Walmart XR/Metaverse Case Study
Walmart XR/Metaverse Case Study
Today I would like to share with our listeners the incredible story of how Walmart is leveraging the Metaverse to support and expand its digital innovation leadership. Let me start by introducing Walmart. Founded in 1962 by the American entrepreneur Sam Walton, Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation that operates 11,700 retail units in 28 countries and eCommerce websites. In 2022, Walmart had global sales of $573 billion and employed more than 2 million global employees, which they call ‘associates’. Each week, approximately 230 million customers visit Walmart, which makes Walmart fertile ground for testing innovative ideas including Metaverse and digital innovations that I will be talking about.
The Walmart Metaverse story starts in 2016 – 7 years ago – when Walmart faced an issue related to onboarding new associates, particularly training these associates on how to manage complex customer situations. For a long time, Walmart had relied on classroom instructors who gave lectures and quizzes, or on static online courses that associates clicked through on their own. But neither format adequately addressed the challenges of coping with certain situations like dealing with Black Friday, which is the huge sale that takes place throughout the US the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. While Black Friday generates a lot of sales, it is also a nightmare for the first-line staff. Hundreds of shoppers, dozens of various discounts and offers, long lines, multiple claims and complaints, cash registers going on strike, and so on. Readying for Black Friday is already challenging to train experienced associates and leaves absolutely no physical space and little time to train new associates.
To address this training challenge, Walmart created a Virtual Reality or VR-based Immersive Learning program to better prepare associates for their day-to-day jobs and to provide their associates with real-world scenarios like Black Friday where associates can role-play and run through hyper-real, practice scenarios to prepare for situations before they happen, while also helping associates develop critical customer-service skills including empathy, inclusion, and diversity.
Walmart VR training module allows trainees, for example, to experience the chaos and pressure that associates face on Black Friday without having to go through it in real life. Walmart uses VR headsets to immerse trainees in the store experience, while an instructor talks about what was happening and points out where associates did the right things and what to watch out for.
Walmart teaches their Black Friday VR class – as well as 45 other VR-based scenario classes – in both its 200 Learning Academies, which are training centers attached to larger Walmart stores, as well as in smaller Walmart locations. The VR training programs get created for different Walmart positions and occupations taking into account not all Walmart associates have the necessary technical background.
The results of Walmart’s VR onboarding and training sessions have been outstanding. Let me share with you some metrics. Trainees who take the VR training courses report a 30 percent higher satisfaction rating compared with trainees attending traditional training courses. The VR trainees score higher on content remembrance tests 70 percent of the time. They also demonstrate a 10-15 percent higher rate of knowledge retention compared with those in traditional training. The training also takes less time: what might require 90 minutes of classroom training can be completed in 20 minutes using VR training. This translates into higher employee loyalty since their associates appreciate the investment Walmart is making in their training, better employee confidence, happier employees, higher customer satisfaction, and millions of dollars in productivity savings for Walmart. Talk about a win-win scenario!
But the Walmart Metaverse story does not stop with VR training. In June 2022, Walmart announced a new ‘View in Your Space’ feature. This feature, like the Ikea Place app, works with more than 300 compatible furniture and home décor items in the Walmart app and allows users to view an augmented reality or AR version of a desk or a sofa or a chair in their room using a smartphone screen and camera. Users can drag and drop items to where they might be positioned, with dimensions visible on the screen.
Walmart now offers a virtual try-on app for eyeglasses through its Sam’s Clubs’ optical store.
Walmart has also adopted a game-changing technology called ‘Choose My Model’ that brings the in-store fitting room experience to online shoppers for more than 270,000 items across Walmart’s portfolio of exclusive, elevated, and private brands.
In September 2022, Walmart took a huge leap forward when they entered the Metaverse with two experiences aimed at younger shoppers via the online gaming platform Roblox. The first Metaverse experience is called Walmart’s Universe of Play, where the Roblox community can explore toy worlds to earn coins for virtual goods or complete challenges to build a personal trophy case or unlock secret codes. The second Metaverse experience is called ‘Walmart Land’ and provides immersive experiences including a virtual store of merchandise (“verch”) for users’ avatars, as well as an obstacle course for items from the retailer’s Gen Z-focused beauty brands.
Walmart’s Chief Marketing Officer says the company’s Roblox strategy is a customer experience and engagement initiative. He notes: “Roblox is one of the fastest growing and largest platforms in the Metaverse, and we know our next generation of shoppers, particularly Gen Z, are spending loads of time there, so we’re focusing on creating new and innovative experiences that excite them, something we’re already doing in the communities where they live, and now, in the virtual worlds where they play.”
And to bring us right up to date, in February 2023, Walmart filed additional Metaverse trademarks to promote digital assets across its products and services. These trademarks will push its Sam’s Club brand and logo, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), blockchain, and cryptocurrencies. Customers will have access to VR healthcare, crypto trading, brokerage, and financial services via a Metaverse platform complete with digital currency, native token, and an online community. These are more examples of Walmart’s admirable digital innovation leadership!
What I like most about the Walmart Metaverse story is their entrepreneurial spirit regarding the Metaverse: Walmart acknowledges some of their Metaverse ideas will become products or services that make it to customers. Some of their ideas they will test, iterate, and learn from. And some of their ideas will fail outright.
For me, Walmart epitomizes what my Metaverse business colleague, Tim Bajarin, and I have been evangelizing about the past 18 months, namely now is the time for all companies to create their Metaverse strategy and to begin to gain experience through both prototyping and implementation trial and error.
In closing, while many well-known brands have and are making investments in the Metaverse, none has the size, scale, or influence of Walmart, the world’s biggest company. That makes Walmart’s Metaverse play one that provides significant validation for the Metaverse and one that retailers and brands will have to follow closely for its competitive impact as well as its user response. It also extends Walmart’s digital innovation leadership well beyond the retail sector alone.
My Metaverse business partner, Tim Bajarin, and I are keen to assist institutions at each step of the way to ensure their successful entry into the Metaverse. To read about other aerospace and defense industry Metaverse use cases, I strongly recommend you visit ISM’s award-winning Metaverse Resource Center – www.ismguide.com/metaverse-resource-center – where in addition to hundreds of Metaverse use cases, articles and videos, you can also download ISM’s new “8 Steps to Do Business Successfully in the Metaverse” White Paper, and where you can also learn about and sign up for ISM’s complimentary, 2-hour Metaverse Bootcamp, which is targeted for a company’s executive team.
Barton Goldenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of ISM, Inc. Since 1985, ISM has established itself as the premier strategic advisor leveraging leading edge technologies – the Metaverse, Digital Communities, and CRM – to create and implement customer strategy with a focus on sales, marketing and customer service. His thought leadership including creator of the ‘Business Success in a Virtual World’ podcast, creator of the award winning Metaverse Resource Center, and author of three business books including The Definitive Guide to Social CRM. He is also in high demand as a keynote speaker (www.bartongoldenberg.com).