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Moving into the Future at Retail

As part of their ongoing mission to help clients stay ahead of the competition in a fast-paced, constantly evolving marketplace, The Mars Agency’s Customer Development teams closely monitor the strategic activity taking place across all key retailers and channels.

Each month, the teams compile Marketplace Assessment reports on the retailers (Walmart, Target, Kroger, Amazon) and channels (Regional Grocery, Small Format, Club, Emerging) that are most important to our clients’ business success. The following report outlines 6 noteworthy events across the retail landscape from the team’s most recent round of assessments.

Walmart Sets Sustainability Goals

The Story: Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is on a path to become a more regenerative company. In their “Commitment to Regeneration,” they’ve divided their goals into four categories: climate, nature, waste and people. The goals include reaching zero waste in key operations by 2025, achieving zero emissions across global operations by 2040, and sustainably sourcing approximately 20 key commodities by 2050.

Relevance: Walmart’s stance on prioritizing sustainability is having a positive impact on people and the planet. It also challenges other retailers and brands to follow suit in striving towards regeneration. As consumers continue to place more importance on sustainability, Walmart’s goals are also aligning better with shopper demands.

Opportunity: Sustainability has become an integrated part of Walmart’s business as the retailer looks outward to CPG partners to align with their sustainability goals. Brands should work closely with their Walmart partners to ensure that their products, packaging and supply chain processes are on track to meet the retailer’s goals.


7-Eleven Tests Robot Delivery

The Story: Move over, Wall-E. 7-Eleven has partnered with Serve Robotics to pilot home delivery by a self-driving robot named “Snack-E.” The robots can make deliveries from 1 to 3 miles in under 15 minutes. Every in-store item can be delivered by the robots, even dispensed beverages like Slurpees, as the robots are equipped with cupholders. Artificial intelligence alerts the robots to slow down on rough terrain to ensure spill-free delivery.

Relevance: Although the fee for Snack-E service is the same as for human delivery, shoppers don’t need to tip a robot (at least not yet), making this a less-expensive option. And with sustainability on everyone’s mind, the rechargeable robotic fleet can help reduce the carbon emissions generated by standard automobile deliveries.

Opportunity: Brands should look for ways to plus-up these kinds of new on-demand delivery options, such as promoting product offers to encourage trial. While the program is being piloted in Los Angeles, as it expands across the U.S., brands might consider incorporating this delivery option into their back to school marketing strategy for college students.


Walgreens Tracks Health & Wellness Trends

The Story: The Walgreens brand commercialization team has identified the top health & wellness trends for 2023, with topics ranging from boosting immune systems to buying sustainably made products.

Relevance: By tapping into their internal shopper data, along with information from market research companies like Mintel, Walgreens is forecasting which products will be in highest demand for shoppers in 2023. The retailer is addressing these trends through innovation in its own brand portfolio, making related products available to shoppers at more affordable prices.

Opportunity: Many retailers have trend and shopper insights teams that stay on top of shopper preferences and habits. Walgreens regularly polls their shoppers through surveys and publishes trends in their newsroom for brands to leverage, too. Brands should look at both the 2023 trends report as well as the insights Walgreens will continue to publish to identify areas of opportunity.


Albertsons Launches Health & Wellness Platform

The Story: Albertsons Companies launched a new digital health and wellness platform, Sincerely Health, that’s accessible on the websites and apps of 16 of the grocery retailer’s banners. The platform is designed to connect, educate, encourage and reward customers on their health and wellness journeys, helping them make informed choices regarding food, physical activity, sleep and mindfulness. Customers who sign up through the app will receive $25 off a grocery purchase and can earn additional rewards by taking actions such as setting health goals or responding to recommendations.

Relevance: The Sincerely Health platform was built in collaboration with healthcare providers, insurance companies and technology organizations. Insights gathered from over 10,000 customers and elsewhere will allow the platform to continually evolve through new features, collaborations and enhancements that will seek to establish the program as a trusted and reliable health resource.

Opportunity: Health and wellness-focused initiatives are on the rise. There is valuable opportunity for brands to participate by working with retailers like Albertsons toward the shared goal of helping consumers. Brands can look at offering healthy recipes in the app utilizing their products or building bundled deals within a recipe, as two examples.


Publix to Share P-O-P Results with Brands

The Story: Participation in themed corporate marketing programs has always been a retailer priority and often one of the few ways that brands can earn off-shelf placement in stores such as endcap, lobby and secondary displays. But brands have often considered these programs to be a “cost of doing business,” since retailers often don’t provide any proof of performance metrics.

Relevance: Moving forward, brands participating in themed corporate programs at Publix will be able to connect with their buyers to receive a performance recap 6 to 10 weeks after the campaign’s end date. It’s a great sign that Publix is responding to the needs of its brand partners as the retailer continues growing the marketing capabilities offered to them.

Opportunity: This will be a fantastic resource for brands to leverage as it becomes available. Greater visibility into the impact of in-store tactics and targeted media will help brands better secure ongoing funding for these retailer priorities.


Amazon Makes a Go of the Suburbs

The Story: Despite a recent slowdown on expansion, CEO Andy Jassy has asserted publicly that Amazon still has big plans for brick-and mortar retail. In February, the retailer opened a new Amazon Go store in Puyallup, Washington, the chain’s second suburban location following an opening in Woodland Hills, California, late last year. Still in the “early stages” of its foray into physical retail, Amazon hopes to have a format to “go big on” in 2023, Jassy said. The company also plans to test c-store concepts to see what traction it might get in that channel.

Relevance: The suburban Go concept includes a broader selection of grab-and-go food and beverages, according to Amazon, as well as more beer, wine and other essentials than a typical inner-city location. Suburban Go stores also have a made-to-order kitchen, specialty beverages, and products from local businesses.

Opportunity: This shift to the suburbs provides an avenue for brands to garner data on shoppers at a new location and learn how to respond to their needs. With grab-and-go food also available at large retailers in the area, it will be interesting to monitor what items are attracting shoppers to these suburban Amazon Go stores.


The Mars Agency’s Customer Development practice is an unrivaled team of in-market commerce experts who simplify the complexity of retail for our clients. Located in Bentonville, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Tampa and the “backyards” of other key retailers, they provide deep knowledge of the retailer, expertise in key business areas (like strategy, media and creative), and door-opening personal relationships with key executives to deliver an unmatched level of business success for clients across accounts, channels and shopper engagement platforms. For more information, contact Group SVP Kandi Arrington at [email protected].

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