Creative Brand Strategy TikTok

Immersive ‘y’allternative’: Walmart embraces social trends in gamified commerce experience


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

May 22, 2024 | 8 min read

The retail giant tapped real-life influencers to help develop a new hub for gamified shopping experiences inspired by uber-current social media trends.

Walmart Realm's Y'allternative shop

Walmart is targeting gen Z and gen Alpha consumers with new trends-inspired immersive shopping experiences / Walmart

Walmart on Wednesday launched Walmart Realm, a new virtual home for gamified, immersive shops created in partnership with influencers.

The hub was described by Walmart’s senior vice-president and chief marketing officer William White in a LinkedIn post as a “first-of-its-kind digital shopping experience with influencer-led virtual shops in immersive worlds.”

Walmart Realm encompasses three experiences that draw inspiration from trending aesthetic styles that have gained popularity this year among social media creators and users: ‘So Jelly’, which invites users to “dive into a sea of colorful, bubbly fun,”; ‘Y’allternative’, “where the wild west meets gothic glam”; and ‘Go Chromatic’, a “melted metallic world.”

Each of the three experiences was designed with technology provided by the virtual reality platform Emperia. Upon entering any one of the shops, users are transported into a 360-degree world with custom soundtracks and high-fidelity visuals, where they can explore the environment and collect ‘Sparks’ – tokens shaped like Walmart’s yellow, star-like logo that can be collected and exchanged for rewards – all the while discovering and shopping for Walmart products across beauty, fashion and home, that align with the world’s unique aesthetic.

Powered by AI

Explore frequently asked questions

In ‘So Jelly’, for example, users can find neon-colored handbags and a floor mirror set in an undulating frame. ‘Y’allternative’, meanwhile, boasts a denim jumpsuit, a bolo tie and a makeup tutorial with featured products for achieving a “dark, moody” look.

“It’s fantastical, it’s inspirational and simply put: it’s a lot of fun,” White wrote in his LinkedIn post. “At Walmart, we’re embracing innovation with e-commerce experiences designed with the virtual world at the heart. This latest innovation is reshaping the retail landscape and we’re thrilled to bring it to our customers.”

The products featured within the experiences were hand-selected by creators, each of whom’s personal brands or social content aligns with one of the respective themes. The ‘Go Chromatic’ shop was developed in partnership with fashion and lifestyle blogger Nava Rose, creative director and entrepreneur Mai Pham selected the products for ‘So Jelly’ and ‘Y’allternative’ came to life with the help of sister influencers Makenzie and Malia.

Walmart plans to expand the platform to include additional digital storefronts and partnerships with creators, beginning in July. Then, later in the year, fans can expect to see a range of holiday-inspired shops added to the Walmart Realm platform.

The project is “a great example of Walmart's adaptive retail approach and finding new ways to engage with customers, where we’re providing them with moments of surprise and delight,” says Justin Breton, the company’s director of brand experiences and strategic partnerships.

The retailer is increasingly focused on investments in immersive commerce, Breton explains, as it sees Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers turning to immersive spaces and AR experiences like those found on Roblox and Snapchat both for sourcing inspiration and for shopping.

“As we think about … the customer base that we’re going to really engage through this experience, it’s really the next generation of shoppers,” Breton says. “And they’re spending a lot of their time on social platforms, but they’re also spending a lot of their time on gaming platforms.” With Walmart Realm, he says, “We leaned into a behavior and an experience that’s native to them, that’s familiar to them.”

Despite the fact that many consumer-facing brands have refocused their marketing strategies away from spatial gaming and metaverse-like technologies – which took the industry by storm in 2021 and 2022 – Walmart is still finding value in innovating in the immersive media space (though Breton adds that the company doesn’t like using the amorphous word ‘metaverse’ to describe its activations).

Roblox, for example, has proven an especially promising environment for Walmart’s marketing and commerce efforts. It makes sense considering the platform’s growth trajectory. From 2022 to the end of 2023, Roblox saw its daily active users grow from 56 million to more than 70 million. Plus, daily active users are deeply engaged, spending an average of 2.4 hours per day on the platform.

Additionally, Roblox’s own transformation from virtual gaming site to full-fledged ecommerce and advertising platform evidences broader shifts in consumer behavior that are shaping the media landscape today.

It all represents, in Walmart’s view, a rife opportunity. Last month, the company introduced an ecommerce pilot directly into Roblox, allowing users to not only try out virtual items with real-life equivalents, but also to buy products directly from within the gaming platform.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

“Showing up on platforms like that is driving really meaningful engagement with our brand,” says Breton. “And as we introduce new features, like real-world commerce, we get those users closer to thinking about us as, hopefully, a retail choice when it comes to buying deodorant, or a sweater or hair clip, whatever it may be.”

Apart from Roblox and immersive gaming environments like those in Walmart Realm, Walmart is increasingly exploring opportunities in AR. “AR is not necessarily new, but it is significantly more advanced [than it was a few years ago]. Platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok have made AR more accessible for a broader generation of users, so [we’re considering,] ‘What is the use case of AR for Walmart?’”

Ultimately, Walmart Realm represents just one piece of a broader story, Breton says, about how the retailer is leveraging immersive tech to “shorten the distance [between] inspiration and commerce.”

As he puts it: “It delivers on this idea that ‘adaptive retail’ does not just mean we’re a store, or we’re just a website. It means we have to meet customers where they are online, and sometimes that means embracing emerging platforms and new technologies.”

Today, Walmart Realm is accessible in the US market only.

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily newsletter here.

Creative Brand Strategy TikTok

More from Creative

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +