Sonae opens Europe's first autonomous store in challenge to Amazon

Gabby Fernie

Portuguese retailer, Sonae has opened Continente Labs, its first autonomous store working in partnership with autonomous retail company, Sensei

Opening today in central Lisbon, the company is taking on Amazon in the space after the US tech giant opened two stores in the UK. 

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, creating a frictionless and seamless shopping experience. A digital receipt is then received in the app almost immediately after purchase.

Sensei’s technology relies on an integrated system that blends cameras, sensors and AI algorithms. 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.

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.

“Since we met Sensei at the end of 2018, we have been extremely excited and committed to together rethink the store shopping experience" said Director of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Sonae MC, Frederico Santos. "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."