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Simon Property (SPG) Rolls Out Santa Bot to Lure Customers


With the holiday season in full swing, Simon Property Group SPG is leaving no stone unturned to attract consumer to its shopping malls. In its latest efforts to counter the e-retail pressure, this mall giant launched “Santa Messenger Bot” which will link retail experience with the digital world through Facebook Messenger.

The Santa Bot add-on on Facebook Messenger will guide shoppers to purchase gifts by locating an appropriate retail outlet based on their interests and preferences. The company has also organized a series of interesting activities and programs at selective malls. It is set to roll out an augmented reality game — Santa’s Helpers — on a new Simon Family app, which will require gamers to help Santa get ready for Christmas.

For added consumer convenience, Simon Property has arranged the “Santa by Appointment” option through which shoppers can make reservations online. Also, the ‘Fast Pass’ option will help customers book an exclusive two-hour window to meet Santa. Further, Simon Properties Malls will be buzzing with programs like “I Saw Santa,” “Pet Photo Night” and “Caring Santa.”

Given the ability of people to spend more during the holiday season, such recent efforts to enhance shopping experience will likely drive mall traffic and boost sales.

Notably, in a bid to beat the retail blues, Simon Property is focused on offering a comprehensive digital experience to its customers. In August, it rolled out the industry’s first concierge bot service, available on Facebook Messenger, to guide customers at its 208 malls. This chatbox seeks to offer real-time information about Simon’s malls, including store locations, hours of operation, promotions, and other amenities offered in the mall.

To make its shopping malls more appealing, the company is overhauling its properties and increasingly adopting omni-channel strategies. It has also resorted to micro-retail modeling that offers store units ranging from 20-200 square feet of space. Further, amid rising popularity of Internet purchases, Simon’s efforts to introduce online brands in the showroom retail space bode well.

Although such revolutionary initiatives are encouraging for the company, retail landlords, including Simon Property, Regency Centers Corp. REG, Kimco Realty Corp. KIM and Taubman Centers TCO, have felt the heat due to consumers’ preferences increasingly shifting toward online retail. This has also resulted in widespread store closures and bankruptcy filing by the owners.

Amid the lackluster retail environment, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company has underperformed its industry year to date. Shares of Simon have descended 8.4%, as compared to the industry’s gain of 9.8%.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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