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Walmart is Making Quiet Moves in the Metaverse

  • Walmart is entrenching itself in the metaverse by developing its own cryptocurrency and collection of NFTs.
  • Last month, the big-box retailer filed several new trademarks showing its plans to make and sell virtual goods.
  • Walmart said it would offer non-fungible tokens as well as a virtual currency.

Walmart is reportedly considering creating its own cryptocurrency and a collection of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Last month, a big-box retailer filed several trademarks indicating its intent to make and sell virtual goods, such as electronics, home decor, toys, sporting goods, and personal care products. The retailer said in a separate filing that users would be able to use virtual currencies and nrfts. Walmart filed the applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 30.

Seven separate applications have been submitted. Walmart said it is "continually exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences." It declined to comment about the specific trademark filings. We test new ideas all the time, Walmart said. Some ideas become real products or services. Others are tested, iterated, and learned from."

An attorney, Josh Gerben, said there are a lot of trademark filings. "They are filled with a lot of language, which shows that a lot of planning is going on behind the scenes about how they will deal with crypto, how they will deal with the metaverse, and how they will promote the virtual world that is either coming or is already here."

According to Gerben, businesses have been rushing to figure out how they will integrate into a virtual world ever since Facebook announced its name would change to Meta, indicating its ambition beyond social media. In early November, Nike filed a slew of trademark applications that hint at plans to sell virtual-branded sneakers and apparel. The following month, Nike announced it was teaming up with Roblox to create an online world called Nikeland. In December, the company purchased the virtual sneaker company RTFKT (pronounced "artifact") for an undisclosed sum.

Suddenly, everyone is saying, 'This is becoming a very real situation and we need to protect our IP,'" Gerben said. NFTs of Gap's iconic logo sweatshirts have also been introduced. It said its NFTs will have tiers ranging between $8.30 and $415, and come with a physical hoodie. Recently, Under Armour's and Adidas' NFT debuts were both sold out. OpenSea's NFT marketplace now sells them for sky-high prices.

According to Gerben, apparel retailers Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, and Abercrombie & Fitch have also filed trademarks recently indicating their intent to open a virtual store. According to CB Insights, retailers and brands may make such ventures for several reasons, including the potential for bringing in new revenue streams. Through the launch of NFTs, businesses can tokenize physical products and services to reduce online transaction costs, the company said. According to CB Insights, NFTs can serve as an authentication method for luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Retailers will develop their own ecosystems around the blockchain as consumers become more familiar with the metaverse and items stored on it, according to Gerben. Several retailers are still reeling from being late to e-commerce, so they don't want to miss out on the metaverse, according to Frank Chaparro, director of crypto-information services firm The Block.

"I think it's a win-win for any retailer," said Chaparro. There isn't much reputation damage in just trying something out like giving some customers a NFT in a sweepstake, for instance, even if it turns out to be a fad."

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