#RICE22 Session Highlights: Metaverse Strategists Championing Next-Level Retail Experiences - Retail Innovation Conference & Expo

#RICE22 Session Highlights: Metaverse Strategists Championing Next-Level Retail Experiences

If you’re still trying to wrap your head around the metaverse, you’re not alone! According to a recent survey from Klaviyo, 49% of consumers don’t even know what the metaverse is! Moreover, among respondents who said they were aware of the metaverse, 78% think it’s mostly marketing hype. 

While it might still be marketing hype to some, to others it’s a complete game-changer with real value. Enter: Cathy Hackl, Roxanne Iyer, Matt Maher, Ekta Chopra, B. Earl and Ashley Crowder. These industry leaders are accelerating experiences in the metaverse and the NFT landscape. PLUS, they will all be taking the stage in May at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo. If you want to learn directly from these industry experts, and even mix and mingle with them, join us in Chicago and geek out with us on all things tech and immersive CX! 

Spotlighting Our Metaverse and NFT Experts

Cathy Hackl

Cathy Hackl, a.k.a.The Godmother of the Metaverse, is a globally recognized metaverse expert, tech futurist and top business executive. She has deep experience working in metaverse-related fields with companies like HTC VIVE, Magic Leap and Amazon Web Services. She’s the CEO of the Futures Intelligence Group, a leading metaverse consultancy working with the world’s top brands on metaverse growth strategies, NFTs, gaming and virtual fashion. 

Her mission is to help brands successfully extend into virtual worlds. If you want to learn even more from Cathy, I suggest checking out her latest book, “Augmented Workforce: How AI, AR and 5G Will Impact Every Dollar You Make.” Also, you may have seen her on TV as she’s been featured on various TV networks, check out one of her appearances below!   

Roxanne Iyer

Roxanne Iyer

A recognized senior marketing leader, with 20+ years of experience in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S., Roxanne is the Vice President of Global Consumer Engagement for Clinique. She successfully worked with Cathy Hackl to launch Clinique’s first NFT into the metaverse. This was also Estée Lauder Companies’ first foray into NFTs. Previously, Roxanne led global digital marketing for Ralph Lauren and had various digital and innovation leadership roles at L’Oreal. 

FUN FACT: Cathy and Roxanne will be the mainstage keynote speakers kicking off the event on May 11. Their session, “Inside the Metaverse Movement: How to Embrace Convergence and Create Transcendent Brand Experiences,” will dive deep into establishing your digital identity in the metaverse and lessons learned from across the retail realm.  

Matt Maher

Matt Maher is a futurist, speaker and founder of M7 Innovations. He has guided executive teams at Fortune 100 companies through the ever-changing media and technological landscapes, helping them conceptualize, present and execute on innovative solutions. His thought leadership and award-winning work has been featured in Forbes, Quartz, Men’s Journal, Retail TouchPoints and Adweek.

Matt specializes in gaming, augmented and virtual realities, artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT), and voice technology. He formerly served as VP of Innovation at Assembly, AdAge’s 2018 Agency of the Year, as well as Director of Content at Interpublic Group’s Initiative. 

Ekta Chopra

Ekta Chopra is Chief Digital Officer for e.l.f. Beauty. Chopra joined the company in January 2016 and brings 20+ years of technology experience from private equity and retail companies. She is responsible for digital transformation in her current role, including eCommerce, engineering, data ecosystem, enterprise applications, security, metaverse, AI/AR and consumer technologies. She is actively involved with leading e.l.f. Beauty’s digital efforts to grow our digital footprint across the globe.

She joined e.l.f from the James Irvine Foundation, where she defined and led a highly successful technology strategy for an investment portfolio. There she focused on the technology roadmap for enterprise applications, cloud transformation, and building relationships with top Silicon Valley brands to start new partnerships. Before that, she served as VP of Technology for Charming Charlie, a specialty retailer that grew from 17 to 120 stores nationally.  


For the past several years, B.Earl has been writing for Marvel with his creative partner, Taboo (of Black Eyed Peas fame). They started their company SkyView Way Studios in 2019 and have had successful projects with Cartoon Network and Gaumont. Prior to this, B.Earl worked on the AR/VR/Graphic Novel MASTERS OF THE SUN with will.i.am and Black Eyed Peas. 

He has been heavily involved with community building in Hollywood, having founded the largest and longest lasting networking group for professionals in comic books/film/animation called Comic Book Sunday.  He also founded JamNation, an LA music collective, which gathers for a monthly open jam at the legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill. Discovering blockchain in late 2017, B.Earl worked with Millennium Media on developing an NFT-driven gaming project based on the UNDISPUTED film series. The project was a few years ahead of its time since most of the blockchain community was still very focused on cryptocurrency. He never gave up the ideas he learned in developing that project as well as the relationships he gained, and he now is a founder of the NFT series Chiwawows along with two others in development. With an eye on the future of how storytelling and community will affect web3 growth, he is focused on bringing his experiences and abilities to those that are new to the space. 

FUN FACT: Matt Maher will be moderating an exciting panel discussion featuring Ekta Chopra and B. Earl. Their panel session, “NFT-Powered Communities: Just a Fad or Here to Stay,” will explore how to begin transforming your digital ecosystem and understand the value of NFTs to build brand loyalty, personalization, and a sense of community in the digital world. AND! You’ll hear even more from Matt as he dives into commerce and eSports, “Ready Player Three: Commerce Enters the World of Gaming and eSports.”  

Ashley Crowder

Ashley Crowder

Ashley Crowder is the co-Founder and CEO of VNTANA, a SaaS platform that makes it fast and easy to create 3D and AR eCommerce which has proven to double online conversion rate. She has worked in the 3D/AR/VR space for over 10 years helping Fortune 1000 brands including Adidas, Hugo Boss, Deckers Brands and more launch 3D applications to increase sales.

She has 14 patents on mixed reality technology and is a part of the Khronos Group to create standards in 3D technology. Also, she was featured as one of USC’s leading engineering CEOs of 2016 and leverages her engineering background to guide VNTANA’s overall direction and technology development. She aims to shape the future of e-commerce by making it easy to create a 3D version of every product in the world. 

FUN FACT: Ashley will bring her extensive experience in 3D/VR/AR to the stage in May. Check out her session, “How 3D is Impacting the Future of Ecommerce Engagement,” as she provides key steps to build a winning 3D strategy.  

So, if you still think the metaverse is just marketing hype, I encourage you to register now to hear from these experts who may just change your mind set on testing new technologies. I have no doubt that they’ll help you reimagine the possibilities and challenge the status quo of community building and audience engagement!  

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