In another sign of malls seeking to stem the flow of shoppers to e-commerce, Simon Property Group Inc., owner of King of Prussia Mall and others, launched its first fully integrated, company-wide Facebook Messenger bot on Tuesday.
The bot seeks to offer a full digital concierge experience for shoppers at all 208 Simon properties in North America, including the Philadelphia Mills, Oxford Valley Mall, and the Premium Outlets brand, according to a Simon representative.
The concierge bot — part of the Facebook Messenger Application, which 1.2 billion people already have on their smartphones — will give shoppers a way to get real-time information as they shop, including store locations, hours of operation, special events, promotions, and amenities.
Examples may include when a shopper is trying to find the location of a certain store in proximity to another, such as, "What is the Michael Kors at Gloucester Premium Outlets next to?" Another: "Are the valet parking lots near Neiman Marcus all taken up?" Or, "How late are the Dave & Buster's and movie theater open at Philadelphia Mills in Northeast Philadelphia?"
The concierge bot will also know all current promotions going on, such as 30 percent off at Old Navy.
To access the concierge bot, go to: https://www.messenger.com/t/shopsimon.us, or search for the nearest Simon mall in Facebook Messenger. There's no cost to use it, and any deals over the bot are also available to non-bot shoppers.
The bot is being powered by Snaps, (http://makesnaps.com), the same technology behind the chatbots and emoji keyboards for more than 120 major brands, including Nike Jordan, Marriott Rewards, and Nordstrom.
Simon's concierge bot will also provide personalized recommendations to users' preferred shopping center, and access to lifestyle content tailored to their interests, drawn from Simon Said, the Simon Group's fashion, beauty, and dining publication.
All 208 Simon malls will have their own unique bots — from the Montgomery Mall to the Forum Shops at Caesers Palace in Las Vegas.
"Millions of Facebook Messenger users now have access to a broad set of information about their favorite center through Facebook Messenger," Mikael Thygesen, Simon's chief marketing officer and head of innovation efforts, said in a statement.
Said Christian Brucculeri, Snaps' chief executive officer: "We look forward to adding more capabilities and intelligence to this bot over the coming months."
Ben Conwell, Americas practice leader for e-Commerce at Cushman and Wakefield and a former executive at Amazon, said some shoppers will view the new technology as either convenient or creepy.
"Retailers benefit because the systems provide valuable data on shopping patterns, flow through the store, length of visit and purchase yields," he said. "With the store app active, the technology is effective at 'push' promotions with stores recognizing shoppers' past habits and tailoring coupons or directions within the store for likely impulse buys."
In March, Simon garnered attention for linking technology with fashion when Coach at King of Prussia Mall became KOP's only store to offer a 3-D virtual reality tour of New York Fashion Week for its shoppers using VR headsets.
The 3-D tour was part of an exclusive partnership involving Simon Group, retailer Coach, talent management firm IMG, and Facebook, and was available at other Coach stores in Simon malls nationwide.