Social Shopping: Hotels Engage with Online Shopping Sites.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Thursday, 8th December 2011
Frette linens, luxury bath amenities, plush robes, soft slippers, and top-notch electronics are just a few of things that make staying in a luxury hotel so special. But what if you could bring all that home with you?

In a move to keep hotels top of mind, even when travelers aren't traveling, major hotel brands have upped their offerings, giving guests the ability to buy branded (and non-branded) hotel amenities direct from hotel to their home.

Hilton is the newest hotel chain to bring online shopping to hotel guests. Just last month, Hilton HHonors, the loyalty program for Hilton Worldwide's 10 brands, launched its Global Shopping Mall. The online shopping sites lets Hilton award members purchase everything from fitness equipment to Tiffany & Co. jewelry. The catch: you have to be a Hilton HHonors member to buy.

The online shopping sites of hotels aren't a new concept. Marriott International has long offered a Rewards center where members can trade in reward points for electronics, jewelry and fashion accessories. However, with the advent of social media brought guest reviews - both of the hotel and its offerings - giving hotels the opportunity to invite anyone to take their exclusive amenities for a spin. Hotel points have gone beyond extra nights, and now offer added amenities.

"With the expansion of our HHonors Global Shopping Mall, we're giving members around the world the chance to go beyond just stays, to convert points into endless possibilities – whether it's an experience they've always wanted to have or a gift they've always wanted to give," said Jeff Diskin, senior vice president, global customer marketing, Hilton Worldwide, in a prepared statement.

Breaking away from the norm of using points to purchase, the Ritz-Carlton introduced its online shopping site to anyone, regardless of point privileges. At the Ritz-Carlton shops, you can buy candles, cookbooks, glassware, bedding and even mattresses found in Ritz-Carlton's around the world with the simple click of a mouse and a credit card.

What does all this mean in the social media space? How many times have you seen a tweet or Facebook status commenting on how great the pillows are on the hotel bed, or the fragrance of the bath salts? Hotels, sensing the online community's influence, spared no expense to bring those offerings to the general public through online shopping malls -- a move that just might turn a guest shopper into a repeat customer.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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