Sensei opens the first European autonomous store with retailer Sonae


After announcing a $6.5m seed fund raise last month, Sensei, the autonomous retail tech company, is today launching the first autonomous store opening to the public, in partnership with Sonae, a leading Portuguese retailer.

Sensei is consolidating its position as the leading European provider of autonomous retail, enabling all stores to be scan and queue free. This is the first autonomous store to open in Europe, apart from two others recently opened by a US retailer in the UK.

A frictionless shopping experience

Continente, the largest food retailer in Portugal, part of Sonae group, has opened Continente Labs, its first autonomous store, powered by Sensei’s autonomous technology solution. Located in central Lisbon, it opens to the public on the 26th May. Shoppers will enjoy a frictionless and seamless shopping experience. Guests in store download the Continente Labs App, which acts as a digital payment method. The app generates a QR code that enables users to enter the store, pick their items and leave. The technology only takes a second to interact with on entry and is then seamless for the user. Once shoppers have selected their items, they can simply exit the store, eliminating the need for queuing and payments. A digital receipt is then received in the app almost immediately after purchase.

After a challenging year during which people have avoided crowded spaces and instead opted for virtual shopping experiences for safety reasons, enticing people back to physical stores is a challenge for the retail sector. With this in mind, autonomous stores are more relevant than ever, meeting consumers expectations of contactless experiences, time saving and convenience while providing an experience free from any hassle.

Innovating through a close collaboration

The store opening is a milestone for both Sensei and Sonae, whose close collaboration has delivered this innovative format, a landmark event for the entire retail industry. The integrated system developed by the tech company allows store operations to be more efficient, as it brings the benefits of digital efficiency into the brick and mortar store, augmenting the physical experience with digital seamlessly. Alongside the benefits for the consumers, staff also have tools at their disposal to analyse shelf inventory and replenishment act on it with real time insights.

The future has arrived

Sensei’s technology relies on an integrated system that blends cameras, sensors and AI algorithms. Together, these elements enable the automation of both new and existing stores, providing a fast, convenient, and seamless shopping experience.

Consumers’ movements are tracked as they add or remove items from their shopping list, so the virtual basket is updated in real-time as the product is picked or returned to the shelf. Shoppers can rest assured their identity remains anonymous while shopping and privacy is completely respected while no biometrical or face recognition are used.

Vasco Portugal, CEO and co-founder of Sensei, addresses this as “an historical event. The store of the future is a concept of the past, as we’ve just set autonomous retail as a reality. We are proud to enable a completely transformed experience for both customers and retailers, who are seeking better use of their time, convenience and business optimisation. We’re thrilled to partner with such an experienced retailer as Sonae and to count on their trust to pursue a path of pioneering innovation within the sector.”

“Since we met Sensei at the end of 2018, we have been extremely excited and committed to together rethink the store shopping experience. It has been a pleasure and a constant learning process for both sides, having solved complex tech challenges and continuously improved our business processes. The opening of this store marks an important milestone in what we are sure to be a long and fruitful partnership between both companies”, said Frederico Santos, Director of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Sonae MC.