Mall of America has introduced a chatbot that uses AI and natural language to answer customer questions in real time.
Through the technology, visitors accessing its website, mobile app or Facebook Messenger can get answers immediately, whether they're looking to shop or find the nearest restroom.
Next year the chatbot, developed by tech startup Satisfi Labs, will also be incorporated with Mall of America's three new Pepper humanoid robots, which it recently brought to its 5.6 million-square-foot property for the first time since Black Friday weekend. What's more, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant feature is also being included so that mall patrons can ask questions without typing.
In addition to the new chatbot, Mall of America—which draws 40 million visitors annually and is known for entertainment features from an aquarium to an amusement park—Tuesday unveiled an updated website. It features not just the new chatbot, but also rich media and virtual reality that its various brand tenants may use to make their traditionally “solid” tenant pages more “robust,” said Sarah Townes, vice president of marketing at Mall of America.
“It’s a 360-degree integrated approach,” Townes said in an interview. “Our traffic has been very strong throughout the year and we just had another record-breaking Black Friday. We are really trying to keep a pulse of what guests want today, with the end goal of improving guest experiences. We have the ability to be nimble and test and learn in real time. That’s at the forefront of our strategy.”
Townes declined to specify the mall’s comparable sales trend or whether its traffic has actually been going up. But the recent changes are reflective of how malls are responding to the demands of today’s mobile-phone-toting consumers, who want answers right away and see good services and experiences as prerequisites before they even consider shopping a brand. And of course, changes at malls are also aimed at combating the increased shift to online shopping.