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Retailers discover ‘real world’ uses for NFTs

Macy's discord
Macy’s is using NFTs to promote its Discord channel and July 4th fireworks.

Retailers continue finding new ways to leverage non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

One year ago, I published a column about “why retailers find NFTs nifty. At the time, NFTs were still fairly new entrants on the retail landscape, and companies were trying to assess whether they offered any value.

Twelve months later, there is general agreement that NFTs have a role to play in retail, but the industry is still trying to determine what that role is. Recent coverage suggests that NFTs can perform many different functions, depending on a particular retailer’s needs and goals. Here are three different examples of how retailers are occupying the NFT space:

eBay Inc. continues delving deeper into the sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The e-commerce marketplace has purchased NFT marketplace KnownOrigin, which enables artists and collectors to create, buy and resell NFTs via blockchain-supported transactions.

eBay initially gave the green light to the purchase and sale of NFTs in May 2021. At that time, eBay said it would launch programs, policies and tools that will allow customers to buy and sell NFTs with greater ease and confidence, across a broader range of categories. eBay also plans to add new capabilities to bring blockchain-driven collectibles to its platform.

Other recent eBay NFT ventures include a May 2022 partnership with NHL legend Wayne Gretzky. eBay's first-ever "Genesis" NFT collection will feature 3D and animated images of athletes featured on Sports Illustrated covers over the years.

Collectibles, such as trading cards, represent an increasingly important product category for eBay, and the company is not excluding digital collectibles from its efforts to build up authenticated markets.

[Read more: eBay opens secure vault for trading cards]

Starbucks plans to create a series of branded NFT collections, the ownership of which will initiate Starbucks digital community membership, and allow for access to exclusive experiences and perks. The themes of these collections will be based on new and existing Starbucks artistic content, as well as through collaborations with other artists and brands.  

“We believe NFTs have broad potential to create an expanded, shared-ownership model for loyalty, the offering of unique experiences, community building, storytelling, and customer engagement,” Brady Brewer, chief marketing officer, and Adam Brotman, advisor, Starbucks Corp., said in a corporate blog post “And, while doing so, also being a source of accretive business that can benefit a number of stakeholders in the process, while creating a new type of digital ecosystem to complement Starbucks current digital platform offering.”

Starbucks said it also may integrate its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, as well as store designs and card art, into the NFT space. The coffee giant is taking NFTs beyond the role of static digital collectible and exploring their capability to serve as portals which can deliver gated content and enable direct customer engagement.

[Read more: Exclusive: Billionaire Zombies Club leader talks Web 3.0]

Department store chain Macy’s Inc. is leveraging the relatively low overhead and developmental costs of NFTs to utilize them as a free promotional vehicle for its new channel on the Discord social media platform and its upcoming “real world” July Fourth fireworks event in New York City.

Available on a first come, first serve basis, to collect the NFTs customers must first register via the Macy’s Discord channel. This set of 10,000 Macy’s Fireworks NFTs will showcase graphic elements from this year’s Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks celebration and come with added utility, including the ability to access Augmented Reality (AR) wearables that can be used on a selection of social media and video communications platforms.

The Macy’s Fireworks NFTs are built atop the Polygon blockchain. The retailer says more offerings are in store in the coming weeks for NFT collectors and in preparation for its fireworks event.

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