Walmart is going crypto. At least, that’s what its trademark filings suggest; news reports from early 2022 note those Walmart filings indicate the company may be preparing to sell NFTs and other virtual goods. There is also talk of a possible Walmart virtual currency.
Walmart, like other major retailers such as Apple, plays its crypto cards carefully. Public statements by the company indicate the venture into crypto is experimental but that it could lead to bigger things.
Online, Walmart sells Ethereum “coins” which are collectible versions of the Ethereum coin concept. That is to say, you are NOT purchasing Ethereum virtual currency, but rather a souvenir coin that has the word Ethereum on it.
That’s as close to buying crypto there as it gets at press time; you won’t be able to purchase cryptocurrency at Walmart.com today. Or tomorrow. But the company definitely seems to be interested in trying this new-to-them opportunity in the crypto/NFT/metaverse to see what happens.
Why does this retail giant want to get into the ever-growing virtual marketplace for NFTs and crypto? The answer likely has a lot to do with what their competition and suppliers might be doing.
Other retailers, who have at least by virtue of their trademark applications, decided to go crypto? They include Nike, Under Armour, Gap INC., and Ralph Lauren. The Gap began selling NFTs based on their IRL t-shirt designs, Gucci has announced the acceptance of cryptocurrencies at select brick-and-mortar retail locations, and Adidas also debuted its own line of NFTs.
Walmart has chosen not to sit on the sidelines while all this activity is happening within the cryptoverse.
Some crypto news outlets report Walmart fighting rumors in 2021 that it may start accepting Litecoin as payment. While that was nothing more than a rumor and officially dismissed by Walmart, some wonder if the company’s move into crypto might eventually lead to a more tolerant view of accepting such payments.
The idea that Walmart is toying with its own currency might encourage that way of thinking but it’s entirely likely that Walmart’s “currency” might wind up being something closer to a gift card or prepaid debit option than something like Bitcoin.
Will Walmart Set Up Shop In The Metaverse?
Virtual real estate sounds like a scam to some, but like many other aspects of retail, it’s only a risky proposition until it isn’t anymore. Remember, once upon a time, Bitcoin was worth about $30 tops in 2011.
Online retailers are beginning to take the land rush in the metaverse a bit more seriously and Walmart may have filed a patent or trademark to protect their interests in opening a virtual space there. Some sources predict the company won’t stop there–could Walmart offer e-wallets to help people manage their crypto portfolios?
Add to that the fact that a partnership with Coinstar led to the installation of Bitcoin ATMs in select Walmarts in the United States and you see a company that is possibly trying to cover all of their bases in hopes that at least one angle will result in success.
The others may get left behind, but the winning angle or option might change the game in terms of more widespread acceptance of virtual money and goods. Walmart already sells third-party hardware wallets, how long before it commits to its own versions and possibly even creates its own marketplace to use those wallets in?
There are many factors that may contribute to the current flood of interest in crypto from retailers from Gucci to Walmart, but one of the biggest might be related to a very crypto-specific phenomenon known as FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. Many of today’s big box retailers were either late to online retail or made critical mistakes in being late adopters.
Some of the metaverse land rush might be due to a fear of repeating those mistakes.
Does Walmart want to avoid losing out on expanded profits in the metaverse or in offering its own virtual currency? Are the company planners trying to stake a claim in what could be the next step in the evolution of online retail? To quote the old Magic 8-ball toy, “Signs point to Yes”.
But there are just as many variables in today’s crypto space as there were for those who pioneered online retail. For every Facebook there is a MySpace. Who will be the MySpace of the cryptocurrency revolution in retail?
But some feel the experimentation could be a win-win, even if retail giants ultimately fail at capturing what makes crypto and NFT projects so unique. If Walmart tries and fails in the space, it’s fairly low-risk except for the money spent.
Public reputation for the retailer is likely to be unaffected save for a few snickers about the company not “staying in its lane” so to speak. On the other hand, if Walmart succeeds in popularizing an aspect of crypto for the mainstream, does that change the entire experience for early adopters who remember when you had to “mine your cryptocurrency in the snow and uphill both ways”?
That is a variation of a very old joke, but like those who groused about the success of the pop-punk band Green Day after having been around for the original angry first wave Cali-punk bands like X, The Minutemen, and Black Flag? There will be those who have similar complaints about crypto “selling out” and “going mainstream”.
Joe Wallace has covered real estate and financial topics, including crypto and NFTs since 1995. His work has appeared on Veteran.com, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and many print and online publications. Joe is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.