The world’s biggest retailer is all in on the metaverse, with multiple projects and products connected to the virtual realm.
The strategy is to build fresh connections between the real and digital worlds.
The digital realm
Shopping giant Walmart is creating links between our analog reality and the binary domain of virtual reality. These experiences include shopping through phone apps, forays into well-established metaverses such as Roblox, and the creation of unique cultural experiences.
Thomas Kang, the VP of Store No. 8 (Walmart’s innovation arm), discussed the strategy with GamesBeat on Sept. 19.
“We’re not trying to replace or isolate reality with virtual reality, but rather connect it and make it better for the customer,” he said. “We want to make sure that what we do is contextual and authentic to the customer. We want to add to the experience and the convenience.”
Kant went on to add, “We have a chance to reshape and reinvent retail in ways that are good for the customers. We can use our physical locations as places to engage customers; for example, if you buy something physical, we may be able to give you something virtually for free.”
The promise of something for free is easily understood, even if ordinary customers may puzzle at the precise meaning of “contextual” shopping.
In any case, Walmart intends to make possible the purchase of virtual and physical goods from a single Walmart account.
Roblox and other metaverses
Walmart’s experiments in the metaverse are not an altogether new phenomenon. The company began experimenting with Roblox in September 2022.
The retailer created “Walmart Land” and “Walmart’s Universe of Play”” as major forays into the virtual realm. Speaking to Decrypt at the time, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, William White, called the exercise a “testing ground.”
With a year of experience in the metaverse, Walmart has launched its latest metaverse with a slightly unusual twist.
THE CULTUREVERSE OPENS TOMORROW, 10AM EST.
Are you sure you're ready? 🤔
Here's a quick tutorial on how to get your avatar looking fresh for the experience. pic.twitter.com/18Nwpal9EY
— POCLab (@POClab_io) September 18, 2023
Walmart celebrates hip-hop
The Cultureverse is the latest of Walmart’s forays into immersive worlds, and it is a slight departure from previous efforts. This time, the metaverse commemorates hip-hop music. On the surface, the stated goals of Cultureverse make for a seemingly strange fit with Walmart.
The venture is a product of collaboration with POCLab, a Web3 creative studio formed in 2022. According to POCLab, the POC for the title does a lot of heavy lifting. POC variously stands for People of Culture, People of Color, and People of Community.
Simone Berry and Akbar Hamid co-founded POCLab. Berry explained the finer points of Cutlureverse to Decrypt earlier this week.
“The Cultureverse was a new vertical that we, at POCLab, were developing, expanding our mission to increase visual representation and provide access to emerging technology,” said Berry.
“Our primary objective has always been to leverage this technology to create meaningful brand experiences.”
As part of the project, Walmart also funds “Black & Unlimited,” a digital development program for black content creators.
Today, we're bridging the gap between Hip Hop and Web3 🤝🏿🎤
Welcome to The Cultureverse: A metaverse celebration of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop and the transformative power of Black creators.✊🏿
Join now👇🏿 pic.twitter.com/2wRnfv0yVi
— Spatial (@Spatial_io) September 19, 2023
Exploring Walmart’s Cultureverse
The Cultureverse is built on Spatial, “an immersive social platform that connects global communities across web, VR, and mobile.”
MetaNews took the opportunity to explore The Cultureverse and find out if it offered anything significantly new for metaverse fans. The short answer is no. The Cultureverse is constructed with some skill in spite of this.
Existing Spatial users will have no issues navigating the world, and newcomers will appreciate the quick and easy tutorial at the beginning, which takes less than a minute to complete. Better still, The Cultureverse works in-browser with no download required.
There’s no denying that the VR world of The Cultureverse is stylish, but like many other metaverse experiences, it will ultimately live or die by its community, and that is something that The Cultureverse seems to be somewhat lacking in at this time.
Of note is the fact that communication with others in this metaverse can only happen after signing in with a cryptocurrency hot wallet such as MetaMask.
Fans of hip-hop may find something to enjoy here, but most people can probably live without visiting The Cultureverse in its current form. Most bizarrely, the online shop of The Cultureverse currently has no items to sell, which is puzzling given the fact that Walmart funded the endeavor.
The Cultureverse is just one of many metaverses being promoted by Walmart, suggesting that even by trial and error, the shopping chain may yet succeed in the challenging world of VR.