Mall of America’s hologram concierge offers gift suggestions

Discussion
Source: VNTANA
Dec 19, 2018
Tom Ryan

For the holiday season, the Mall of America introduced what it claims is the “first-ever Shopping Hologram Concierge.” Ellie the Elf, a 3D-avatar located at the mall’s Holiday Cottage, offers gift advice and supports other shopping needs.

For instance, if shoppers ask Ellie to list gifting categories for a “teen” or “husband,” the character offers categories and asks the shoppers to choose which they would like help with. Further prompts from Ellie help identify the ideal gift suggestions from the mall’s holiday shopping guide. Ellie is also already proving popular with selfie takers.

VNTANA & Mall of America® Launch First-Ever Interactive Shopping Hologram Concierge from VNTANA on Vimeo.

The artificial-intelligence software, from VNTANA, connects a 3D model with a chatbot (i.e., Microsoft Azure, Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, Satisfi Labs) to drive the experience. Ellie can also schedule appointments, provide directions and help with purchases.

“At our core, Mall of America is an experiential retail destination,” said Sarah Townes, VP of marketing at Mall of America, in a statement. She described the hologram technology as “a great way to capitalize on our multi-channel chatbot we launched last year and provides yet another interaction for guests to experience that not only offers a fun interaction but also assistance to those searching for gift ideas.”

The potential for use of hologram tech in retail as well as hotel, gaming and other entertainment settings has received more attention lately with advances in AI and voice-recognition recognition.

In early December, Canadian startup TwentyBN introduced “Millie,” described as “the world’s first context-aware digital companion.” In a review, Bloomberg said the avatar knows where the customer is located in the store with engagement similar to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Millie promises to greet customers, explain product features, encourage customers to touch products and even work as a personal coach for enhanced skills-based learning.

Roland Memisevic, TwentyBN’s CEO, told Bloomberg, “It is novelty that draws attention but then you really start to feel a connection to her.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see interactive holographic sales assistants largely serving as attractions for stores or becoming truly beneficial to the purchasing process? What questions or concerns would you have about the emerging technology?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"As this technology evolves and becomes more complex and seamless it will become a normal aspect of our future shopper journey. "
"As is the case with all the emerging technologies, AI, AR, machine learning, etc., retailers and brands should take a crawl, walk, run approach..."
"Right now this is a novelty. However, once the technology really works – as in AI really being able to help the customer – it will move from novelty to benefit."

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9 Comments on "Mall of America’s hologram concierge offers gift suggestions"


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Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Right now this is a novelty. However, once the technology really works – as in AI really being able to help the customer – it will move from novelty to benefit. AI has progressed to what some would call amazing, but that is only in higher-level and more expensive solutions. Making appointments and reservations need to be quick and easy — as in quicker and easier than pulling out your iPhone and asking Siri to connect you to the mall restaurant or hair salon. I’m excited about the future, and forward-thinking businesses like Mall of America are setting us up for a more convenient future.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

This is mainly a gimmick at the moment, and it will take a long time before it becomes more than that. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to get consumers to buy in, including just the desire to speak to a hologram instead of a person or using their phones. Not to mention the tech has to be up to the task of answering questions, and I’d fully expect people to try to “break” the hologram by asking it increasingly difficult questions.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

As is the case with all the emerging technologies, AI, AR, machine learning, etc., retailers and brands should take a crawl, walk, run approach as it pertains to integrating these into the in-store experience. While there is potential for interactive holographic assistants to add some value to the shopping experience, for the moment this is very much a novelty, and we should expect to see these innovations on the top floor of NRF in January.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The challenge with understanding AI today is that we can’t imagine what it will actually provide. Before the smartphone, did we ever imagine the power of the device?

Today Ellie is a novelty, though I would not be surprised to see people lining up to talk to an elf. But if the software is available and has value, it will migrate to our phones and we won’t need Ellie.

(It just occurred to me that we still call these devices that we carry around “phones.” A phone is a device developed for talking that we rarely use for talking.)

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

This hologram concierge is clearly a novelty/gimmick at this stage but as this technology evolves and becomes more complex and seamless it will become a normal aspect of our future shopper journey. It will be a personal experience most likely associated with our home and/or mobile device as opposed to a public novelty.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
9 months 1 day ago

For anyone that doesn’t think retail has changed, just step back and look at this discussion on the purchasing process:

  1. it’s about sales assistants;
  2. that are interactive, and;
  3. are holograms.

As Shep mentioned, for now this is a novelty. Yet, the move by The Mall of America is brilliant and will generate the type of buzz and demand that is necessary for technology to turn the glitter of shiny objects into practical uses that enhance and even change the way we live, play and work.

Like never before, technology is opening up new models of engagement and value creation. Adoption of AI and holographic-type technologies will happen faster than we expect as these bring together multiple emerging technological threads positioned for the convenience of the consumer. Retailers cannot ignore the new models of customer engagement and delivering exceptional experiences.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Let me join the chorus. Right now the emphasis is on novelty, over time it has to move toward superior service. We can only speculate on how AI could, and will, impact retailing, but I think it will take more than a talking hologram to give us the answer.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

These things are, and always have been, novelties and ignored in droves by shoppers. Why? We’ve all learned they have nothing interesting or unique to offer — and that our own perusing of the shelves is far more effective.

To accept this we need go no further than consider Amazon suggestions. Amazon has 20 years of data about my buying (books and more) as well as any aggregated data they’ve aggressively pulled together about me. And, yet, I have never responded to a suggestion from Amazon. Their algorithm is so bad that they quite often recommend my own book to me.

My sense is that tech advocates sell things like this heavily never really looking at what shoppers need. Retailers should be very skeptical of computer assisted shopping — there is not evidence yet that it can be significantly helpful.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

What is this adding? Maybe it’s fun for some, but I see it as pointless. It’s a gimmick with little value.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As this technology evolves and becomes more complex and seamless it will become a normal aspect of our future shopper journey. "
"As is the case with all the emerging technologies, AI, AR, machine learning, etc., retailers and brands should take a crawl, walk, run approach..."
"Right now this is a novelty. However, once the technology really works – as in AI really being able to help the customer – it will move from novelty to benefit."

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