5 iconic Retail brands investing in gaming

Find out why top Retailers like Walmart are investing in gaming and how brands are winning customers in the space.

We live in an experience culture, where customer journeys and brand storytelling are key. 

With virtual worlds like Roblox now offering e-commerce, retailers have a unique chance to offer consumers new, more immersive and engaging experiences.

Brands ranging from Selfridges to Amazon can use virtual worlds to blend the best parts of retail seamlessly – the social experience of visiting a shop and the convenience of online shopping.

This article will explore the top five retail brands investing in gaming, highlighting what makes their strategies successful and competitive in the virtual space. 

Ready to learn why retail brands are investing in gaming and which giants are leading the way? You’re in the right place. 👇

Why are retail brands investing in gaming? 

For retail brands, gaming represents a form of experiential retail that captivates Gen Z and younger demographics in a non-intrusive, authentic way. Gen Z already spends more time on Roblox than on TikTok. GEEIQ’s 2023 report found that under 25s typically spend 180 minutes a day on Roblox, compared to 107 minutes on TikTok.

Between 2023 and 2027, people are also expected to increase their daily gaming time to two hours per day. Entering virtual worlds early means brands get early-mover status by meeting gaming audiences where they are and growing with them.

Investing in gaming is also about prioritizing customer journeys and customer-centricity. Immersive environments foster brand loyalty by providing a unique opportunity for consumers to decide how they want to interact with a brand without feeling sold to. Brands can also surprise and delight their customers by creating branded worlds that are both memorable and meaningful. 

Gaming platforms also offer brands the opportunity to scale their audience globally. Brands can reach global audiences, tap into micro-demographics and contextualize virtual marketing efforts to resonate with different cultures and regions. This drives international online footfall and provides valuable audience insights, enabling brands to enhance their overall strategy and stay competitive in an ever-evolving retail landscape.

5 retail brands in gaming 

1. Walmart Discovered on Roblox

Experience: Walmart Discovered

Release date: September 2023 

Total visits: 21.25 million 

Walmart’s innovative approach to Roblox exemplifies how retail brands can effectively leverage virtual worlds for full-funnel marketing. When the brand set out to enhance its presence on Roblox, the goal was clear: prioritize player experiences, stay authentic to the brand and deliver unique value. What emerged was ‘Walmart Discovered’. 

Working with GEEIQ, Walmart Discovered reached over 20 million visits in just 6 months and achieved a 96.34% approval rating, making it one of the highest-rated branded experiences on Roblox. The experience’s average session time reached nearly nine minutes, indicating deep engagement. 

Walmart also became the first brand ever to introduce real-world commerce to Roblox

Justin Breton, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at Walmart, highlighted the strategic importance of Walmart Discovered:

Emerging experiences is really about engaging with customers in unexpected ways, on platforms that they love, on technologies that are being introduced and engaging with them in a way that gives them that moment of ‘Is this Walmart? Wow! I wasn’t expecting this from Walmart, and hopefully, it leads to a more favorable opinion of the brand. It leads them to walmart.com where they can purchase a product. It brings them into our store, but it ultimately gives them that moment of like, ‘Wow! Walmart is now my retailer of choice.

Justin Breton, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at Walmart

2. Bloomingdale’s Best Holiday Ever with Emperia

Experience: Bloomingdale’s Best Holiday Ever Virtual Shop 

Release date: November 2023 

Bloomingdale launched its ‘Best Holiday Ever Virtual Shop’ with Emperia in November 2023. This owned world featured a partnership with Warner Bros to showcase its film, Wonka. It allowed users to buy Wonka-inspired pieces by Kurt Geiger and other brands like Happy Socks, Christopher Radko, and more. 

This highlights a key advantage retailers have within the virtual space – the ability to bring multiple brands together to create visually stunning environments. Real-world holiday marketing campaigns can be translated into virtual worlds to create high-end immersive shopping experiences that enhance brand visibility. 

3. Harrods x Burberry on Roblox

Experience: Burberry at Harrods

Release date: February 2024

Total visits: 858k

Burberry x Harrod’s immersive experience on Roblox was a time-limited event that achieved 1 million visits in just one month. Mirroring its real-world collaboration with Harrods, Burberry’s Roblox experience included a virtual recreation of Harrods surrounded by four outdoor parks where players could unlock free items. This included avatar items like scarves, hot water bottles, and horse-shaped carabiners. 

By activating virtually, a brand collaboration that could have been exclusive to the real world was made accessible to a global audience that can start building their relationship with these iconic brands.

The natural settings within the ‘Burberry at Harrods’ world also capitalize on the brand storytelling opportunities virtual worlds offer retail brands. Charles Hambro, CEO of GEEIQ who has worked with brands such as Gucci, Hugo Boss and Walmart elaborated on this, stating:

A brand will express itself on traditional social media, but they are limited to words, images, and videos. These platforms allow brands to express themselves in ways they couldn’t possibly do in traditional media. This is about brand storytelling and expressing your brand.

Charles Hambro, CEO & Co-Founder at GEEIQ

4. Amazon’s Holiday Dash on Roblox 

Experience: Amazon’s Holiday Dash

Release date: September 2023 

Total visits: 7.73 million 

Amazon’s Holiday Dash is another great example of a time-limited Roblox experience that fits into a wider campaign. Launched in September 2023, the experience garnered 7.73 million visits and a 94.13% approval rate in just 13 weeks.

By bringing the brand to life in a virtual environment, Amazon increased its global reach. Aida Andersson, Head of Business Development at Doppelgänger, worked with Amazon’s team and elaborated on the brand’s strategy: 

Amazon’s Holiday Dash was played in 169 countries, although Amazon only operates in 30. That is amazing. We had almost 8 million visits, however, within the experience, there were over 34 million votes cast on items in 2 weeks. That really shows the sort of engagement you can get on Roblox. We had over 144 million played minutes. It did really well.

Aida Andersson, Head of Business Development at Doppelgänger

5. Target on Fortnite

Experience: From Spark to Shelf 

Release date: October 2022

Launched in October 2022, Target’s ‘From Spark to Shelf’ initiative in Fortnite Creative was one of the first retail brand activations in Fortnite. 

The experience featured Target’s mascot, Bullseye, and included mini-games such as a shopping cart race, parkour course, and a dunk-yourself basketball game. The central, Target-branded Hub connected founders’ stories via portals. 

While it is difficult to gauge how successful a brand activation on Fortnite is, due to their limited available data, the ‘From Spark to Shelf’ activation is an example of how retail brands can leverage gaming platforms to enhance brand storytelling and engage with consumers in a more playful way.

This creative activation might be one of the reasons Target was listed as Gen Z’s 9th most magnetic brand in 2023. 

Key Takeaways

In an era where experience is everything, these brands have demonstrated how gaming platforms can help brands build a committed consumer base, enhance customer engagement, and drive brand transformation.

By tapping into a Gen Z audience in a non-intrusive way, retail brands can boost their visibility, build a committed consumer base, and enhance customer engagement through immersive worlds. 

Charles Hambro summarizes the potential for retail brands in virtual worlds: 

Retail has a unique opportunity in this space. Brands across the spectrum, from Harrods to Target, must lean into the value they offer physically, and provide it virtually. These brands have a chance to translate some of the value they lost through the rise of e-commerce, back into the digital realm, to make shopping a social experience once more.

Charles Hambro, CEO & Co-Founder at GEEIQ
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