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In Depth: How Roblox “Real World” Commerce Works

….it doesn’t (yet)
May 3, 2024
Pictured: the ‘real world commerce’ items at launch in Walmart’s Roblox experience, Discovered.

My Hobo Festival Bag has a Digital Twin.

This week, Walmart relaunched their branded Roblox land, Discovered, with a new feature: IRL shopping.

Making good on an announcement from last year’s Roblox Shareholder Conference to launch (you guessed it) a retail media network and in-platform IRL shopping, Walmart’s new launch is equal parts exciting and exasperating. 

I spent five hours in the experience and its associated Discord so that you don’t have to; and here’s what I, ahem, Discovered: this first effort is a clever spotlight program for Roblox community digital content (UGC) creators to curate products with a large retail brand, disguised as a shopping experience that is neither experiential nor a form of shopping.

To cut to the chase, here are the pitfalls as they stand today, three days post-launch of Discovered:

Shopping is not an integrated piece of Roblox. You accept a disclaimer that you’re leaving the Roblox experience to visit a Walmart-owned site.

The products are in a gated area of Discovered and linked to an internal Discovered Walmart mini-website for checkout and fulfillment. You must manually enter a credit card, you cannot use a saved payment method or address. You cannot use Walmart+ or log in with existing Walmart account information.

Pictured: the at-launch ‘real world commerce’ items available in Walmart Discovered, with their digital twins.

The products are modestly priced. A tumbler and a pair of headphones will set you back $15. The purse is $20. All three can be bought with same-day delivery from without the need to shop within Roblox, but you must initiate the purchase from within Roblox to get the virtual merch.

Based solely on the discussions in the Discord, the purse seems to be the most in-demand item, but due to the lack of integration with the larger site, which shows product velocity (“100+ people have this in their cart”), it’s difficult to know if the desire is generating actual demand.

Comments in the official Walmart Discovered Discord server where confusion (and customer support issues) abound.

Nobody knows what’s happening. The announcement came without warning and many users are experiencing issues. A support ticket I opened has gone more than 11 hours without a response. The most common question is “How do we see the products??” which speaks to an unwritten rule of the shopping integration: the Terms & Conditions state that your account must be over the age of 13 to comply with COPPA. 

Workarounds exist. For instance, changing your age within the platform, verifying your identity, associating payment methods, etc. will not re-verify or qualify an account that was previously flagged as being underage. So, creating a new account is the easiest way to gain access to the experience, but nobody in Discord seems to realize this yet.

The second most cited issue is that the “digital twin” items are not delivered to the account. I suspect this is a laggy or less-than-real-time integration between the microsite eCommerce operated by Walmart and the Roblox service. Again, this underwhelms an audience used to on-demand, instant delivery.

Pictured: the skeuomorphism of Walmart Discovered.

Lastly, I’m surprised at how old-school this feels. From pushing a shopping cart to shopping a website, I expected Discovered to feel more like Roblox and less like… shopping for old people.

For a new Gen Alpha user to adopt a new form of Commerce—especially one that depends on real-world delivery—the user experience designers took zero chances. You add to cart, select product options, and go to checkout just like any other boring old website. 

I’m still convinced that the future of commerce is multiplayer (please buy our book).

But it’s got some bugs to work out before we “level up.” 

— Phillip


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