Hotels have always loved gift shops. But Westin Hotels & Resorts is taking its shopping experience to a whole new level, and says it is launching the first hotel-branded storefront for Amazon.com. In addition to Westin-branded products already available on its own Web site, such as its 10-layer Heavenly Bed and Heavenly bath products, the shop will sell items from other "like-minded brands": Gaiam, Kate's Paperie, Tea Forté and Riedel, for example.
Westin, based in White Plains, N.Y., says it already knows these products are a hit with consumers. Since it launched its first retail initiative back in 2000, it has sold nearly 40,000 Heavenly Beds, 100,000 pillows, 32,000 sheets, and more than 10,000 signature Heavenly spa amenities.
Setting up shop on Amazon "makes a lot of sense for a company like Westin, as the line between hospitality and retail is blurring," Eric Best, CEO of Mercent, tells Marketing Daily -- adding that many hospitality companies, including Disney, have been experimenting with further integrating retail in the whole customer experience. "This offers Westin customers a way to connect after a particular hotel visit, and gives the brand a recurring opportunity to interact with a client."
To introduce customers to the shopping experience, which it says is dedicated to "restoring balance and living well," with fitness gear, healthy snacks, home décor, wellness books and workout DVDs, Westin is offering $100 Amazon gift cards to guests who stay twice mid-week from Feb. 22 through May 13.
"We are excited to partner with America's largest online retailer and help our guests continue to live well beyond the in-hotel experience," says Brian Povinelli, VP/brand management for Westin Hotels & Resorts, in a statement. "This collaboration was designed to drive Westin's mid-week business while extending the brand's balanced living platform."
Westin, owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, has methodically been building up that wellness niche: In 2006, it introduced Breathe Westin, and says it became the first in the industry to go smoke-free; in 2007, it created a menu based on SuperFoods, and last year, it launched a sleep study and sleep hotline with National Sleep Foundation, designed to help business travelers get more z-z-zs.
Of course, there is a potential downside for the brand, says Best, whose firm develops software for retailers to use on such sites as Amazon, eBay, and Google, especially if the retail brand doesn't perform as well as the hotel. "There's always an execution risk," he says. "Both Westin and Amazon are synonymous with high levels of customer service. But Westin will need to deliver -- that means they've got to be well stocked, well priced, fulfill orders on time and without incidents, and offer the same level of customer service and post-sales support."