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09/30/2022

Walmart enters the metaverse – what happens now?

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart has made its first steps into the metaverse.

Walmart is the latest retailer to make a splash in the metaverse.

The discount giant is debuting in the metaverse by launching two new Roblox metaverse experiences. Called Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play, the spaces offer original interactive content and entertainment.

Walmart Land will offer digital fashion, style, beauty and entertainment items directly to Roblox users; while Walmart’s Universe of Play will provide a virtual toy destination in Roblox.

Walmart’s metaverse entry is the latest signal that the metaverse is developing into a legitimate retail commerce channel. The retail powerhouse is also providing another vote of confidence for Roblox as a metaverse commerce platform. But this step is certainly not the last Walmart will take in its metaverse strategy.

Following are two likely metaverse developments coming from Walmart, and one from Walmart’s biggest rival.

Getting real with products
Virtual products that customers can use in the metaverse are a big business. Retailers make very real money selling digital metaverse items. Specific advantages to this type of commerce include the lack of overhead related to physical store or supply chain operations.

However, retailers are also discovering that the metaverse can serve as an e-commerce platform for physical products. For example, early metaverse retail pioneer Pacsun recently operated a multifaceted digital commerce effort at the ComplexLand 3.0 metaverse event in May 2022. 

This included a three-level virtual store where attendees shopped exclusive products from Pacsun, as well as items from partner brands. Once a shopper found the virtual metaverse version of the product that they wanted to buy, they were directed to the Pacsun website to purchase the physical version of the product. Walmart could certainly follow suit, and not just at a virtual festival.

NFTs – more than a collector’s item
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), unique digital assets stored on a blockchain ledger that certifies the owner, are another metaverse phenomenon which Walmart may want to explore.

[Read more: Retailers discover ‘real world’ uses for NFTs]

In many instances, retailers are utilizing NFTs to create digital collectors’ items that can be sold or used for promotional purposes. But in an exclusive interview with Chain Store Age, Adryenn Ashley, global blockchain influencer and co-founder of the Billionaire Zombies Club decentralized NFT art community, explained how retailers like Walmart can unlock greater value from NFTs.

“An NFT is much more than a JPEG file and a serial number,” explained Ashley. “You can build a community with NFTs.”

Ashley recommended that retailers place an NFT portal in their consumer apps which have already been downloaded, and then create a custodial wallet inside the app by offering an NFT tab where users make digital payments.

“Retailers can deliver gated content there,” said Ashley. “You can geolocate NFT users on your app and reach them via their phones with push notifications.

Examples of content Walmart could push to targeted customers via NFT include early access to hot products (think Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and specific reminders and discounts. Walmart shoppers could also purchase an NFT to reserve the right to receive a specific product in a certain color or size for home delivery or in-store pickup.

How will Amazon respond?
Although neither will publicly admit it, Walmart and Amazon are each other’s chief retail rival. Where one goes, the other inevitably follows. So far, Amazon has only offered limited public demonstrations of its metaverse capabilities in India, but it’s hard to imagine the e-tail giant ceding metaverse commerce ground to Walmart for long.

Although some media reports indicate Amazon is leveraging the Decentraland metaverse environment for its India “Amazonmetaworld” pilot, the company’s robust Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure would make developing a proprietary metaverse plausible. Amazon also has its own livestream platform and live video game platform, which it could easily integrate into a metaverse environment.

Amazon cannot afford to stand by and let other retailers assume dominant positions in the still-evolving metaverse commerce space. Watch for Amazon to move beyond the pilot stage in the metaverse, in the not-too-distant future.

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