A Cheetah Mobile robot works in a shopping mall.  [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Shopping malls are scrambling to come up with new ideas to better entertain consumers for the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, as some provinces and municipalities have called on residents to stay where they work during the period in a bid to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

Shopping malls in Shenzhen and Beijing, for instance, have deployed robots powered by artificial intelligence to issue a variety of coupons for dining, movies, sports and other activities to attract consumers.

Jacky Han, vice-president of marketing at the Chinese tech company Cheetah Mobile, said shopping malls play a central yet complicated role in the retail ecosystem. They provide a venue that connects merchants with customers and offers services and experiences that a single retailer cannot. 

While retailers can target and engage with customers online, it”s been a long struggle for merchants to convert foot traffic into intelligent data, Han said.

AI robots can help solve these problems by functioning as a new medium to revolutionize the shopping experience, Han said, adding that robots can perform as an interactive advertising platform and information desk, transforming the customer experience, boosting sales and ushering in the smart retail era.

According to him, so far, more than 10,000 Cheetah Mobile robots have been deployed in over 1,100 shopping malls in more than 40 cities across China.  

Combining AI, voice technology, full-perception facial recognition, an embedded indoor navigation system and a large touch screen, these service robots can proactively engage customers and personalize each interaction based on their demographic information and previous interaction history. This AI-driven approach to interactive marketing can significantly increase brand awareness with targeted audiences, as well as drive sales, the company executive said.