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Non-retailers get in on direct-to-consumer omnichannel commerce

RS No. 9 Rolling Stones
The front entrance of the Rolling Stones pop-up in New York.

The Rolling Stones, Mars, and Unilever all demonstrate that selling items directly to consumers isn’t only an activity for traditional retailers.

Over the summer, I wrote a column about technology innovations in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) retail space. And DTC retail continues to be a vertical that produces interesting tech deployments.

But increasingly, companies that do not ordinarily fit the definition of a “retailer” are taking advantage of omnichannel technologies and strategies to directly sell products to consumers. Here is a look at how a couple of CPG giants, and one of the biggest rock bands of all time, are engaging customers across a number of channels and touchpoints. 

The Rolling Stones

The “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World” has long been a savvy sales and marketing organization, so it’s not a surprise the Rolling Stones have been actively involved in direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailing for a few years. The Stones have operated a flagship store on London’s trendy Carnaby Street since 2020, but unleashed an omnichannel retailing blitz to promote the recent release of “Hackney Diamonds,” their first album of all-new material in 18 years.

RS No. 9, the retail format focused on the legendary British rock band, opened two U.S. pop-ups selling licensed merchandise and artwork from Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, with locations in New York City’s Union Square neighborhood and another on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, in October. 

In Japan, a semi-permanent physical location, dubbed RS No. 9 Harajuka, is set to open in Tokyo’s fashionable shopping district. The Rolling Stones have also launched a global e-commerce shop equipped with a 360° virtual experience so customers can have the experience of shopping inside the store using their phones and PCs. 

Mars Snacking

Global CPG treats and snack company Mars Snacking is directly targeting Uber customers, having begun partnering with Uber just in time for Halloween. Mars Snacking is providing interactive content about Skittles candy product from parent company Mars to Uber and Uber Eats customers. 

Uber, which initially expanded from its core rideshare business into third-party online delivery with the launch of Uber Eats in 2015, began enabling CPG companies to promote their brands and products to its app users in May 2023.

Now, Mars is displaying interactive Uber Journey Ads and Post-Check Out Ads to consumers taking a ride in an Uber vehicle or waiting for their Uber Eats order. The ads will enable consumers to seamlessly interact with the Skittles website and add Skittles products to their Uber Eats shopping carts.


Unilever, which has deployed a fleet of Robomart on-demand mobile mini-marts to take its virtual direct-to-consumer (DTC) ice cream storefront, The Ice Cream Shop, on the road, also offers ice cream delivery via drone. 

The company partners with end-to-end drone delivery company Flytrex to make Ice Cream Shop drone deliveries across all of Flytrex’s U.S. locations.

According to Unilever, drone orders from The Ice Cream Shop will be delivered to front and back yards of local residents with a promised flight time of less than three minutes. Customers can place orders for drone deliveries of ice cream using the Flytrex app, which provides customers with real-time updates along the delivery route until the package is lowered safely by wire into their yard.

The Flytrex app also offers exclusive bundles from The Ice Cream Shop, including packages with themes of chocolate, cookie ice cream, berry/fruit ice cream, barbecue, and Ben & Jerry’s.


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