
Despite the latest advances in the delivery of electronic services, there are still individuals who hold negative perceptions and attitudes towards the use of interactive technologies. Although AI technologies have been specifically created to foster co-creation between the service provider and the customer,
There are a number of challenges (like authenticity issues, cognition challenges, affective issues, functionality issues and integration conflicts) that may result in a failed service interaction and in dissatisfied customers. There are consumers, particularly the older ones, who do not feel comfortable interacting with artificially intelligent technologies like chatbots, or who may not want to comply with their requests, for different reasons. For example, they could be wary about cyber-security issues and/or may simply refuse to engage in conversations with a robot.
A few commentators contended that consumers should be informed when they are interacting with a machine.In many cases, online users may not be aware that they are engaging with elaborate AI systems that use cues such as names, avatars, and typing indicators that are intended to mimic human traits.Many researchers pointed out that consumers may or may not want to be serviced by chatbots.
A number of researchers argued that some chatbots are still not capable of communicative behaviors that are intended to enhance relational outcomes. For the time being, there are chatbot technologies that are not programed to answer to all of their customers’ queries (if they do not recognize the keywords that are used by the customers), or may not be quick enough to deal with multiple questions at the same time. Therefore, the quality of their conversations may be limited. Such automated technologies may not always be in a position to engage in non-linear conversations, especially when they have to go back and forth on a topic with online users.
Theoretical and practical implications
This contribution confirms that recently there is a growing interest among academia as well as by practitioners on research that is focused on the use of chatbots that can improve the businesses’ customer-centric services. It clarifies that various academic researchers have often relied on different theories including on the expectancy theory, or on the expectancy violation theory, the human computer interaction theory/human machine communication theory, the social presence theory, and/or on the social response theory, among others.
Currently, there are limited publications that integrated well-established conceptual bases (like those featured in the literature review), or that presented discursive contributions on this topic. Moreover, there are just a few review articles that capture, scrutinize and interpret the findings from previous theoretical underpinnings, about the use of responsive chatbots in service business settings. Therefore, this systematic review paper addresses this knowledge gap in the academic literature.
It clearly differentiates itself from mainstream research as it scrutinizes and synthesizes the findings from recent, high impact articles on this topic. It clearly identifies the most popular articles from Scopus and Web of Science, and advances a definition about anthropomorphic chatbots, artificial intelligence chatbots (or AI chatbots), conversational chatbot agents (or conversational entities, conversational interfaces, conversational recommender systems or dialogue systems), customer experience with chatbots, chatbot customer service, customer satisfaction with chatbots, customer value (or the customers’ perceived value) of chatbots, and on service robots (robot advisors). It discusses about the different attributes of conversational chatbots and sheds light on the benefits and costs of using interactive technologies to respond to online users’ queries.
In sum, the findings from this research reveal that there is a business case for online service providers to utilize AI chatbots. These conversational technologies could offer technical support to consumers and prospects, on various aspects, in real time, round the clock. Hence, service businesses could be in a position to reduce their labor costs as they would require fewer human agents to respond to their customers. Moreover, the use of interactive chatbot technologies could improve the efficiency and responsiveness of service delivery. Businesses could utilize AI dialogue systems to enhance their customer-centric services and to improve online experiences. These service technologies can reduce the workload of human agents. The latter ones can dedicate their energies to resolve serious matters, including the handling of complaints and time-consuming cases.
On the other hand, this paper also discusses potential pitfalls. Currently, there are consumers who for some reason or another, are not comfortable interacting with automated chatbots. They may be reluctant to engage with advanced anthropomorphic systems that use avatars, even though, at times, they can mimic human communications relatively well. Such individuals may still appreciate a human presence to resolve their service issues. They may perceive that interactive service technologies are emotionless and lack a sense of empathy.
Presently, chatbots can only respond to questions, keywords and phrases that they were programed to answer. Although they are useful in solving basic queries, their interactions with consumers are still limited. Their dialogue systems require periodic maintenance. Unlike human agents they cannot engage in in-depth conversations or deal with multiple queries, particularly if they are expected to go back and forth on a topic.
Most probably, these technical issues will be dealt with over time, as more advanced chatbots will be entering the market in the foreseeable future. It is likely that these AI technologies would possess improved capabilities and will be programmed with up-to-date information, to better serve future customers, to exceed their expectations.
Limitations and future research avenues
This research suggests that this area of study is gaining traction in academic circles, particularly in the last few years. In fact, it clarifies that there were four hundred twenty-one 421 publications on chatbots in business-related journals, up to December 2021. Four hundred fifteen (415) of them were published in the last 5 years.
