- Walmart filed a series of trademark applications late last month that indicate the discount retailer has bigger plans for the metaverse, including through the development of cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs). CNBC first spotted the batch of documents that were submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 30.
- The applications, of which there are seven in total, encompass concepts like "virtual goods" across product categories such as furniture, toys and sporting gear, along with downloadable software for managing cryptocurrency portfolios or establishing an electronic wallet.
- Games and other services powered by augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology also make appearances. The news suggests the metaverse, a virtual reality users can enter using tech tools, could play a significant role in Walmart's strategy as the big-box brand focuses in on its digital business.
Walmart isn't the first marketer to show interest in the metaverse, but its offerings could go a long way in sparking more mainstream adoption of technologies that are foundational to the channel, including cryptocurrencies.
The big-box store company is the largest retailer in the world, reaching a massive audience of shoppers, and rivals may follow Walmart's lead lest they lose an early-mover advantage in a market some view as the next evolution of the internet.
That said, many metaverse-related technologies like NFTs haven't served a purpose in marketing beyond one-off stunts or generating headlines.
The broader vision of the metaverse is appealing to companies like Walmart because shared virtual realms could act as a venue for customers to try out products and experiences, including to customize their online avatars and living spaces. Though businesses clearly smell an opportunity, consumers haven't quite come around to the idea, even as categories like gaming provide a loose sense of what's possible in the metaverse.
Some groundwork has already been laid for Walmart's metaverse approach. Last year, it began seeking an executive to lead its digital currency and cryptocurrency product efforts, following in e-commerce behemoth Amazon's footsteps.
Recent Walmart executive changes point to a possible strategy switch-up. The retailer's longtime merchandising chief, Scott McCall, is retiring, Bloomberg reported, while Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside — a key player in rounding out Walmart's e-commerce playbook — will depart in March.
Walmart dipping its toes in the metaverse could support other ventures that are important to staying competitive in retail. In 2020, it introduced its long-awaited Walmart+ e-commerce portal meant to tackle the growing threat from Amazon's Prime service.
Several of the trademark applications were also made under Walmart Connect, the marketer's fledgling advertising business. Walmart has quickly built out the unit as the demand for retail media soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, packaged goods brands have sought alternatives to 'cookies,' which track consumers' browser data, because they may soon be phased out.
Other marketers are planting their metaverse flags too. Nike in December acquired RTFKT, a digital studio that designs virtual collectibles like NFTs. The sportswear marketer also recently established Nikeland, an interactive experience inside the Roblox gaming platform that lets visitors participate in activities like dodgeball and trying on virtual apparel.