Walmart’s move on the metaverse could flood crypto with mainstream shoppers
Stex is keeping its eye on the drip, drip, drip of news about U.S. retail giant Walmart’s activities related to cryptocurrencies and the metaverse.
In October, Walmart, which bills itself as a family-friendly neighborhood store which can be found in just about any corner of the U.S., confirmed it was running a test in some stores which allows customers to purchase Bitcoin through 200 Coin Star kiosks. That news followed a September fake news press release stating the Arkansas based superstore chain would allow customers to pay with Litecoin. At the same time, the company posted a job description for a crypto strategist who would develop “the digital currency strategy and product roadmap” while identifying “crypto-related investment and partnerships,” according to a job posting on the company’s website.
These moves created a flurry of speculation that Walmart’s move into the metaverse was not a matter of “if” but “when.”
That speculation heightened this week when CNBC reported the store filed seven applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on December 30 related to cryptocurrency and the metaverse of virtual goods and services.
“The big-box retailer filed several new trademarks late last month that indicate its intent to make and sell virtual goods, including electronics, home decorations, toys, sporting goods and personal care products. In a separate filing, the company said it would offer users a virtual currency, as well as NFTs,” the CNBC report states.
″[The filings are] super intense,” Josh Gerven, a trademark attorney, told CNBC. “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.”
Before jumping to conclusions about what Walmart plans to do and when, it should be pointed out that the filings could be interpreted as a move to protect the retailer’s brand. Sneaker and apparel giant Nike submitted a similar Trademark/Service Mark application in October for downloadable virtual goods and retail store and entertainment services.
“All of a sudden, everyone is like, ‘This is becoming super real and we need to make sure our IP is protected in the space,’” Gerben said.
But if you read the Walmart filings, the intent to do more than protect a trademark or service mark is apparent. “The applicant has a bona fide intention, and is entitled, to use the mark in commerce on or in connection with the identified goods/services,” the filing by Walmart said.
Walmart’s move to capture a share of the metaverse follows the launch by major U.S. brands into the virtual world, including Gap, which is selling NFTs of its iconic logo sweatshirts and Under Amour, which launched a charitable NFT to honor Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry’s lifetime three-point shot record. Adidas quickly sold out its “Into the Metaverse” NFTs, partnering with Bored Ape Yacht Club and Punks Comics. Nike continues to strengthen its metaverse presence as it acquired virtual sneaker company RTFKT in December.
Of course, moving into the metaverse makes perfect sense for these big brands and Walmart as well.
“Analysts at Morgan Stanley have said that the metaverse could be an $8 trillion opportunity, but the challenge would be getting consumers to buy into it,” Business Insider reports. “However, Walmart saw its online sales thrive in 2021, with sales at $11.1 billion in its third quarter according to a Digital Commerce 360 report, which could prove useful for Walmart's metaverse ambitions.”
When asked about Walmart’s intention, the company responded to several news outlets with similar statements.
“Walmart is continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences,” a spokesperson for the company told Barron’s. “We don’t have anything further to share today, but it’s worth noting we routinely file trademark applications as part of the innovation process.”
And “We are testing new ideas all the time,” the company said in another statement. “Some ideas become products or services that make it to customers. And some we test, iterate, and learn from.”
Is Walmart merely protecting its turf? Or is the company preparing to conquer the next retail universe? For the crypto world, a move by this major retailer into the virtual world would only heighten the value digital currencies and blockchains offer for those who are ready to jump in.
Joyce Pavia Hanson