Walmart has recently filed a series of trademark applications that make its ambitions pretty clear: to become a power player in the NFT space, to figure out how to make sure "the Walmart of the metaverse" is Walmart itself, and to bring cryptocurrency to the shopping experience.
As CNBC first reported, the company's filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office say that Walmart is exploring "providing a digital currency and a digital token of value" that members might use in an online community. At an even broader level, it's looking into "online retail store services featuring virtual merchandise," with a long list of product categories from household essentials to video games to musical instruments. And, of course, there will be NFTs involved. (Walmart gave CNBC the classic "we're always trying new things" statement about the filings.)
These are just applications, not products, but they signal some serious ambition from the retail giant. Walmart has been ramping up its tech experimentation recently, letting customers buy bitcoin at some stores and at least briefly working on shopping in VR. It's expanding its third-party marketplace, and copying some of Amazon's most successful moves.
If the metaverse really is the next big thing, people will use it to buy both digital and physical goods, and Walmart will need to make sure it's a destination for that. And as it continues to build out programs like Walmart+, a dedicated cryptocurrency could give it even more control over its ecosystem (and much lower transaction fees). Either way, it's pretty clear that Walmart is investing heavily in making sure it doesn't have to play catch up in the future of retail.