The systematic analysis that was presented in this research was focused on “chatbot(s)” or “chatterbot(s)”. Other academics may refer to them by using different synonyms like “artificial conversational entity (entities)”, “bot(s)”, “conversational avatar(s)”, “conversational interface agent”, “interactive agent(s)”, “talkbot(s)”, “virtual agent(s)”, and/or “virtual assistant(s)”, among others. Therefore, future researchers may also consider using these keywords when they are other exploring the academic and nonacademic literature on conversational chatbots that are being used for customer-centric services.
Nevertheless, this bibliographic study has identified some of the most popular research areas relating to the use of responsive chatbots in online customer service settings. The findings confirmed that many authors are focusing on the chatbots’ anthropomorphic designs, AI capabilities and on their dialogue systems. This research suggests that there are still knowledge gaps in the academic literature. The following table clearly specifies that there are untapped opportunities for further empirical research in this promising field of study.
The full article is forthcoming. A prepublication version will be available through Researchgate.
This an an excerpt from one of my latest article that was published through Technology in Society (An Elsevier Journal).
Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Kozak, M. (2022). Interactive engagement through travel and tourism social media groups: A social facilitation theory perspective. Technology in Society, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2022.102098
This study builds on previous academic knowledge on the acceptance and use of social media groups. It relied on valid constructs that were drawn from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and Theory of Acceptance Model (TAM), as the proposed research model comprised “attitudes toward technology” and “behavioral intentions” constructs. However, it integrated them with perceived interactivity constructs, including “real-time conversation” and “engaging” as well as with “content attractiveness” from Electronic Retail Quality (eTailQ).
This empirical investigation clarifies that the content attractiveness of social media posts as well as their engaging content and real-time conversation capabilities, can have significant effects on social facilitation behaviors of individuals, and on their intentions to revisit social media groups. The findings from this study reiterate the importance of continuously creating relevant content that appeals to social media followers.
Previous research posited that online users should keep their followers engaged through rich media (). Other theoretical underpinnings reported that interactive websites, particularly social media and video sharing platforms, can offer great potential to DMOs to promote tourism and hospitality services (). Internet domains can showcase a wide array of high-res images and video clips to lure online users to book their travel itineraries to visit destinations (). The digital media and mobile applications (app) ought to be as functional and responsive as possible (). They should load quickly without delays to reduce the likelihood of dissatisfied visitors, who can easily switch to another website or app ().
In this case, the results suggest that there are very significant effects between the online users’ perceptions about engaging content and their intentional behaviors to check out the social media pages (on a regular basis); and between their perceptions about engaging content and their social facilitation dispositions to communicate about social media groups through online and offline channels, in the presence of others. The respondents are appreciating the attractive content, including images or videos, that are disseminated through the social media groups’ posts. Moreover, the findings indicate that they hold positive perceptions about the co-creation of user generated content. Evidently, the exchange of information as well as the responsiveness between two or more online users was leading them to revisit the social media groups.
This study is consistent with the relevant literature that sought to explore the online users’ perceptions about the websites’ interactivity features (, ). Other researchers maintained that real-time conversations had a positive effect on the online users’ attitudes toward engaging websites (). In this case, this argumentation holds for social media groups, as well.
This contribution underlines the importance of posting engaging content including appealing images and videos through social media. It clearly indicates that interactive content as well as the social networks’ real-time conversation capabilities can foster positive social facilitation behaviors. Arguably, individuals are interested and intrigued to interact with other online users through popular social media groups in the presence of other members. They are likely to join in online discussions and conversations in prolific social media groups, particularly in those that are regularly disseminating attractive content, and in those that facilitate interactive engagement among their members.
The cocreation of user generated content in social media, blogs and review sites is driven by online audiences. This study confirms that the relevance and attractiveness of social media content can have a positive effect on triggering real-time conversations as well as on social facilitation. This reasoning is consistent with the social facilitation theory (,,,). This research corroborates that while the presence of other individuals can increase the likelihood of social engagement, a passive audience may inhibit them from sharing their comments about the attractiveness of interactive content.
The findings of this research also yield plausible implications to practitioners. The researchers indicate that social media subscribers are attracted by the online content that is being posted by DMOs and travel marketers. Online users and prospective travelers are increasingly browsing through interactive content including images and videos of travel destinations. The social media groups are offering a variety of multimedia content that is appealing to online users. Very often, they allow their followers to engage in two-way communications, as members can comment on posts and may also interact with other online users, in real-time. This study suggests that the research participants are visiting the social media groups as they considered them as helpful for their decision making, prior to booking their travel itineraries. Apparently, they were intrigued to revisit these groups and were likely to communicate about their content with other people through offline and online channels, as it appealed to them and captured their attention.
