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August 26, 2021

Buying groceries with Bitcoin? – Walmart hires cryptocurrency talent

By GlobalData Thematic Research

In August 2021 Us retailer Walmart pitched its hat into the crypto ring by advertising for a ‘Digital Currency and Cryptocurrency Project Lead.’ There are few details about the role which is based at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. But the fact that it is looking for a project lead in the crypto sphere signals the company’s intentions, and hints at its ambitions.

The role does not state anywhere that the company will accept cryptocurrency payments anytime soon, but the job description shows that new hire will play a part in identifying ‘crypto related investments and partnerships.’ From the job description, it is unclear if the grocery store has plans to allow shoppers to use cryptocurrencies to buy products. Either way, consumers are unlikely to be buying their biscuits with Bitcoin, their eggs with Ethereum, or their donuts with Dogecoin before Thanksgiving.

Walmart has a track record of implementing cutting-edge tech

This is not the first time that Walmart has been a paragon of tech experimentation. In December 2019 the supermarket giant revealed plans to capitalise on its vast network of stores spanning the US by transforming them into a fabric for edge computing. Edge computing brings computing closers to the end user delivering reduced latency.

Edge computing is likely to be critical for the widescale deployment of autonomous vehicles, drones, and mobile gaming. Using the extensive real estate available to the company – 90% of the US population live within 10 miles of a Walmart store – the retail behemoth laid out plans to use its physical footprint in two ways: superstores will be transformed into ‘edge computing centers’, and telcos can rent roof space to install 5G antennae.

A practical spending use for cryptocurrencies on the horizon?

Walmart’s cryptocurrency job posting follows the likes of Amazon which also advertised for a ’digital currency and blockchain product lead’ in July 2021. It said it was ‘inspired by the innovation happening in the crypto currency space’ and is ‘exploring what this could look like on Amazon’ It believes ‘the future will be built on new technologies that enable modern, fast and inexpensive payments.’ But, like Walmart, it’s not clear whether Amazon is looking to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for products in its ever-growing ecosystem. Equally, it remains to be seen whether it has any plans for making use of blockchain. It’s worth noting that the company’s AWS arm already provides a managed blockchain service.

To continue the cryptocurrency recruitment tale, Apple advertised a listing in May for a business development manager for ‘alternative payments’, with the job requirements including ‘experience of digital wallets, BNPL (buy now, pay later)… crypto currency.’

Those moving into the crypto space are reacting to companies that are breaking the trail, including Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, who said the company would accept Bitcoin as a form of payment before then reconsidering its stance.

Big Tech could help realize crypto’s true value

It is still early days in the cryptocurrency world but Big Tech companies are one of the likely candidates to help legitimize this fledgling market.

Tech companies have the skills to provide the requisite digital experience. But, if Big Tech gets serious about cryptocurrencies, that could create problems for traditional banks which will see themselves on the outside looking in on decentralised finance.