Walmart enters the metaverse with Roblox

Walmart enters the metaverse with two experiences premiering Monday on online gaming platform Roblox.

The retail giant’s first foray into the virtual world will feature a toy-dropping airship, a music festival featuring hot artists, a variety of games, and a virtual goods store, or “verch,” to match what customers find at Walmart’s can stores and on its website.

The two experiences are called Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play.

Walmart is experimenting with new ways to reach shoppers, especially after the pandemic has upended shopping habits and boosted consumer engagement on social media, apps and gaming sites.

The big box retailer has been hosting live streaming shopping events on TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. Meal recipes were created in collaboration with Meredith, the media company that owns Allrecipes, Parents and Better Homes & Gardens. It’s also launched an augmented reality-based tool on Pinterest that lets shoppers see what furniture or decor would look like in their own homes.

Roblox will serve as a testing ground for Walmart as it considers movement in the Metaverse and beyond, said William White, Walmart’s chief marketing officer. He said the experiences are designed for the next generation of shoppers, particularly Generation Z, which is generally defined as around 25 or younger. White said the company wants to learn from the partnership.

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“How do we foster relevance in cultural conversations? How do we develop community and engagement? How do we move the needle away from a brand’s favor? [standpoint] he said. “That’s what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Walmart quietly filed Metaverse-related trademarks earlier this year. Some of the brands have expressed interest in manufacturing or selling virtual goods and offering virtual currencies and non-fungible tokens or NFTs.

White declined to share if or how Walmart will use those marks.

For now, he said Walmart won’t make any money from its immersive experiences. Players can earn tokens and other rewards to use for virtual goods on Roblox. National brands like the toy label LOL Surprise! and Skullcandy headphones were included in the experiences based on their popularity with Roblox’s younger gamer audience — not based on pay, he said.

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However, Walmart could monetize it in the future by charging a brand for inclusion or trying to convert people’s virtual experiences into real-world store visits or online purchases, White said.

Walmart Land’s October virtual concert, Electric Fest, will feature Madison Beer, Kane Brown and Yungblud.

Walmart is trying to bridge the dots between the virtual and physical worlds.

Universe of Play has games that feature items from Walmart’s top toy list for the holiday season – like Razor scooters and characters from Paw Patrol and Jurassic World – a potential nudge to make Roblox users ask for them. Walmart Land features an obstacle course featuring oversized items from the retailer’s Gen Z-focused beauty brands, like Bubble skincare and Uoma by Sharon C makeup, and a virtual fitting room featuring clothing from its exclusive clothing lines, like Free Montage.

Roblox attracted many new users during the Covid pandemic and debuted on the stock exchange last year. The gaming platform grew from 32.6 million daily active users in 2020 to more than 52 million, according to the company. It has historically attracted more young children and teenagers, but the company has said it attracts users across a wider age range.

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The platform makes most of its money from in-app purchases, but it’s testing online advertising and planning a broader advertising push for next year.

Roblox’s market value is about $21.2 billion, but its shares are down almost 66% so far this year.

As Roblox’s user base has grown, more retailers and brands have dived in. These include high-end designers like Ralph Lauren and youth-focused brands like PacSun. The sports shoe brand Vans has a virtual skate park in Roblox.

In a year-in-review blog post, Roblox highlighted the success of branded experiences, including top destinations for users 17+. These included Nikeland, where people’s avatars could enter a dunk contest or try on the company’s gear, and Gucci Garden, where users could explore a boutique of limited-edition virtual items and avatars could strike a pose.

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