How store-based retail learns to understand its customers


If retailers have a clear picture of their customer base, they can incentivise the customer through more attractive offers. Sensei has developed an inexpensive way to do just this.

Why do customers buy one product and not another one? Precise answers to such questions have so far only been provided by online retailers. Store-based retailers, by contrast, had to contend with the analysis of their sales figures, expensive statistics, and the assumptions derived from such data. This is no longer the case. Founded in 2015, the startup Sensei developed an analytical method that goes deeper into the matter.

The two Portuguese inventors from Lisbon simply turn the store security cameras already in place into sensors. This means they are evaluating information that was already recorded in the first place. The image data from store-based retailers is supplemented by market data and other information, such as meteorological data and key data from the supply chain. As a result of this platform offered by Sensei, offline retailers can now literally gain a picture of their customers. They can find out which items in the shop spark their interest, how long customers look at them for, and why they ultimately decide to buy them or not. What’s more, this type of analysis allows a better understanding of consumer behaviour, which means implementing more targeted offers becomes inexpensive. Sensei sets great store by consistently complying with the local regulations on data privacy. The startup is already observing the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will come into effect in 2018. This is just one of many issues the METRO Accelerator mentoring program advises Sensei on.


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Joana, Vasco & Paulo

Joana, with your platform you are firmly on the pulse of offline retail. What prompted this idea?

My family has been working in the retail segment for 50 years now. I basically grew up with, and developed a talent for retail. That is why I am fully aware of what store-based retailers are yearning for. Until now, they have not had the information needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of their customers’ buying behaviour. Statistics, for example, are very expensive and difficult to realise in the long-term perspective. With Sensei, my co-founder Vasco Portugal and I, now also want to offer offline retailers something that is already a matter of course for e-commerce retailers: precise analyses and clear measurement results on shopping behaviour.

Your software analyses camera data. How do you protect the privacy of the people on film?

This is a very important issue for us. One thing: we are not recording and analysing any data that could infringe privacy rights.

What support do you receive from the Metro Accelerator program for the development of your business model?

Our mentors are acknowledged specialists and experts in their trade. Their know-how helps us to consider all aspects that are relevant for a start-up business. Being chosen for the Accelerator program from hundreds of applicants is an enormous opportunity for us, and gives us the feeling that we are moving in the right direction.

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