Digital destinations and marketing technology for SMEs

Impact Area: Innovation for SMEs

Institution: The Business School, Bournemouth University

Leading Academic: Dr. Philip Alford



Research conducted by Dr. Philip Alford at Bournemouth University is transforming small owner-managed enterprises into more entrepreneurial and innovative businesses, enabled by more effective adoption of technology. The Digital Transformation project has the potential to create stronger market orientation and more agile marketing, adhering to the principles of effectual reasoning, whereby business owners create, rather than try to predict, their future through leveraging the means at their disposal, which includes their networks and partnerships.

Businesses were struggling to take advantage of these opportunities and were constrained by a lack of knowledge; in particularly an inability to measure return on investment. Funded by the ESRC, Dr. Alford undertook a detailed study of the barriers, challenges and opportunities facing small businesses.

Data was gathered from 24 owner-managed tourism related businesses, from a wider SME cohort that were part of project exploring the adoption of technology for marketing. By participating in a more in-depth study, owner-managers were able to gain a better insight into how to make their business more competitive.

Benefits and impact
Instrumental impact

For small business owners, the key benefits were enhanced competitiveness, growth and profitability through more innovative use of technology, particularly in digital marketing. This included everything from advertising on social media platforms to website design, and embedding analytics in the marketing planning process.

SMEs also benefitted from increased skills and confidence in the use of digital media. This helped improve efficiency as owners could begin creating and managing their own digital media, leading to better time efficiency and less reliance on third party organisations.

The impact funnelled down to customers, who benefitted from a better experience of small businesses. This had a number of positive repercussions in the form of increased customer loyalty, and generating good word of mouth marketing which helped attract new customers.

Businesses in the area also benefitted from partnership marketing. This can lead to an exchange of knowledge and resources between parties, meaning a possible increase in performance for all the parties involved.

The impact of this research has shown how local businesses can improve their marketing – and ultimately sales – through creating and managing a digital presence. This could potentially impact a business’s’ public image, public relations and income. Through the adoption of evolving technology, a real impact can be seen on a businesses’ overall performance, and Dr. Alford’s research has helped to show how innovative small businesses can adapt to a changing external environment.


Alford, P., Page, S.J., 2015. Marketing technology for adoption by small business, [online] Available at :<> [Accessed 22 July 2015].