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Antwerp stores embrace digital technologies to attract customers

Illustration picture shows people waiting outside a shopping centre in the Meir shopping street in the city of Antwerp. (BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM)
05:45 09/06/2022

Antwerp is promoting itself as the shopping city of the future with local stores encouraged to take up new technologies to help and attract customers, VRT News reports.

The city of Antwerp, in collaboration with the Thomas More school and supported by the Flemish government and the European Regional Development Fund, wants to attract more customers to the stores with the "Smart Retail Area" project.

"New, smart technologies makes shopping easier for customers and local traders more successful," says the city’s alderman for finance, Koen Kennis. "This way we remain attractive as a trading place and shopping city. Today there is a combination of online and physical shopping and with this project, we are bringing those ideas closer together."

City guide Tanguy Ottomer has put together a walking route linking the twelve shops in the Smart Retail Area that have digital applications. "We have a robot in a Nespresso store, there are interactive screens, interaction with social media and much more," says Tanguy. "They are not only on the Meir shopping street, but also in the trendy Wilde Zee area, on the Kammenstraat and even in the Zuid district."

According to Ottomer, the city must join the digital revolution. "The world is evolving rapidly, and Antwerp retailers are not always able to follow that very well,” he says. “That is why we are working on this with the city. I still believe in physical shopping, I have to be able to feel clothes myself, but it is important that we as a shopping city keep up with the digital times and make shopping more attractive."

In the Nespresso shop across from the city’s famous Stadsfeestzaal, a robot walks around to help customers. " George, our robot, helps us with the daily routine,” says employee Christy Moerkerke. “We have a self-service operation here and the robot serves the customers. It is especially fun for families with children, it's nice to see the interaction. Of course, we would have preferred to have the real George Clooney here."

The Monar clothing and sneaker store in the Everdijstraat also participates in the Smart Retail Area. "There is a screen here with Instagram posts in which we present our new collection and what we have to offer," says employee Anton Mol. "This way, people can immediately see what they want to buy on social media and that means that we can handle the sale in a more direct way and connect better with our customers."

The Smart Retail Area project will run until the end of 2022.

Written by Nick Amies