Walmart is introducing two new immersive experiences on Roblox, designed to provide the company with info about young metaverse fans. Called Walmart Land and Universe of Play, it's a blend of games, music, and "verch" (aka virtual merchandise).
Justin Breton, the brand experiences and strategic partnerships director, tells Marketing Daily about the strategy.
Marketing Daily: Tell us what Walmart Land is like.
Justin Breton: When you land in Walmart Land, you'll see it's a fantasy island floating in the sky. It's part theme park, part arcade, but it's all Walmart. And it's shaped like the Walmart spark. The spark is the core branding element, and it's not overly commercial.
It has six arms, and we call each an isle, but of course, they correspond to our aisles. We're launching with two of the six. One is called Electric Island, inspired by the entertainment aisles of the Walmart store, so a mixture of music and movies. And the second is House of Style, tied very closely to fashion and beauty.
Marketing Daily: The metaverse, at this point, is just an amorphous experiment. What is Walmart hoping to learn?
Breton: We want to see what our customers and users of the Roblox platform gravitate to and what excites them.
We can use those learnings to roll out our additional aisles over the next four to six months. We are slowly rolling it out in a way that not only drives continued engagement but teaches us what's best for the customer.
In some ways, this is like our shoppable live streams, specifically with TikTok, which we started a few years ago with a test-and-learn strategy. When we first started, it was one every other month. We slowly increased to two per month and expanded to new platforms. Now we are doing more than 20 per month and optimizing the experience for our customers and partners. That's exactly how we are approaching Walmart Land.
Marketing Daily: How hard is it to make the experience feel branded -- more like Walmart and less like Target?
Breton: We want people to land here and say, 'Wow! This is Walmart like I've never seen it!' And, of course, we don't have all the answers today, but that's part of the fun. In terms of brand complexities, we're representing our brand in an authentic way that these virtual worlds allow.
Marketing Daily: For example?
Breton: So the central hub is effectively a store for virtual goods, with no restrictions from the laws of physics. A spokeless Ferris wheel gives users a vantage point of the full experience. There are no spokes on that Ferris wheel. We kept asking, how can we show up here in a way that feels meaningful?
Marketing Daily: Who are you hoping will find these experiences?
Breton: Roblox tells us the fastest growing audience on that platform is 17- to 24-year-olds, and that is an audience that is important to Walmart. Roblox also tells us two things are really important. One is a sense of community. We want to create a relationship with that audience, and we want them to think of Walmart as a digital destination. Our hope is that we will start to foster community in this virtual land.
Our first big program will be a music festival that's a celebration of diverse styles of music. We'll have Madison Beer, Kane Brown and YUNGBLUD.
The second is self-expression. I don't have long pink hair in the physical world, but if I want to, I can on Roblox. No one is going to judge me. So we are bringing that sense of self-expression to life.
Marketing Daily: How might that eventually boost sales?
Breton: We've got obbys, or obstacle courses, with oversized cosmetics, for example. We feature gen Z brands, like Bubble. By showcasing these brands, we hope customers will start to think of Walmart as a destination for beauty brands. And maybe they didn't know about that before, but through the lens of meaningful engagement in play, it starts to change their perception of Walmart.
Marketing Daily: But you can't buy things there yet, right?
Breton: Right. But we're showing up in such an authentic way that this might open the doors, eventually. And as you play mini-games, you'll unlock tokens, which let you unlock virtual goods, like Free Assembly clothing, our private label brand. We've partnered with brands like Skull Candy, with cool headphones for their avatar. So while there's no physical commerce, there's certainly a component of transaction through the tokens.
Marketing Daily: Which brands do you admire most for their metaverse work?
Breton: I'm a big fan of Nike, which has built a destination that showcases its assortment in ways that bring people back. And what Tommy Hilfiger just did during Fashion Week was innovative, with live streaming into the Roblox platform. It was a fun mix.