It’s not quite Amazon, but it’s definitely a big deal… Walmart’s Global Chief Technology Officer Suresh Kumar spoke at some length about crypto’s future as a payment method at the recent All Markets Summit.
Let’s be real. Crypto to fiat options are still lacking. By this point, things have almost taken a bizarre turn. For every one store that accepts crypto as readily as any other currency, there is another store in the same industry – virtually a doppelgänger – that doesn’t. In some sense, that doesn’t even really matter. MasterCard has the Gemini crypto credit card, Visa has its own crypto cards and supports pay-with-crypto at participating merchants.
Is it possible to transfer crypto to a fiat wallet? It has been for the better part of a decade. So crypto adoption among retailers remains one of the most important “whens” in the market, even though it’s happened already.
We’ve discussed Walmart’s plans before, and put the scope of their potential impact on the crypto market into perspective:
Currently, Walmart accounts for $43 billion in ecommerce sales in the U.S. last year. Another way of looking at this: Walmart collected over ¼ of all “click and collect” (or buy online for in-store pick-up) orders in 2021. In-store pick-up sales turn Walmart’s massive retail footprint into a benefit, rather than a costly liability, against the ecommerce juggernaut Amazon.
Walmart’s crypto plans go a little beyond accepting payment in crypto…
Kumar said that crypto payment is an area that the retail giant wants to tap into in more ways than one. For starters, he mentioned frictionless, not contactless payment. (After all, you’re always making contact with something.) Frictionless, though – that implies ease of use. The easier a process is for people, the more rapidly they’ll try it out. And the better the chance the try-it-out phase becomes adoption.
Retail crypto payments already work well in most cases, but it makes sense that a company of Walmart’s size has to take some extra steps of caution. (That’s probably why they’ve employed 5,000 tech employees in North America as the expansion into crypto continues.)
Other than seeing crypto as a payment method of the future, Kumar also touched upon two novelties, one reasonable and the other as-yet unproven. Specifically, these are “donations” for various online streamers and so-called metaverse stores.
Regarding donations: streaming and general user-generated video has replaced movies, TV shows and hopefully the news for many. The popular Twitch platform, which has hundreds of thousands of live viewers every day, is just one example of a “choose your own TV” website. On Twitch, donations to broadcasters make most of their revenue. While the site uses its native tokens and fiat currencies as on-screen payment methods, it’s a blueprint for what could become a new way of consuming digital media.
Metaverse stores are a little more contentious. Nike is building an online metaverse store called Nikeland, based on NFTs and therefore cryptocurrencies. Walmart seems to be hinting to the same.
But why? Online stores already exist, and the reasons we visit physical stores aren’t going to go away. You have to try it before you buy it sometimes, right? And there’s no real ecommerce equivalent of wandering up and down the aisles, just looking.
Even sol, Kumar has praise for both.
I think a lot of the disruption is going to start happening in terms of different payment methods, and different payment options.
If you’re wondering how to make everyday purchases with crypto, the question is probably more of a “where” rather than “how”. It remains a store-dependent thing. We can’t say that every single store is going to accept crypto down the line. (With how fiat is shaping up, though, maybe.)
The more big names offer a crypto plug, the more smaller stores will be inclined to do so. The relative lack of plugs remains one of the biggest issues in the crypto market, but seeing it remedied slowly but surely gives cause for optimism. After all, the more useful crypto is, the more people will use crypto – pushing the entire marketplace ever closer to the tipping point, from “interesting” to “vital.”
When will that happen? We can’t say for sure (though it already has in some parts of the world) – but what we can say is, as with most things, it’s usually better to be early rather than late. You don’t want to be the last person holding paper when even Walmart is moving into the blockchain.
Fortunately, getting started with crypto is easier than ever.