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How Walmart is breathing life into metaverse commerce with Roblox

Walmart Discovered
Walmart Discovered is a big deal for metaverse commerce.

Walmart’s new initiative to sell "real world" goods in the immersive Roblox gaming environment is reginiting metaverse commerce.

The metaverse first came to public attention in fall 2021, with many observers (including yours truly) predicting in the years since it would become a major platform for digital commerce.

While a large numbers of retailers and brands have set up shop in the metaverse, so far it has been a niche marketplace for younger and more tech-savvy consumers (who admittedly are prime customer material), rather than the transformative digital commerce technology so many expected.

However, Walmart recently gave a large boost to metaverse commerce by becoming the first entity to sell select "real-world" items on Roblox. Walmart’s IRL commerce shop in its Roblox experience enables users to check out real world items chosen by its partner user generated content (UGC) creators.

Each purchase of a select real world item comes with a free digital twin that customers can use with their avatar. Users can also try on and buy trending content and emotes, tell Walmart what products they want to see featured, customize their virtual Walmart cart, and showcase their favorite items.

Here are three reasons why the new Walmart-Roblox pilot of selling physical items in the metaverse has wider significance:

It’s Walmart

A lot of retailers and brands, including big names like Nike, have set up shop in the metaverse. However, let’s be honest – at least in the U.S. the two top dogs are Amazon and Walmart. Where they go, other retailers will follow.

To date, Amazon’s metaverse activities have been limited. It enables developers of virtual worlds, video games, and mobile apps to sell physical products from its site using a tool called Amazon Anywhere, enabled the purchase of goods related to the Prime Video streaming series “Gen V” via a shoppable metaverse experience, and piloted a gamified metaverse environment in India.

Meanwhile, Walmart has been offering a variety of metaverse experiences in Roblox and elsewhere, some with the ability to shop for virtual merchandise. The retailer also launched its own tool for developers to enable shopping for real items in the metaverse with 3D content platform Unity in January 2024.

But this effort is different. And not just because it involves Walmart…

It’s Roblox

Roblox could be considered the Walmart of immersive gaming environments, in that it is hugely popular, generates big revenues and everyone wants to partner with it. The platform is estimated to have more than 70 million daily users and close to 200 monthly users worldwide.

Also like Walmart, Roblox is a public company, and although it is not yet profitable, it generated $750 million in revenue during its most recently reported fiscal quarter. Not bad for a company with no physical product or output.

Walmart isn’t the first retailer to link physical item sales to the metaverse, but by being the first to do so on Roblox signifies the retailer is serious about the effort, and Roblox’s selection of Walmart indicates the company wants to launch real-world item sales with a big splash.

It’s curated

As mentioned earlier, the typical metaverse users skews younger and more tech-oriented than the typical shopper. Meaning a mass merchandiser like Walmart might not sell the type of products with high appeal in a metaverse commerce environment.

But in another indication Walmart is taking this initiative seriously, the retailer is selling a curated assortment of youth-oriented products, such as hoodies, tumblers and fitted caps, based on designs from top Roblox content creators. Walmart is adjusting its merchandising strategy to fit the metaverse, which by itself should make metaverse and retail observers sit up and take notice. 

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