Checkout-Free Stores: A Transformative Innovation for Grocery Retailers

With consumer expectations continuing to evolve, CXOs must ensure they are connecting with their customers where it matters. Checkout-free stores could be the answer, argues Vasco Portugal (CEO of Sensei). Read now to find out more.

Consumer demand for autonomous retail is increasing with 70% of Brits now wanting an autonomous shopping option.

Autonomous stores use cutting edge software technology to provide shoppers with a convenient and seamless shopping experience. Consumers are living increasingly busy lives, now more than ever, their time is incredibly valuable. Studies show that on average people spend two years of their lives queuing. Hence retailers and consumers alike are embracing this autonomous technology in order to make the most of its many benefits.

Maximising Operational Efficiency

Autonomous technology allows retailers to better utilise shelf space. What was once an area occupied by cashiers is now filled with more displayed products, in turn increasing sales. In addition, the technology is able to keep track of stock in real time, making inventory management much more efficient and mitigating the risk of a customer coming all the way to a store only to find out that the product they want is out of stock.

There is a lot that physical stores can learn from online merchants and autonomous technology can help to close this gap. When I go to a digital shop there are rarely issues with stock, but in physical stores this can often be the case. If retailers embrace the latest technology they will amplify the physical shopping experience and build greater brand loyalty with customers.

As consumer expectations are evermore demanding, retailers can no longer afford to be inefficient and wasteful. So many stores today end up discarding a lot of their unsold products, this is especially the case with supermarkets. Autonomous technology provides real time stock management capabilities, and offers insights on the product shelf-life and interactions with consumers. Retailers that adopt this technology will be able to make better purchasing decisions in the future and reduce stock waste.”

Autonomous retail technology also provides numerous layers of store security. Anyone that walks into a store is monitored via a sophisticated network of cameras and sensors. There are many redundant software modules running in parallel, so even if you manage to sneak something past one module, another will pick it up right away.

Retailers are now seeing the broad value in this technology as we see more and more checkoutless stores open in the UK. They no longer need to worry about the security of their brick and mortar stores or the staff manning them overnight. Autonomous stores can remain open 24 hours a day without staff if necessary, allowing retailers to maximise revenue and reduce costs while significantly improving convenience for the customers.

Autonomous technology provides real time stock management capabilities, and offers insights on the product shelf-life and interactions with consumers. Retailers that adopt this technology will be able to make better purchasing decisions in the future and reduce stock waste.

Vasco Portugal
CEO, Sensei

Vasco Portugal CEO Sensei

Enhancing the Customer Retail Experience

The future of retail will be consumer-centric. As more consumers crave seamless experiences, automated shops become increasingly appealing. Autonomous stores like Continente Labs in Lisbon, integrate AI, sensors, and cameras to discreetly shadow movements that allow consumers to conveniently, and quickly roam in and out of stores.

With automated checkouts, the role of the retail worker is allowed to evolve for the betterment of shoppers and staff. Employees are no longer stuck behind a cashier all day. They will now be on the shop floor acting as ‘store advisors’, providing customers with on demand product advice and assistance.

It is also important that we don’t leave anyone behind as we accelerate towards this retail future. This is why we will see some stores adopt a hybrid model before going fully checkoutless, meaning stores will function as autonomous stores, with an option to use a checkout. This is especially important when we look at the less digitally savvy, or those that might not have a digital device on their person.

Providing Real-Time Consumer Insights

Retailers that are slow to adopt autonomous store technology are missing out on crucial , real-time, consumer insights that will give them a competitive edge.

The surveillance technology present in autonomous stores measures consumer reactions to product placements and layouts. This provides store owners with insights on which products consumers are most interested in, helping them to make better purchasing decisions.

In the long-run, the customer is key to business success. Therefore, it will become even more imperative that businesses adopt autonomous technology to better understand the wants of their consumers, and maximise revenue.

A Trend That Is Here to Stay

The future of retail is autonomous. We have already seen supermarkets such as Aldi, Tesco, and Sainsburys launch and expand their autonomous store offerings in the UK. The convenience this technology affords consumers, coupled with the cost saving and profit maximising benefits to businesses, makes it integral to the future success of physical retail. The retail industry is rapidly evolving. It is time for businesses to invest in their futures or risk getting left behind.



Vasco Portugal
CEO, Sensei

Vasco has more than 15 years of academic and professional experience, in the private sector, in the management of technological products, and previously as a researcher at MIT Systems Engineering. Prior to Sensei, he oversaw META’s entire R&D+I strategy, being responsible for developing innovation by ensuring strategic project decision-making, research, and development of the company’s cutting-edge products.