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Sassy AI chatbot helps visitors on Las Vegas Strip

Jules is a sucker for a man in a suit — even though she can’t date humans.

The sassy chatbot has been helping visitors at Miracle Mile Shops for more than a year since it was unveiled by the property in June 2018. The artificial-intelligence-driven service now holds roughly 9,000 conversations a month with shoppers, according to Miracle Mile.

Chatbots aren’t new, but they are a service being increasingly embraced by shopping malls and even hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with its 2-year old chatbot Rose.

Jeff Mitchell of Mountain West Commercial Real Estate said it certainly serves as an attraction for mall owners, as AI technology in retail is still a novel concept for shoppers.

“It’s new technology that people find interesting,” Mitchell said. “It’s a great component that shopping centers can offer to potential customers, but I don’t see that as a huge revenue generator for shopping center owners. I see that as an amenity, something that can draw people in.”

Miracle Mile Shops senior director of marketing Wendy Albert said a lot of shopping centers have chatbots, but they often lack a personality.

When asked for vegetarian-friendly eateries, Jules retorts, “Is it Meatless Monday again?” before listing the available options.

“We wanted to feel like you were actually talking to Jules … like she’s your best girlfriend and she knows everything there is to know about this shopping center,” Albert said. “I think when people come to Las Vegas they want to have fun. So, we wanted to make sure that she stood out from everything else.”

Jules has 350 different types of responses, including one for those visitors asking if she’s married, Albert said.

The chatbot acts as a virtual concierge and chats with customers in real time through text or Facebook Messenger, helping them navigate the 475,000-square-foot shopping and entertainment center.

Shoppers can be as specific or vague as they like when chatting with Jules, like asking where the Footaction store is located, or texting to see a list of stores carrying women’s jeans.

The next evolution of Jules is to soon offer location-based directions. If customers are standing near H&M, they’ll be able to ask for step-by-step directions to the next store on their list.

“They don’t have to go to websites. They don’t have to even go to an app,” said Satisfi Labs CEO Don White, whose artificial intelligence firm created Jules, as well as Mall of America’s chatbot. “I think the future is really moving towards this. We probably have about 10 or so malls now. That’s actually a vertical we’re going to focus on in 2020.”

Walls could talk

Albert said the mall hired a model to give Jules “a face,” and it has splashed her image on the mall’s website, social media pages and throughout the 1.2-mile-long center.

Satisfi Labs has since been able to use Jules as an example to help snag new clients.

White said he was in Tampa, Florida, meeting with a potential client last month who wanted a product like Jules.

“They’re like, ‘We want to Jules-ify what we’re doing,’ ” he said. “It’s quite fun the impression that she’s made.”

Albert said the additional benefit of Jules for Miracle Mile is it can push out store promotions through the app as well as learn what customers are seeking.

“When people ask for specific stores that maybe aren’t available here on property, we send that information to our leasing team so they know that those are stores our customers are asking for,” she said.

That’s something Mitchell, of Mountain West, said is the real benefit of incorporating AI technology.

“What’s really interesting is that we are seeing AI technology being employed for retail site selection now, which is somewhat progressive,” he said.

While the chatbot launched in June 2018, it may still take some time before the mall’s estimated 72,000 daily visitors realize Jules exists.

Several shoppers walking out of the Miracle Mile Shops on Monday afternoon were either unaware of Jules or missed the large banners inside the mall encouraging them to text her with any questions.

Dawn Pipher, who was visiting from Toronto, said she was at Miracle Mile strictly for the popular cosmetics brand Morphe because it charges “a ridiculous amount of money to ship to Canada.”

Pipher said she didn’t see Jules’ image in the center and said the only time she’s ever used a chatbot was to interact with her phone provider. She’d also likely not use one while shopping in-store thanks to Google.

“I shop online — I’m going to say almost 100 percent of the time,” she said. “We went (to Miracle Mile) specifically for one store. So, we’re like Google, Morphe store — nailing it.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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