Therefore, travel marketers ought to focus on publishing quality content. This increases the chances of their engagement. Prospective travelers are attracted by multi-media features including high-res images with zooming effects and video content; that are adapted for mobile technologies, including tablets and smartphone devices. Travel marketers and DMOs ought to curate their social media group(s) with appealing content to raise awareness about their tourism products. It is in their interest to share relevant and attractive material to increase the number of followers and their engagement. More importantly, they are expected to interact with online users, in a timely manner, to turn them into brand advocates and to encourage social facilitation behaviors.
In sum, this empirical research clarifies that the attractiveness of online content of social media groups, including their images and videos of destinations, as well as their interactive and real-time conversation capabilities are affecting their subscribers’ revisit intentions. They are also influencing their social facilitation behaviors – in the presence of others. This study raises awareness on the importance of sharing engaging content and of encouraging interactive discussions among social media subscribers. The researchers contend that content creators can lure individuals to visit and revisit their social media pages/groups to generate leads and conversions. Arguably, the more engagement (e.g. through emojis and shares) and conversations (e.g. comments), the greater the chances of captivating the attention of existing followers and of enticing the curiosity of new ones. For the time being, the social facilitation paradigm is still relatively under-explored in academia, particularly within the travel and tourism marketing literature.
Future researchers are encouraged replicate this study in different contexts. They may adapt the measures that were used in this research, including engaging content, real time conversation and social facilitation constructs, in addition to other popular constructs that are drawn from TRA, TPB and TAM. They may include other constructs in their research models, including those relating to psychological theories that can clarify their motivations to engage with other individuals through such digital channels. Further research could focus on the demographic backgrounds of their respondents to better understand who, why, when and where they are engaging with other users through social media groups. Perhaps, there is scope for other studies to employ different sampling frames and methodologies, including inductive ones, to explore this topic in more depth and breadth.
This is an excerpt from one of my latest contributions on crowdfunding (and crowd investing). Its content was adapted for this blogpost.
Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Bresciani, S. (2022). Crowdfunding small businesses and startups: A systematic review, an appraisal of theoretical insights and future research directions, European Journal of Innovation Management, https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-02-2022-0060
Crowdfunding is an alternative method of raising funds that is independent from financial institutions. Individual entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses can utilize online crowdfunding platforms like Indigogo, SeedInvest and GoFundMe, among others, to access finance for new ventures or existing projects, from a large number of investors, in return for products or equity stakes.
Project initiators would usually specify their financing goals and set time frames with deadlines, for their crowdfunding campaigns. If the pre-set funding goal is not met, they will not be in a position to garner any funds for their project.
The fund-raising campaigns have to appeal to as many investors as possible. Hence, initiators ought to feature engaging content, including texts, images, photos, videos, and the like, to lure investors to support their innovative ideas, startups or business ventures. They launch fundraising campaigns through various crowdfunding platforms, in different markets, to connect with online users, thereby circumventing traditional financial institutions like banks, venture capitalists and business angels.
Therefore, the crowdfunding websites curate the offerings they receive and disintermediate traditional distribution channels by connecting online users directly with project initiators.
The crowd-investors would usually put their money in those projects in which they believe will hold lucrative potential. They may be considered as shareholders if they provide capital finance, and contribute to the development and growth of crowdfunded projects.
Prospective investors might be willing to be involved in the development and success of entrepreneurial projects including startups. They may be seeking a return on investment for their monetary contributions, particularly if they believe that project initiators could deliver exceptional service quality and/or are in a position to develop new technological innovations and cutting-edge products. Hence, they will usually trust and have faith in the investees’ knowledge and capabilities to foster positive change in business and society.
The following sections critically appraise two sides of the same coin. The researchers elaborate on (i) the demand for crowdfunding products, and on (ii) the supply of crowdfunding finance.
The use of crowdfunding platforms to raise capital requirements
Small businesses and startups experience difficulties in raising modest amounts of capital. External threats from the marketing environment including the state of the economy, government regulations, tax laws, labor legislation and fluctuations in interest rates, among other issues, could have devastating effects on such entities.
As a result, they may find themselves in an equity gap, if they cannot raise finance to foster innovation for their business. Their access to equity or debt financing through traditional institutions like banks and/or other financial service providers is usually very limited. Typically, they are required to provide a collateral to obtain finance, even though, young enterprises and startups with promising opportunities for potential investment may usually prefer having a lower debt/equity ratio.
In the past decade, a number of individuals, groups, organizations as well as entrepreneurs and startups resorted to crowdfunding, to finance their ideas, ventures or projects. The most popular crowdfunding products include donation-based crowdfunding, rewards-based crowdfunding, equity crowdfunding, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending/lending crowdfunding, and debt-securities crowdfunding, among others.
