“Metaverse and its implications for eCommerce” Interview with Carolin Wais Director & Investor in Plug and Play 

We’re more than happy to introduce some speakers of our upcoming E-commerce Berlin Expo 2022.

Today, we decided to invite Carolin Wais from Plug and Play for a virtual cup of coffee to talk about “Metaverse and Its implications for eCommerce” topic. Enjoy!

What are your responsibilities at Plug and Play? Do you get involved in the day-to-day activities or do you prefer to oversee them?

At Plug and Play I wear multiple heads/hats – 

As a director, I develop the strategy for our Brand & Retail platform, help our partners such as MediaMarktSaturn or the SchwarzGroup with their innovation challenges and create content about the most exciting new topics in the industry.

As part of the European Investment Committee, together with my co-members, we host-bi-weekly Deal reviews for our European, African & Middle Eastern teams and conduct trainings where needed. I of course also love investing myself and really enjoy helping my portfolio companies in their operations, fundraising and growth.  I like to be hands-on and support where needed, especially, when it comes to supporting my portfolio and partners. 

Since the beginning of the year, I also launched a new Metaverse task force that has by now grown to over 30 people. We explore the implications of the metaverse, create content, scout investment targets and are in the process of building an entire program around it.

Plug and Play’s claim is “We boost retail innovation by matching the best startups and the largest corporations”. How does Plug and Play help eCommerce companies?

Challenge definition, startup scouting & piloting: We support our partners on concrete challenges in different business areas and create an innovation roadmap together with them. We believe that most business needs can be solved in a cheaper , more efficient and more competitive way with startup solutions, small business funding, and matchmake our partners with the right providers. In that, we have over 15 years of experience in corporate innovation and developed a proven 12-step End-to-End innovation process to go from challenge definition to pilot to rollout. We already work with over 60 clients in the Brand & Retail industry and over 550 corporations across all areas. We have a global team with more than 200 venture employees in 47 locations that scout the best startups constantly. 

Throughout your career, you’ve worked in many locations all over the world. Do you have a favorite location where you feel you grew the most, and why?

That’s a tough one as every station gave me opportunities to grow and I just love exploring different cultures. Guangzhou in China was definitely the most challenging in terms of adapting to a new way of working and Boston and The Valley in the US the most entrepreneurial stations, where I could learn a lot. My favorite city, despite Munich ;), to live in was Stockholm as they have an incredible work life balance and the city is just gorgeous.

Metaverse and eCommerce – how can you see it work together? What are your favourite use cases, examples, and benchmarks? That’s what you’re going to cover during the Ecommerce Berlin Expo 2022, are we right?

Yes, exactly. I am super excited about the topic as I am convinced that it will open up many new doors for eCommerce players with regards to Marketing, Customer Relationships and Revenue. GenZ spends around 76% of their time online and has an attention span of only around 8 seconds, therefore, new ways of customer interactions are needed.

I love that Adidas, as a prominent German example, showcased that the Metaverse can be extremely profitable and made more than $50M in revenues with their Adidas Original NFT collection.

Balenciaga built up an entire virtual world for their fashion show where users and eCommerce player Boohoo launched their own NFT for men to appeal to attract new customers.

Also crypto incentive programs are a great use case to build up loyalty and to buy bitcoin with credit card is no longer difficult – many companies leverage the trend, e.g. Nike rewarded every purchase with a bitcoin payback together with startup lolli.

In order to achieve more diversity in the ecosystem, you support initiatives like Grace. Could you tell us more about what you’re involved in? How are they changing the world?

In the US, female founders only got 2% of venture capital funding in 2021 and that’s something we need to change. I have been supporting Grace since 2019 and it is an amazing program that supports women in starting their own companies through workshops, mentorship and encouragement.

You can still apply for the latest batch until April, 3rd. Further, we have our own initiative at Plug and Play called FoundHer to support more female founders. There are also many great communities out there and if anyone reading this ever needs support or advice, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via LinkedIn :).

What is the biggest challenge in enterprise tech? In an era of continuous digital transformation and innovation, what can possibly be a bottleneck?

Data. Jack Ma hit the mark when he said that data is the new gold. Innovations around pricing, forecasting, personalization, product development etc. are only as good as the underlying data and many players still have uncomplete and unstructured datasets. Synthetic data startups are already working on solutions and even though very few players will get a dataset that is as strong as Amazon’s, I believe that investing in this area can help the entire organization. Another bottleneck are sometimes purchasing and legal departments if processes are too long and not adjusted to e.g. working with startups.

Metaverse is one thing – but are you expecting anything else to revolutionize eCommerce in the upcoming years?

I can only agree with many and say that the pandemic was the best CDO and helped to accelerate eCommerce adoption in an unprecedented manner. In the coming years, the generation change towards GenZ&Alpha will further drive adoption and in my point of view turn stores into experience and fulfillment centers, while most purchases will be done online. We already observe a power shift between brands & retailers and many brands are moving towards a D2C approach. Lastly, the emergence of a super app such as WeChat in China could disrupt the purchasing process and lead to a new playground for eCommerce players.