Retail’s most interesting forays into Web3 in 2022

From metaverse activations to branded NFT drops, the digital side of retail was an interesting place to be.
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· 5 min read

“Goblin mode” might be Oxford’s chosen word of the year, but if the number of Roblox activations and branded NFT drops are anything to go by, honorable mentions should probably go to “metaverse,” “decentralization,” or “blockchain.”

The idea of a decentralized web (Web3) seems to have a strong grip on the hearts and minds of the retail world, from fashion to food. While adoption rates in the general population are still fairly low—earlier this year, a National Research Group report found that only 13% of consumers say they know what Web3 is—many brands are betting big on it as a new channel, and spent 2022 experimenting with projects that ranged from futuristic to nostalgic.

We rounded up a few of the most notable (or entertaining) Web3-adjacent retail experiences from 2022:

Starbucks’ new path to loyalty: The coffee giant’s blockchain-based extension to its loyalty program, Starbucks Odyssey, first announced in September, uses blockchain technology to expand rewards for its most loyal consumers. Members will be able to collect digital stamps, as well as access both virtual and real-world coffee experiences, the brand said. A beta version launched in December.

Nike leads the way: After purchasing digital-sneaker company RTFKT in December 2021, Nike was all-in on Web3 in 2022. In November, the athletics brand announced its new Web3 platform, .Swoosh, which will allow users to collect digital apparel like jerseys and shoes, unlock access to physical events, and to co-create virtual merchandise. As of mid-December, the platform is still in beta mode.

Metaverse fashion week: In March, virtual world Decentraland hosted its first Metaverse Fashion Week, a blockchain-based experience featuring a Dolce & Gabbana catwalk, a fireside chat with Tommy Hilfiger executives, and a virtual performance by Grimes, among other events.

Hydration station: In March, canned-water brand Liquid Death announced its Web3 loyalty program, Murder Head Death Club, featuring 6,666 NFTs of severed heads. Holders access a VIP Liquid Death experience, including discounts on merchandise and access to the brand’s highly-engaged digital community.

Game stop’s NFT marketplace: The video game retailer (of meme stock fame) launched a beta version of its decentralized NFT marketplace in July. Shortly after the official launch, GameStop announced a retreat from its Web3 ventures, and confirmed layoffs impacting employees focused on crypto.

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Walmart’s virtual worlds: The retail giant jumped into the metaverse with two experiences in gaming platform Roblox: Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play.

Web3 at NYFW: Six months after Decentraland’s “Metaverse Fashion Week,” the fashion world turned its eyes to New York, where Web3 integrations featured prominently. Tommy Hilfiger presented its show both physically and digitally, in Roblox. Carolina Herrera created a digital version of the dress worn by Karlie Kloss to close out the show. And Alo Yoga debuted a ready-to-wear collection paired with ownership certificates in the form of limited-edition NFTs.

Paris Hilton coins Cryptoween: Paris Hilton, self-proclaimed “queen of the metaverse,” set out to bring Halloween to digital worlds via “Cryptoween,” a themed experience in Roblox. The activation was created in partnership with beauty brand Urban Decay, and represented the its first foray into the metaverse. Most importantly, digital attendees dressed their avatars in outfits inspired by Hilton’s own iconic Halloween costumes.

The Roblox fashion trends report: In November, gaming platform Roblox released its first-ever “Metaverse Trends Report,” in partnership with the Parsons School of Design. According to the report, 70% of Gen Z users say they dress their avatars the way they dress themselves, and that avatar style influences their real-world outfits. Half of respondents said they changed their avatar’s clothing once a week, while two-thirds said they were excited to wear brand-name virtual items on Roblox. The key takeaway? The opportunities for the fashion industry in the metaverse are endless.

A big year for Bored Apes: The wildly successful NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club rounded out 2021 with a partnership with Adidas, but didn’t stop in 2022. A partnership with beauty brand Glamour Dolls in March featured two Bored Apes, while a December collaboration with Timex brought community members one-of-a-kind watches featuring an owner’s Ape. But brand collaborations weren’t the only PR project on BAYC’s plate this year: a class action lawsuit accused BAYC creator Yuga Labs and a long list of celebrity NFT owners (Justin Bieber, Madonna, and Kevin Hart, to name a few) of “unrealistically hyping up the value” of the digital primates. The lawsuit is currently pending in California federal court.—MA

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.