⚫The peer-to-peer lending is very similar to traditional borrowing from a bank as crowd investors lend money to a company with the understanding that they will be repaid with interest.
⚫Equity crowdfunding projects may usually involve the sale of a stake of a business to a number of investors. This type of crowdfunding is very similar to venture capital finance.
⚫Investors may be drawn to rewards-based crowdfunding to receive non-financial rewards, such as goods or services, in exchange of their contributions.
⚫Alternatively, individuals may be willing to donate their funds for charitable, humanitarian or philanthropic purposes, without expecting any financial returns
Project initiators of successful crowdfunding campaigns are capable of communicating their business propositions and solutions, as they raise awareness on disruptive innovations among large audiences through digital media.
The diffusion of innovations theory suggests that there are five key elements that could influence the diffusion of a new idea (through crowdfunding platforms), including the innovation itself, adopters/users, communication/media channels, time, as well as social systems. Crowdfunding platforms allow creators to promote their projects to generate interest and to ultimately lure investors. Notwithstanding, project initiators as well as the crowdfunding investors are affected by various communication channels, including by competing organizations and regulatory institutions.
The subjective norms in society can influence the individuals’ intentions to use innovations like crowdfunding platforms. The crowdfunding projects could attract the attention of competitors, who may be quicker to develop technological innovations or substitute products, as they could have access to financial capital, economies of scale and scope, to mimic small businesses and start-ups’ ideas.
Debatably, this argumentation is synonymous with the resource-based view theory (RBV). New businesses like startups, as well as small businesses may usually possess fewer resources including liquidity, than established businesses. They may also have access to limited competences and capabilities. Notwithstanding, they may not be considered as legitimate as their larger counterparts by their stakeholders, including by the government, creditors, venture capitalists and other investors.
However, in the past decade, a number of regulatory institutions have introduced legislation in various contexts (like the U.S.’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups – JOBS Act). These laws and the revisions that followed, were intended to support early-stage companies and startups to raise their financial requirements through crowdfunding avenues.
Crowdfunding allows for the democratization of funding, as it is essentially borderless and not geographically constrained. Businesses, enterprises and startups can use crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for on their projects. They can appeal to larger audiences through the digital media.
Project initiators are encouraged to engage with online investors through crowdfunding platforms, to provide feedback relating to products or services, in order to increase their chances of reaching their financial goals. Ultimately, it is in their interest to disseminate relevant content to project backers for transparency purposes, and to improve their credentials with stakeholders.
Investments in crowd funding products
Generally, crowdfunding links the creators/proponents of projects with potential investors. The latter ones could avail of crowdfunding digital platforms to reduce their search and transaction costs. These online users hope to identify lucrative investment opportunities that could yield them attractive returns. Such investors may be drawn by high-quality, market-oriented (commercial) projects and by their rewards, as opposed to community-oriented, not-for-profit projects with social or environmental purposes, that may be promoted via low minimum prices, to appeal to sponsors.
Project initiators of commercial entities may be wary of providing details of their intellectual properties (particularly during the early stages of their crowdfunding campaigns), as they may be concerned that someone could steal their ideas, innovations and projects. They could (willingly or unwillingly) decide not to disclose material information like historic defaults or hidden costs, even after the investor becomes a member of the crowdfunding platform.
As a result, investors of crowdfunded projects may not always have adequate and sufficient information on the borrowers of finance, as crowdfunding platforms may not exercise thorough due diligence on their users. This argument is related to the reasoning behind the signaling theory. In fact, many researchers relied on this theory to explore the signals that are communicated by project creators to lure investments from crowd funders.
Notwithstanding, the most popular crowdfunding platforms may or may not operate from the same jurisdiction of the crowd-investors. Hence, they are not always offering complete protection according to local legislation and regulations. Thus, they could not guarantee the same level of comprehensive appraisals that are provided by local financial service providers. This contentious issue could lead to problems related to information asymmetry. In some circumstances, the failure to disclose material information to crowd-investors may result in near-fraudulent consequences.
Investors may usually try to find a tradeoff between potential rewards and risks from crowdfunding opportunities. They could be attracted by (higher than normal) potential returns that certain crowd-funding activities claim to offer. Therefore, they ought to be cautious and vigilant on their possible risks of default.
If equity crowdfunded projects fail, investors could not be in a position to pay back capitals and to provide any returns to their investors. Similarly, the investors of P2P crowdfunding/lending may also risk losing their funds through unsecured loans, especially if the borrowers did not require any collateral. The investors of equity financing may encounter certain difficulties, other than default. They can find out that there is no lucrative secondary market for their shares. As a result, they might find themselves liquidating them at a significant loss, or of diluting their stock value.
