These high-tech, unstaffed stores are tiny, and open 24/7 to help residents get their groceries in rural Sweden. Take a look inside.

Lifvs convenience store
Inside a Lifvs store. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
  • Stockholm-based startup Lifvs created technology to run self-service grocery stores in Sweden.
  • These stores are unstaffed and run remotely, which means they can be open 24/7.
  • Low labor and rental costs enabled Lifvs to open stores in low traffic areas and rural communities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Stockholm-based startup Lifvs set up and runs mini grocery stores in rural parts of Sweden.
Lifvs convenience stores
The company launched in 2018. Lifvs Press
These stores are located in shipping container-like structures and are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
The stores are completely unstaffed for most of the time.
Lifvs unmanned supermarket stores
A Lifvs unmanned supermarket in Veckholm, a village of a few hundred people, about 80 kilometres from Stockholm. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
This is because they are run remotely using artificial intelligence (AI) technology. 
Cofounder and COO Daniel Lundh told Insider that he launched the company in 2018 because he wanted to solve food deserts (an area that has limited access to fresh food) in rural Sweden.
David Lundh Lifvs found
Daniel Lundh co-founded the company. Lifvs press
He’d seen a gap in the market: more than half of Sweden’s grocery stores closed in the 1990s as larger supermarket chains swooped in. 90% of these stores were in rural locations, he said in a recent phone conversation with Insider. 

‘The industry went through a big shift, they were looking at the States – the Walmarts and the Targets of the world – and Sweden was building these large grocery stores and closing local services,” he said.


“We wanted to go where we were needed most,” Lundh said. Livfs has 27 stores across Sweden.
Lifvs unmanned supermarket stores
It’s the largest unmanned grocery chain in Europe (though its direct competition is limited). JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
The “modules” its stores are housed in are made off-site and shipped to each location.
Lifvs convenience store
The Lifvs stores. Lifvs press
They come in two sizes: 290 square feet and 580 square feet. The smaller version is made of steel, and the larger one of wood. 



These buildings are built from scratch. They are designed to be the perfect width and weight to be transported on the back of the truck.
Lifvs store
The modules being transported across Sweden. Lifvs press
It requires several permits to base a store in a particular location. But once power access is in place, it only takes hours to open a new location.
Lifvs convenience stores
The front of a Lifvs store. Lifvs Press
Low store operating costs and labor costs are at the heart of Lifvs’ business model. This enables the company to serve rural areas where there are fewer customers, and therefore, less business.
So how do you actually shop at a Lifvs store?
Lifvs unmanned supermarket store
A man enters the Lifvs unmanned supermarket store. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Customers first need sign up for the Lifvs app on a smartphone and enter card payment details. The app is connected to BankID, Sweden’s national identification app operated by its banks, which will verify the customer’s details.

You then use app to unlock the door and enter the store. 



Once inside, the customer is free to browse.
Lifvs convenience stores
The Lifvs app. Lifvs Press
To make a purchase, you scan the barcode on an item or on its listing on the shelf. The cost of this product is automatically deducted from your card.


Lundh says the technology behind the app uses AI to offer customers personalized deals and coupons based on their previous shopping trips.
Lifvs convenience store
Deals and discounts appear on the app. Lifvs press
The app also offers recipe suggestions or bundle deals when you scan an item. 


The technology used at Lifvs is akin to what Amazon uses at its cashierless stores, Amazon Go.
Lifvs convenience store
Inside a Lifvs store. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
But there’s a key difference, Lundh said. At an Amazon Go store, the technology will automatically detect when an item is taken from or returned to the shelves (using cameras). These are then added or removed to a virtual basket.

At Lifvs, customers have to physically scan and add items to the app, which gives the company a chance to interact with the customer more, he said. 

“To me, you’re throwing away the biggest advantage by not helping them [the customer] with a shopping list or pushing a recipe or coupon,” he said. 

“If I [the retailer] can only track someone with a camera … that doesn’t give me anything more than the data of what they buy,” he added.

Lifvs stocks around 550 product stock-keeping units (SKU), including meat, vegetables, dairy products, and household goods. Amazon Go convenience size stores stock around 1,000 SKUs, for comparison.
Lifvs convenience store
It doesn’t have a license to sell alcohol but plans to sell tobacco in vending machines soon. Lifvs Press
Space is limited in these stores so rather than having endless options, there is usually one type of product on offer. 

This is a store for shoppers to pick up midweek groceries rather than to do a big weekly shop. The average customer shopping trip lasts three minutes, Lundh said.




Lundh said his team initially had no idea what quantities of food to order up but gradually the data it’s collected on customers’ shopping trips has enabled its techology to make better estimates.
Lifvs convenience store
A member of staff will visit the store every other day. Lifvs Press
The technology is keeping live tabs on stock levels and sell-by dates. “If we know a batch of milk is going old, we can lower the price remotely,” Lundh said. 

A store manager visits each location three times a week to cross-check stock levels. The store is also cleaned at that point. 

This shopping experience is well-suited to Covid times.
Lifvs convenience store
Contact-free shopping. Lifvs Press
Aside from the door handle and the items a customer wants to purchase, it’s contact-free.
The lack of staff keeps low labor costs low but it also makes the store more susceptible to shoplifting.
Lifvs unmanned supermarket store
A security camera is pictured in a Lifvs store. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
While there are cameras in each store, it’s only when the store manager visits that they’d actually notice if items were missing.

Lundh said this slightly clunky system isn’t designed to focus on catching shoplifters but to service the 99% of people who are not shoplifting.

While Livfs plans to keep expanding in Sweden, its biggest opportunity for growth is licensing its technology to other retailers, Lundh said.
Lifvs Convenience store
He receives enquiries about licensing every week from retailers across the US and in most European countries. 

These enquiries vary substantially. “Anything from a local farmer in Portugal to the second-largest grocery chain in the Netherlands,” he said.