Walmart and the Metaverse

The Lempert Report
January 25, 2022

NBC reports that Walmart is getting into the metaverse with a collection of NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) and will be creating its own cryptocurrency. In late December, Walmart filed new trademark applications with the US Patent and Trademark office that indicates that the retailer intends to make and sell virtual electronics, appliances, furniture, musical instruments, home decorations, toys, sporting goods, personal care products and the list goes on and on. Walmart is not alone in the race to the metaverse – Facebook obviously is leading the way, with others including Nike, Gap, Under Armour, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch in the game. It appears that no one wants to be left behind – but are we really clear about where we are going with the metaverse?

Will is be a more technologically advanced version of Second Life? Or something much different? When we race to the future we are always at risk of losing our way – especially when it is being driven by the next level of revolution in technology. As we’ve all seen before, we can get caught up in creating and developing these next generation things and experiences, just to find out that no one really wants them. How likely are we all to wear those – currently cumbersome and ugly – headsets? I have little doubt that someone will make a lighter, more stylish AR headset – but will it be in time for all these brands to make their metaverses a success? It took RayBan almost a decade to release its much more consumer friendly version of Google Glass. The Glass technology was cool – true, the Glass was a bit geeky looking, but the biggest problem was that those brilliant designers never figured out what we should do with them. I still have mine – somewhere – and when I got them I was excited, but that wore off quickly as most of the software they offered didn’t fit my needs or wants. If memory serves me correctly the most software offerings centered around golf. I don’t play golf. The other issue was that the side of the Glass got very hot when you were recording video or talking on the phone and having heat pressed up against my temple didn’t make me feel very safe. Rumor is that this year Apple will be releasing their version of the wearable technology phenom. Their product might well be what the metaverse and all these brands need. But the questions still must be answered, is the metaverse going to be little more than another digital way to communicate with each other in a 3D format?

A more advanced way of gaming? Is the metaverse a fad or the trend of the future – and what consumer need or problem does it solve in order to exist past its launch? Is it just a way for these metaverse companies to sell stock or raise billions from the VC community, who are always hungry to bet on what’s next? Do I really need a pair of virtual Nike’s? The Gap is selling NFTs that come with an actual physical hoodie. What? All this makes me wonder what does the Walmart shopper want to buy in a virtual world anyway?