Walmart Enters Metaverse through Virtual Worlds on Roblox

Walmart has taken a cue from firms like Nike, Gucci, Chipotle and many other brands, in a concentrated effort to enter and grab consumer attention in virtual worlds, driving new growth opportunities. 

Starting this month, Walmart will unveil two immersive experiences on Roblox Corp.’s virtual platform. Walmart has opted for not one but two virtual lands in the Roblox universe. The first, known as Walmart land, will focus on beauty, entertainment and fashion items. The second virtual land, known as Walmart's Universe of Play, will showcase toys. 

“This is the first major initiative that we have in the metaverse,” William White, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “This is another step for us in reaching our customers in unexpected ways.” 

Metaverse is natural extension based on Walmart's patent and trademark filings in Dec 2021, where seven separate applications have were submitted. The applications span creating Walmart's own crypto currency, offer a collection of NFT's (non-fungible tokens) and virtual goods, like electronics, home and sporting good, toys...etc. 

In a statement, Walmart said it is “continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences.” It declined to comment on the specific trademark filings. “We are testing new ideas all the time,” the company added. “Some ideas become products or services that make it to customers. And some we test, iterate and learn from.” 

Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney, shared his views on the filings, stating, “There’s a lot of language in these, which shows that there’s a lot of planning going on behind the scenes about how they’re going to address cryptocurrency, how they’re going to address the metaverse and the virtual world that appears to be coming or that’s already here.”

Why Partner with Roblox?

Roblox has a community of more than 52 million daily users. The profile for majority of these users falls in a young demographics, who are particularly predisposed to overlaps between virtual and physical worlds. Roblox also announced $10 Million of funding, on top of it's $25 Million Game Fund, for projects that the company believes symbolizes what the platform is about. Roblox sees its Game Fund as a way to support impressive, visually exciting games that mostly don’t look or even work like what the platform is known for

Walmart wants to leverage this user and developers base and incentivize them to contribute to its top line growth. Walmart Land for example will initially feature an experience similar to a music festival along with a fashion-oriented “House of Style” that includes a virtual dressing room and an oversized cosmetics obstacle course. Walmart Land will also offer a virtual store where Roblox users can use badges and coins earned on the platform to buy merchandise for their avatars. In October, it will add a motion-capture concert with performances from singers such as Madison Beer and Kane Brown. 

Walmart's Universe of Play on the other hand is designed to let Roblox users explore toy worlds and earn coins for virtual goods. It will also offer games featuring products and characters from Jurassic World, Paw Patrol and other entertainment brands. 

According to Roblox chief business officer Craig Donato, “It’s almost like the next generation of social media,”, he further added, “I’m investing in a presence. You don’t start an Instagram account, throw up five photos, and then move on. It’s a commitment to always be changing, always be updating the experience, and we’re starting to see brands now step up to the plate for that.”. 

“A big part of the learning curve for brands is really understanding that, if you are building your own dedicated world inside the platform, you need to think about longevity — you need to think about how we are building and continuing to invest in that world,” said Yonatan Raz-Fridman, CEO of the Roblox developer Supersocial. “Because if you just do it one time, one-off, you’re probably better off experimenting within an existing game world.”

Will it be successful?

The wait and see game may have provided a benchmark for Walmart - especially since Nike and VF Corp have virtual land offerings on Roblox. Since debuting their offerings, Nikeland has gotten over 21 million visits, while VF's Vans World has gotten more than 80 million visits. 

In December of 2021, Nike had purchased leading fashion house RTFKT, now Nike Virtual Studios, before launching Nikeland in November 2021. Currently, Nike Digital is the fastest-growing piece of Nike’s marketplace, representing 26% of the Nike Brand revenue. During the NBA All-Star Week, NBA superstar LeBron James stepped into Nikeland to talk directly with fans about basketball, give virtual high fives, and help motivate people to get active, either on a basketball court or in their favorite physically-active VR games. 

Nike’s Chief Executive and President Jack Donahoe is incredibly excited about Nikeland’s numbers, explaining that the company plans on taking their best-in-class digital experiences and building out exciting web3 products and experiences in order to scale out the Nike community.

According to White, “It will be a great opportunity for us to build relevance, build cultural conversation, and to develop a community with Gen Z and our younger audiences,” he said. “All these things lend themselves to more brand equity.”