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Try Before You Buy: How Retailers Are Using Hotels For Marketing

Retail brands are using hotels to market products. Does it work?

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BY Kayla Matthews - 10 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

You might not immediately think of a hotel as the most likely way to sell products, but retailers are excited about the possibilities of this unconventional, intriguing approach.

But there are four methods retailers are using to get people who stay over to become more familiar with products.

1. Making It Easier for Guests to Experience--Then Buy--Products

Many people balk at buying items for their homes because it's hard to envision whether the products they see on the shelves will be as fantastic during real-life use.

That's probably why Restoration Hardware has been hard at work planning a 14-room hotel with a proposed rooftop deck and swimming pools.

The company recently received planning permission for the property, which is located in a historic building within Manhattan's Meatpacking District.

Restoration Hardware already has a section of its website devoted to hotel bedding, and it's filled with luxurious Italian linens. Going to a Restoration Hardware retail location and feeling the sheets is one thing, but sleeping on them for a few nights leaves no doubts about how great they feel.

While staying in this planned hotel, guests could find furniture and other home accessories in their rooms that they can't wait to own. Then, thanks to a nearby Restoration Hardware retail location, they can quickly go and purchase items to enhance their abodes.

2. Giving a Platform to Emerging Artists

It's not uncommon for hotels to fill lobbies and rooms with artwork from local painters or photographers.

However, the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is taking that concept to a new level. Since it opened in the late 19th century, the hotel has been known for Victorian art and now has a permanent, 80-piece collection.

It also boasts a forward-thinking artist-in-residence program that showcases the work of an artist and even allows guests to get customized pieces on the spot. Every year, the hotel welcomes a new creator who sets up his or her studio in the lobby.

Currently, the lucky person is Margaret Muza. She offers tintype photography, a process that's even older than film. For $150, hotel guests can get self-portraits that Muza makes in about 15 minutes.

This marketing plan is admirable for various reasons. It gives exposure to artists who otherwise may remain largely unknown to people outside the art world, and it's also a way for travelers to buy unique souvenirs from their stays.

Plus, since the Pfister Hotel already has a background in art, this program strengthens that facet of the brand even more.

3. Helping Guests Recreate One of the Best Parts of Their Hotel Experiences at Home

Many upscale hotel brands are enabling guests to focus on the importance of sleep by offering extravagant extras like in-room massages and foods to help them drift off to dreamland. These amenities allow properties to charge significantly higher rates for rooms with specialized beds and other sleep-related perks.

Some hoteliers have even started selling the beds used in the rooms so guests can get the same restful nights of sleep they enjoy at a luxurious hotel throughout the rest of the year.

The Four Seasons hotel chain is one example of a brand that's taking this approach. It has partnered with Simmons to offer exclusive mattresses complete with toppers and opulent sheets.

4. Promoting an Active Lifestyle for Guests on the Go

Many health-conscious travelers moan about having to disrupt their gym regimens when they're away from home. However, because well-known fitness brand Equinox has recently branched out into the hospitality industry, customers can soon enjoy top-notch hotel experiences that keep them fit.

Equinox plans to open its first hotel in Manhattan's Hudson Yards district by 2019 with another one getting established in Chicago afterward.

According to Equinox marketing executive Carlos Becil, the market is ripe for a smooth pairing of a fitness brand and place to stay. He notes that 95% of people polled said they would like to book rooms in an Equinox branded property. Consider that those people were already familiar with Equinox and knew what the brand entails.

However, Equinox is expanding its gym locations, and hotels could add momentum to that process.

Anyone can stay at the Equinox hotels, but people who go to the brand's fitness centers and are members there get special privileges. If non-members are particularly impressed by the quality and amenities offered within their hotel stays, they could realize there is no better time to make good on the promises to start working out more often.

These case studies prove that using hotels as product-selling platforms is a smart idea indeed. People already crave immersive accommodation options that let them escape everyday routines for a while. This kind of branding is an intelligent extension of that reality.