Walmart’s 3D e-commerce platform Realm is the retailer’s latest metaverse bet – Modern Retail

​​Imagine a ‘90s shopping mall but digitized and fantastical, filled with cartoon avatars, saturated colors and objects you might otherwise find for sale at your local Walmart. 
This is Walmart Realm.
Launched on Wednesday, the new e-commerce platform from the world’s largest retailer lets people shop digital doubles of select products sold at real-life Walmart stores via virtual bazaars designed to look like outlandish, make-believe worlds. There’s “So Jelly,” an underwater universe, “Y’allternative,” a frontier where the Wild West meets Gothic aestheticism and “Go Chromatic,” a metallic environment seemingly set in the middle of outer space.
Currently, Walmart Realm is a website that can be accessed on a desktop or mobile phone. To shop, users click on various objects in the virtual stores, click an “Add to cart” button, and then a checkout link that takes them to
Walmart, known for its massive fleet of more than 4,000 brick-and-mortar stores, where the average shopper is a white female Baby Boomer, has in recent years looked to grab shoppers’ attention — and make money — via the metaverse, a catchall for the future of the internet where gaming, social media and e-commerce collide.
The launch of Walmart Realm is the latest sign that the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is ramping up its investments in virtual worlds, even as other companies have walked back their metaverse strategies in favor of buzzier trends, like artificial intelligence. (That said, Walmart isn’t ignoring AI, either.)
“We’re really in a place of testing and learning to inform a future state of immersive commerce because we believe that it is going to be the future of commerce,” said Justin Breton, Walmart’s director of brand experiences and strategic partnerships. “It’s not going to replace a website or our app, but it will be complementary.”
This isn’t Walmart’s first foray into the metaverse. In 2022, when the concept of the metaverse had taken corporate America by storm, Walmart was one of many companies carving out space in virtual worlds like Fortnite and Roblox to connect with younger customers. For example, the retailer announced two immersive experiences on Roblox called Walmart Land and Walmart Universe, where users could buy merchandise for their virtual avatars. Two years later, it looks like Walmart isn’t slowing down its bet on the metaverse. 
Just a few weeks ago, Walmart announced plans to sell physical goods directly to shoppers inside Roblox’s virtual platform. Unlike Walmart Discovered, the retailer’s digital experience inside Roblox, Walmart Realm exists as its own independent, web-accessible platform built on Emperia, a virtual shopping company that has constructed digital stores for retailers and brands including L’occitane, Bloomingdale’s and Boss. 
For all the metaverse hype, few companies have actually found ways to make money off these virtual worlds. To Melissa Minkow, director of retail strategy at digital consultancy firm CI&T, Walmart Realm represents a more fully realized e-commerce version of the digital counterparts rolled out in the last couple of years. 
“It leverages the conceptual values and strategic components of the metaverse, but the outcome is ultimately e-commerce,” said Minkow. “What Walmart Realm demonstrates is that they likely weren’t driving the sales they anticipated through Roblox, so they made the concept more palatable and more like traditional e-commerce.”
The popularity of virtual stores surged in the wake of the pandemic as retailers experimented with how to engage consumers beyond a traditional in-store shopping experience. But unlike predecessors’ digital projects such as J.Crew’s virtual beach house store or Elizabeth Arden’s digital shop modeled after its historic Fifth Avenue salon, Walmart’s effort is less grounded in real-world scenery. 
Walmart also tapped a team of influencers — Mai Pham, Nava Rose and Makenzie and Malia Fowler — to curate the platform’s product selection, roughly one hundred beauty, fashion and home goods inspired by social trends. 
Gen Z is the clear target. Most of the items on display are under $50, with the least expensive product for sale being a pair of faux pearl earrings for $3.88. But the platform isn’t counting out bigger spenders, either. A faux leather metallic jacket, for example, costs $106. The most expensive product for sale in Walmart Realm is a white boucle sofa with an $800 price tag. 
The platform also puts a video game twist on online shopping, another hint that Gen Z was top of mind when the retailer designed Walmart Realm. For example, “Go Chromatic” features a Tetris-inspired mini-game for a chance to win a $100 sweepstakes. Moreover, as people traverse Walmart Realm, they can collect tokens shaped like Walmart’s signature yellow star logo to earn rewards, including a 20% coupon. The idea is to incentivize users to linger on the platform the way they might in a store. 
One potential roadblock facing Walmart Realm is getting customers to go there in the first place. That’s where Walmart’s team of influencers comes in. The retailer is hoping to leverage their combined social media followings — more than 11 million on TikTok alone — to get fans to try out Walmart Realm and hopefully buy things. 
Walmart’s Breton said that the retailer’s influencer team will post Realm-related content on their social media channels over the next couple of weeks to entice shoppers to try the platform, either for the first time or to check out something they may have missed the first time around. 
“Maybe Nava says, ‘Hey, have you played this mini-game yet?’ So, you come back, play the game, maybe win a prize, and then maybe that brings you back again the next day,” said Breton.
As for what’s next, Breton is optimistic that Walmart Realm and Walmart’s e-commerce push inside Roblox represents the next phase of the retailer’s online shopping strategy. He hopes Walmart’s immersive e-commerce experiences will expand to other platforms like Fortnite and Minecraft. 
As Breton put it, “As more and more platforms embrace real-world commerce, we would love the opportunity to be the partner they choose to introduce it to their communities.”
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