Bitcoin (BTC 3.32%) as a payment option could be going mainstream faster than you may think. Speaking at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, Suresh Kumar, the global chief technology officer of Walmart (WMT -0.05%), discussed some of the ways the giant retailer is planning to make crypto a key part of its future payments strategy, both for physical and virtual goods. As Kumar noted, “Crypto will become an important part of how customers transact.”
Bitcoin, as the most popular crypto for payments, would stand to benefit the most. If a huge retailer like Walmart is really going all-in on crypto, that would be a tremendous validation point and would certainly be a bullish indicator for Bitcoin.
The metaverse and crypto
So what’s driving this newfound support for crypto as a payment option? One major factor has been Walmart’s embrace of the metaverse. As Kumar pointed out, Walmart customers are getting inspired to buy and discover new products as a result of all the time they are spending in virtual worlds. Once they are part of these virtual worlds, they are looking to pay for virtual goods, such as new merchandise for an online avatar. And that’s where cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin enter the picture.
Image source: Getty Images.
Walmart has been stepping up its support of the metaverse recently. In September, it introduced Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play on Roblox, a popular metaverse gaming platform. Walmart was obviously intrigued by all the time customers were spending on the platform. As of June 30, Roblox boasted 52.2 million daily active users, 11.3 billion engagement hours, 12 million creators, and 32 million different experiences.
Social media and crypto
Walmart also suggested that the new ways people are using social media has forced the company to rethink the payment options it should offer customers. For example, Walmart livestream events on social media have turned out to be a great way for customers to learn about new products and see how they are used in real life. While you are watching these events, you might want to buy products featured in them, and crypto is being explored as a frictionless way for customers to pay for these goods online. Walmart has experimented with shoppable livestream events on several different platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.
Social media is also blurring the line between e-commerce and crypto, especially when it comes to non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Customers who purchase NFTs via online marketplaces now want to showcase these NFTs on social media. In response to that need, Facebook and Instagram (from Meta Platforms) now make it possible to connect your virtual wallet holding these NFTs with your social media accounts. Again, your virtual wallet holding these NFTs may also hold cryptocurrencies, so as Kumar noted in his presentation, crypto is really in the middle of things that customers like to do.
Caveats about Walmart and crypto
Of course, the big caveat here is that Kumar only specifically mentioned the metaverse and social media. For now, Walmart seems to be in the learning phase of how to make crypto part of its metaverse and social media strategy. He mentioned that crypto could lead to a “disruption in payment options,” but did not suggest that Walmart stores would suddenly start accepting Bitcoin. So some of the headlines that you might be seeing across social media may be somewhat misleading.
For Bitcoin, obviously, the biggest validation would come if Walmart eventually made paying with Bitcoin a key part of both its online and in-store experience. Right now, though, Walmart does not accept payment in cryptocurrency. Walmart has been long-rumored to be looking at Bitcoin as a payment option, but nothing official has been announced.
Obviously, it’s exciting news that a major retail giant like Walmart is getting more involved with the metaverse and cryptocurrencies. People often like to point to Walmart’s patent filings for NFTs and crypto tokens, as well as the company’s recent embrace of in-store Bitcoin ATM machines, as proof that the company is close to getting really serious. If and when Walmart goes all-in on crypto, that could be a screaming buy signal for Bitcoin.