This contribution discusses about the benefits and costs of using crowdfunding platforms to raise finance, or as plausible investment options. The authors elaborate about various challenges and identify opportunities for project initiators (like small business and startups), as well as for crowd-investors.
Currently, there are just a few articles that are linking this timely topic with key theoretical underpinnings relating to technology adoption and/or innovation management (e.g. Diffusion of Innovations Theory, Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) or the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT), strategic management (e.g. Decision-making Theory; Goal Attainment Theory or RBV), accounting and financial reporting (E.g. Signaling Theory or Venture Quality Theory), and normative/business ethics research (e.g. Social Capital Theory, Social Responsibility Theory and Stakeholder Theory), among others.
For the time being, there are limited discursive contributions on crowdfunding of small businesses and startups. This research sought to address this gap in the academic literature. It clearly outlines the facilitators and barriers of using crowdfunding platforms for crowd sourcing and/or for crowd investing purposes, to better understand the demand / supply for crowdfunding.
In future, other researchers may explore the crowd sourcing possibilities of different types of businesses including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), nonprofits, and cooperatives (co-ops), among other entities. They may categorize enterprises, according to their staff count. Prospective authors could investigate the financing of micro enterprises, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), intermediate-sized enterprises and/or large-sized enterprises. Moreover, they could even distinguish among various start-ups like small business startups, scalable startups, buyable startups and/or off-shoot startups, et cetera.
This contribution is a excerpt from my latest article that was published by Springer’s Technology, Knowledge and Learning (Journal).The content has been adapted for this blog post.
Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). Learning from anywhere, anytime: Utilitarian motivations and facilitating conditions to use mobile learning applications. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-022-09608-8
University students are using mobile technologies to improve their learning outcomes. In the past years, a number of academic authors contended that educational apps were supporting many students in different contexts Butler et al., 2021; Crompton & Burke, 2018; Hamidi & Chavoshi, 2018; Sung et al., 2016; Tosuntas et al., 2015). In the main, they maintained that ubiquitous technologies enable them to access learning management systems and to engage in synchronous conversations with other individuals (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021).
One may argue that the m-learning paradigm is associated with the constructivist approaches (Chang et al., 2018), including those related with discovery-based learning (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2019c). Relevant theoretical underpinnings suggest that the use of mobile apps can improve the delivery of quality, student-centered education (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021; Camilleri, 2021b; Chang et al., 2018; Crompton & Burke, 2018; Furió et al., 2015; Lameu, 2020; Nikolopoulou et al., 2021; Sung et al., 2016; Swanson, 2020). This research raises awareness on m-learning technologies that enable students to search for solutions for themselves through the Internet and via learning management systems. It also indicated that mobile apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, among others, allow them to engage in synchronous conversations with course instructors and with their peers, in real time.
This study explored the users’ perceptions about m-learning technologies. It validated key constructs from TAM Briz-Ponce et al., 2017; Cheung & Vogel, 2013; Granić & Marangunić, 2019; Ngai et al., 2007; Scherer et al., 2019; Thong Hong & Tam, 2002) and UTAUT (Gunasinghe et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2019), as shown in Table 1.
The descriptive statistics clearly indicated that the research participants felt that m-learning technologies were useful for them to continue their course programs. The principal component analysis confirmed that the students’ engagement with their educational apps was primarily determined by their ease of use. This is one of the main factors that influenced their intentions to engage with m-learning apps.
The findings revealed that higher education students were using m-learning apps as they considered them as useful tools to enhance their knowledge. Evidently, their perceptions about the ease of use of m-learning technologies were significantly correlated with their perceived usefulness. In addition, it transpired that both constructs were also affecting their attitudes towards usage, that in turn preceded their intentions to use m-learning apps.
The results also revealed that the respondents were satisfied by the technical support they received during COVID-19. Apparently, their university provided appropriate facilitating conditions that allowed them to engage with to m-learning programs during the unexpected pandemic situation and even when the preventative restrictions were eased.
The stepwise regression analyses shed light on the positive and significant relationships of this study’s research model. Again, these results have proved that the respondents were utilizing m-learning apps because their university (and course instructors) supported them with adequate and sufficient resources (i.e. facilitating conditions). The findings indicated that they were assisted (by their institution’s helpdesk) during their transition to emergency remote learning. In fact, the study confirmed that there was a positive and significant relationship between facilitating conditions and the students’ engagement with m-learning technologies.
