Walmart is entering the metaverse with two experiences premiering Monday on the Roblox online gaming platform.
The retail giant’s first foray into the virtual world will include a toy-dropping airship, a music festival with hot artists, a bunch of different games, and a virtual goods store, or “verch,” which matches what customers can find at Walmart. 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 seeing the pandemic upend shopping habits and fuel consumer engagement with social media, apps and gaming websites.
The big-box retailer hosted purchasable livestream events on TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. He created meal recipes through a partnership with Meredith, the media company that owns Allrecipes, Parents, and Better Homes & Gardens. It has also rolled out an augmented reality tool on Pinterest that lets shoppers see what furniture or decor would look like in their own home.
Roblox will serve as a proving ground for Walmart as it considers moves into the metaverse and beyond, said Walmart chief marketing officer William White. He said experiences are designed with the next generation of shoppers in mind, particularly Gen Z, generally defined as around 25 or younger. White said the company is looking to learn from the partnership.
“How do we drive relevance in the cultural conversation? How do we build community and engagement? How do we move the needle of a brand preference [standpoint] with younger audiences?” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
Walmart quietly filed trademarks related to the Metaverse earlier this year. Some of the brands have indicated their interest in making or selling virtual goods and offering users virtual currency, as well as non-fungible tokens or NFTs.
White declined to say if or how Walmart will use those marks.
For now, he said Walmart won’t make money from its immersive experiences. Players can earn tokens and other rewards to exchange for virtual goods on Roblox. National brands, such as the toy brand LOL Surprise! and the Skullcandy Headphones, were included in the experiments based on their popularity with Roblox’s younger gaming audience — not payment-based, he said.
However, Walmart could make money in the future by charging a brand for inclusion or trying to turn 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 tries to connect the dots between the virtual and physical worlds.
Universe of Play has games that feature items from Walmart’s list of top toys for the holiday season – like Razor scooters and characters from Paw Patrol and Jurassic World – a potential boost for Roblox users ask. Walmart Land features an obstacle course of oversized items from the retailer’s Gen Z-focused beauty brands, such as skincare products from Bubble and makeup from Uoma by Sharon C, and a virtual dressing room with clothes from its exclusive fashion lines, such as Free Assembly.
Roblox has attracted many new users during the Covid pandemic and made its stock market debut last year. The gaming platform has grown from 32.6 million daily active users in 2020 to more than 52 million, according to the company. It has always appealed more to young children and teenagers, but the company says it appeals to users from a wider age range.
The platform makes most of its money from in-app purchases, but is testing online advertising and plans a broader advertising campaign next year.
Roblox’s market value is around $21.2 billion, but its shares are down nearly 66% so far this year.
As Roblox’s user base grew, more and more retailers and brands got started. These include high-end designers like Ralph Lauren and teen-oriented brands like PacSun. Sports shoe brand Vans has a virtual skatepark in Roblox.
In a blog post about the year, Roblox highlighted the success of branded experiences, including top destinations for users 17 or older. These included Nikeland, where people’s avatars could enter a dunk contest or try out company gear, and Gucci Garden, where users could explore a store of limited-edition virtual items and where avatars could pose.