Integrating Social Media Into Your E-commerce Website

By Elizabeth Pizzinato Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications , Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts | February 26, 2012

Today, it's clear that consumers are not only embracing, but engaging with new technologies in ways that are changing the face of travel. The challenge that comes with digital innovations is deciding which to lev¬erage, and how to leverage them effectively. Instead of launching one-off initiatives, the most successful brands are developing digital media programs that are holistic, integrated and strategic. 'Going digital' really means authentically interacting with an audience through all of the platforms that make sense, in order to reach the consumer in a way that is seam¬less, intuitive, enhances brand identity and adds value to the customer experience.

At Four Seasons, we've been doing a tremendous amount of research to understand the online behaviors of our guests. Through this work, we uncovered invaluable information around how social media factors in to the decision making process of today's luxury consumers. In fact, this thinking has been integral to the redesign of To support the brand's integrated digital media strategy, the site integrates real-time search, online reviews, blogs, news, Facebook, Twitter and more, that is regionally relevant, multi-lingual and culturally sensitive to appeal to a global audience. In addition, since today's traveler is always connected and using multiple devices, has been optimized for a smart phone and tablet experience that delivers seamless hotel booking, desti¬nation content and social media integration.

There are strong benefits to brands creating original, shareable content online. Four Seasons launched its Have Family Will Travel blog ( featuring real stories from guests travelling with children. The site features kid-friendly recipe and arts and crafts ideas, and links to related blogs. Four Seasons Foodies site ( features chefs blogging about everything from how to make a white chocolate carrot cake to how to carve the perfect holiday turkey. These blogs have allowed us to engage with our guests in new and meaningful ways, and the fresh content gives them a reason to visit frequently.

It is also important to examine best practices outside of our industry for integrating social media into e-commerce platforms. Most luxury e-commerce sites have social media share functionality tools on the individual landing pages of the products, as well as on the main pages of their site. The most common "share" functionalities are to Twitter, Facebook and via Email. Other luxury brands like Barney's New York take the Facebook share to another level; in addition to the "Like" or "Share" functionality, users can send an individual item, such as a dress or pair of shoes, via private Facebook message to a "friend" or to a "group."

Social Media & The Luxury Consumer

Digital think tank L2 reported 78 percent of the affluent participate in social networking sites, with more than half using social media to connect with a brand. Sixty-five percent of wealthy consumers believe that brands that have no presence on social networking sites are out of touch. Twitter, first launched in 2006, has grown from three to 100 million users worldwide, quickly becoming the 'conscious¬ness of the planet' and the primary mode of communication in some countries. Facebook now has more than 800 million active users around the world. China's popular social net¬working site, Weibo, now has more than 250 million users, launching just two years ago.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.