On the other hand, this empirical research did not yield a statistically significant relationship between the students’ social influences and their intentions to use the mobile technologies. This is in stark contrast with the findings from past contributions, where other researchers noted that students were pressurized by course instructors to use education technologies (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2020; Teo & Zheng, 2014). The researchers presume that in this case, the majority of university students indicated that they were not coerced by educators or by their peers, to use m-learning apps. This finding implies that students became accustomed or habituated with the use of mobile technologies to continue their course programs.
This research builds on previous technology adoption models Davis et al., 1989; Venkatesh et al., 2003; 2012) to better understand the students’ dispositions to engage with m-learning apps. It integrated constructs from TAM with others that were drawn from UTAUT/UTAUT2. To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, currently, there are no studies that integrated facilitating conditions and social influences (from UTAUT/UTAUT2) with TAM’s perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness and attitudes. This contribution addresses this knowledge gap in academia. In sum, it raises awareness on the importance of providing appropriate facilitating conditions to students (and educators). This way, they will be in a better position to use educational technologies to improve their learning outcomes.
This research indicated that students held positive attitudes and perceptions on the use of m-learning technologies in higher educational settings. Their applications allow them to access course material (through Moodle or other virtual learning environments) and to avail themselves from video conferencing facilities from everywhere, and at any time. The respondents themselves considered the mobile technologies as useful tools that helped them improve their learning journeys, even during times when COVID-19’s preventative measures were eased. Hence, there is scope for university educators and policy makers to create and adopt m-learning approaches in addition to traditional teaching methodologies, to deliver quality education (Camilleri, 2021).
Arguably, m-learning would require high-quality wireless networks with reliable connections. Course instructors have to consider that their students are accessing their asynchronous resources as well as their synchronous apps (like Zoom or Microsoft Teams) on campus or in other contexts. Students using m-learning technologies should have appropriate facilitating conditions in place, including adequate Wi-Fi speeds (that enable access to high-res images, and/or interactive media, including videos, live streaming, etc.). Furthermore, higher education institutions ought to provide ongoing technical support to students and to their members of staff (Camilleri & Camilleri, 2021).
This study has clearly shown that the provision of technical support, as well as the utilization of user-friendly, m-learning apps, among other factors, would probably improve the students’ willingness to engage with these remote technologies. Thus, course instructors are encouraged to create attractive and functional online environments in formats that are suitable for the screens of mobile devices (like tablets and smartphones). There can be instances where university instructors may require technical training and professional development to learn how to prepare and share customized m-learning resources for their students.
Educators should design appealing content that includes a good selection of images and videos to entice their students’ curiosity and to stimulate their critical thinking. Their educational resources should be as clear and focused as possible, with links to reliable academic sources. Moreover, these apps could be developed in such a way to increase the users’ engagement with each other and with their instructors, in real time.
Finally, educational institutions ought to regularly evaluate their students’ attitudes and perceptions toward their m-learning experiences, via quantitative and qualitative research, in order to identify any areas of improvement.
Research limitations and future research directions
To date, there have been limited studies that explored the institutions’ facilitating conditions and utilitarian motivations to use m-learning technologies in higher education, albeit a few exceptions. A through review of the relevant research revealed that researchers on education technology have often relied on different research designs and methodologies to capture and analyze their primary data. In this case, this study integrated measures that were drawn from TAM and UTAUT. The hypotheses were tested through stepwise regression analyses. The number of respondents that participated in this study was adequate and sufficient for the statistical purposes of this research.
Future research could investigate other factors that are affecting the students’ engagement with m-learning technologies. For example, researchers can explore the students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to use educational apps. These factors can also have a significant effect on their intentions to continue their learning journeys. Qualitative research could shed more light on the students’ in-depth opinions, beliefs and personal experiences on the usefulness and the ease of use of learning via mobile apps, including serious games and simulations. Inductive studies may evaluate the effectiveness as well as the motivational appeal of gameplay. They can possibly clarify how, where and when mobile apps can be utilized as teaching resources in different disciplines. They can also identify the strengths and weaknesses of integrating them in the curricula of specific subjects.
Prospective researchers can focus on the design, structure and content of m-learning apps that are intended to facilitate the students’ learning experiences. Furthermore, longitudinal studies may provide a better understanding of the students’ motivations to engage with such educational technologies. They can measure their progress and development, in the long term. The students’ perceptions, attitudes and intentions to use m-learning technologies can change over time, particularly as they become experienced users.
This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by the 6th International Conference on E-Education, E-Business & E-Technology (ICEBT2022).
Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Camilleri, A.C. (2022). A cost-benefit analysis on remote learning: A systematic review and implications for the future. 6th International Conference on e-Education, e-Business and e-Technology (Beijing, China: 26th June 2022). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4104629
After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions were expected to adapt to an unexpected crisis situation. In many cases, they had to follow their policy makers’ preventative measures to mitigate the contagion of the pandemic [1, 2]. As a result, they introduced contingency plans, and disseminated information on the virus, among students and employees. In many cases, educators were coerced to shift from the provision of traditional, face-to-face teaching and blended learning approaches, to a fully virtual remote course delivery [3, 4]. This transition resulted in a number of challenges to students and instructors . Educators were pressurized to utilize digital technologies including learning management systems (LMS) as well as video conferencing programs . Very often, they relied on their institutions’ Moodle or virtual learning environment (VLE) software to share digital resources including videos, power point presentations and links to online notes . During the pandemic educators also acquainted themselves with video-conferencing platforms .
Subsequently, when COVID-19 restrictions were eased, a number of educational institutions reopened their doors to students and employees . They introduced social distancing policies and hygienic procedures in their premises [4, 10]. At the time of writing, a number of academic members of staff, in various contexts, are still utilizing learning technologies including LMS and video conferencing programs . Currently, student-centered educators are adopting hybrid/blended learning approaches, as they deliver face-to-face lectures in addition to online learning methodologies. Very often, they do so to support students who are not in a position to attend their lectures on campus.
A synthesis of the literature on the costs and benefits of remote learning
Many researchers noted that Covid-19 disrupted the provision of education. In the main, they reported that there were various challenges for the successful implementation of remote learning [17, 23-25]. For example, one of the contributions implied that the prolonged use of virtual platforms might negatively impact the efficacy of synchronous learning .
Various studies indicated that the research participants were not always pleased with the quality of education that was provided by their educators, during the pandemic . Academic commentators indicated that faculty members were not experts in the delivery of remote/online instruction. They implied that instructors could require periodic developmental training to improve the service quality of their courses [4, 10].
While a few researchers noted that students appreciated the availability of recorded lectures , others reported that educators were not always recording their lectures and/or did not share learning resources with them . This issue could have affected the students’ learning outcomes [30, 31]. In fact, some students were worried about their academic progress during COVID-19 . In many cases, they encountered a number of difficulties during remote course delivery. For instance, online group work involved additional planning as well as institutional support . Previous literature suggests that students necessitate counseling, tutoring and mentoring as well as ongoing assurances to succeed [34, 35].
In many cases, the researchers discovered that course participants required adequate training and support to complete their assessments [23, 24, 36]. A few of them also hinted that was a digital divide among students could have been evidenced among those who experienced connectivity and equipment problems, among other issues [5, 37]. Other authors argued about the individuals’ challenges to focus on their screens for long periods of time . Notwithstanding, educators and students may develop bad postures and other physical problems due to staying hunched in front of a screen. Therefore, students ought to be given regular breaks from the screen to refresh their minds and their bodies.
Generally, a number of contributions shed light on the benefits of using remote learning technologies, including learning management systems [1, 21, 29, 32] and interactive conferencing programs (1, 6, 17, 33]. Such educational technologies can help in creating rich social interactions [38-40] as well as positive learning environments – that foster learning and retention [41, 42]. Previous research indicated that digital learning resources can enhance the students’ knowledge and skills . Remote instruction approaches can also provide supportive environments to students  and could even increase their chances of learning [30, 31]. Virtual lectures may be recorded or archived for future reference . Hence, students or educators could access their learning materials at their convenience [44-46].
Several researchers underlined the importance of maintaining ongoing, two-way communications with students, and of providing them with appropriate facilitating conditions, to continue improving their learning journeys [6, 47-48]. Video conferencing technologies allow educators to follow up on their students’ progress. They facilitate online interactions, in real time, and enable them to obtain immediate feedback from their students [1, 49]. Notwithstanding, there are fewer chances of students’ absenteeism and on missing out on their lessons, as they can join online meetings from home or from other locations of their choice.
This review implies that online technologies have opened a window of opportunity for educators. Indeed, learning management systems as well as conferencing programs are useful tools for educators to continue delivering education in a post covid-19 context. However, it is imperative that educational institutions invest in online learning infrastructures, resources and facilitating conditions, for the benefit of their students and faculty employees. They should determine whether their instructors are (or are not) delivering high levels of service quality through the utilization of remote learning technologies to continue delivering student-centered education.
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This is an excerpt from one of my latest articles that was accepted for publication by Wiley’s Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility (formerly known as Business Ethics: A European Review).
This contribution validated the Elaboration Likelihood Model’s (ELM’s) measures and key constructs relating to the Information Adoption Model (IAM). Specifically, this research identified the effects of information relevance, information accuracy, information accuracy, source trustworthiness and source expertise on the individual’ attitudes toward online CSR communications.
The results confirmed that both central as well as peripheral factors (to a lower extent) were having a significant effect on the targeted audiences’ changing attitudes toward corporate communications. In sum, this study indicated that online users appreciated relevant and timely CSR content from trusted sources – that were curated by experts. This finding is conspicuous with relevant theoretical underpinnings on ELM. For instance, Chen and Chang (2018) and even Rawlins (2008) contended that individuals are usually captivated by current, relevant, complete, accurate, reliable, comparable and clear communications.
Relevant academic literature reported that individuals may choose to pursue ELM’s central route, whenever they evaluate the quality of the arguments/information that is communicated to them (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Alternatively, if they are not interested or motivated on the content, they may usually rely on the sources’ credibility to form their attitudes and opinions on their messages. Previous research often utilized ‘source expertise’ and ‘source trustworthiness’ constructs to measure the respondents’ perceptions about the credibility of sources of information.
In this case, this study found that the research participants were more influenced by ELM’s central route processing as information timeliness and information relevance were having nuanced effect on attitudes when compared to the peripheral factors including source expertise. Evidently, the respondents reflected and thought on CSR communications they accessed through the Internet and via social media. This finding implies that the businesses’ elaborated, high-quality content was changing their stakeholders’ attitudes toward CSR information.
Nevertheless, the research model indicated that the participants were somehow affected by peripheral issues, particularly by the source expertise of content curators. Previous literature reported that the recipients of information can still be influenced by the peripheral route’s subjective cues and/or by heuristic inferences (i.e. low elaboration issues). For instance, many individuals are continuously exposed to corporate communications from businesses who have excellent credentials among their followers (Camilleri, 2021a).
The findings from this study revealed that source trustworthiness was the weakest antecedent of the individuals’ attitudes toward CSR communications. This result is similar to previous findings from other studies, where the researchers reported that there were lower effects from peripheral factors like source credibility/source trustworthiness (than from central factors) on information usefulness/attitudes toward information.
This research demonstrated that external stakeholders were mainly processing information relating to the businesses’ CSR activities through the central route, as they considered their communications as elaborate, timely and relevant. However, it also showed that they held positive perceptions about the expertise of content curators who were disseminating information on their CSR credentials via digital media
This contribution has investigated the online users’ attitudes about CSR communications and revealed their perceptions about the sources’ credibility. It implies that businesses can improve their credentials if they publish quality CSR content that is appreciated by their stakeholders. This research suggests that external stakeholders expected businesses to publish relevant information that is accurate and timely. This finding suggests that there is scope for the businesses to regularly update their CSR webpages with the latest developments. For instance, they can publish certain information and newsfeeds about non-financial matters including on their immediate responses to COVID-19 like sanitization and hygienic measures in their workplace environments. They may disseminate health and safety information through social media sites or via online video sharing platforms. They can use different digital media to promote their businesses’ responsible behaviors toward their employees and the community at large, during different waves of the pandemic.
Ultimately, it is in the companies’ interest to communicate about appropriate ESG matters with different stakeholders (Camilleri, 2021b). Businesses ought to use corporate websites to disseminate information on commercial aspects, corporate governance policies, CSR and/or environmental sustainability initiatives as well as on COVID-19. In this day and age, they should also utilize social media networks (SNSs) on a regular basis, to raise awareness about their website, and to interact on different issues with their followers, in real time. They can publish appealing content including images and videos about their CSR activities to entice the curiosity of stakeholders. They may also share excerpts from their CSR disclosures and could feature forward-looking statements that shed light on their trajectories for a post COVID-19 era.
Limitations and directions for future research
This study is not without limitations. The measures that were used to capture the data were drawn from ELM and from its related IAM. These theoretical models were mostly referenced in previous studies that were mostly focused on the co-creation of content, including online reviews and electronic word of mouth publicity. Therefore, the survey items were adapted for a study that sought to explore the online users’ attitudes toward CSR communications. In this case, the results confirmed the reliability and validity of the constructs. Hence, prospective researchers are encouraged to replicate this study in other contexts.
Future studies may consider different constructs that may be drawn from other theoretical frameworks, to shed more light on the individuals’ attitudes toward online communications, information adoption and/or intentional behaviors. Researchers may adopt other constructs to evaluate different aspects of online content. They may investigate perceptions about information access, information understandability, data richness, interactivity and customization capabilities or information completeness, among others. Alternatively, they could determine whether the information is rhetoric, difficult to understand, confusing, ineffective or even useless for online users. Furthermore, alternative research methods and sampling frames can be used to capture and analyze the data. Interpretative studies can explore other stakeholders’ in-depth opinions and beliefs on CSR communications and delve deeper into their content. Inductive studies may reveal other important issues on how to improve the quality and credibility of CSR disclosures in the digital age.
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