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Exclusive Q&A: Levi’s takes customer-centric innovation approach

Amy Gershkoff Bolles
Amy Gershkoff Bolles, Ph.D., global head of digital & emerging technology strategy, Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co. is developing a framework to help ensure its technology initiatives meet customer needs and corporate principles.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Amy Gershkoff Bolles, Ph.D., global head of digital & emerging technology strategy, Levi Strauss & Co., about her role overseeing innovation at the specialty denim brand. Prior to joining Levi’s in March 2022, Bolles served as founder, CEO, COO, GM, or chief data officer at a variety of companies, and has also taught at the University of California Berkeley and Princeton University.

What are your main responsibilities in your role at Levi’s?
In my role at Levi's, I head up global digital and emerging technology strategy, which means I'm responsible for overseeing our strategy globally as it relates to digital and technology for our consumers and our employees. This also includes our digital upskilling programs.

How did you kick off your role at Levi’s?
I began by building a framework to help decide what digital and emerging technology initiatives to invest time and resources into. The first step was forming a cross-functional collaborative executive working group comprised of key company leaders from across the marketing, commercial and technology organizations.

We brought together all of these key leaders as we designed our scorecard and framework for evaluating technology opportunities, and then we built out a framework that is designed to help us be disciplined and data-driven in making decisions about where and how to invest in technology.

Can you describe Levi’s technology decision-making process in more detail?
Our scorecard for evaluating emerging technology opportunities involves looking at the strength of alignment between that initiative and our company's overall strategy, and our company values. We’re a very values-driven organization.

Levi’s also leverages robust financial analysis to look at any opportunity to ensure it's going to generate enterprise value for our business. And, most importantly, we also look at the positive impacts that any initiative would have on the consumer experience. And that's always front and center in how Levi’s makes decisions.

[Read more: Levi’s makes online sizing more accurate, inclusive]

Could you describe one or two projects that you're especially proud of?
Levi’s started by applying our framework broadly in two spaces. One is to evaluate opportunities in Web 3.0. There's a vast amount of opportunity in that space; everything from decentralized web content to blockchain-enabled value creators and applications.

The other space that we're looking at and evaluating opportunities in using this emerging technology framework is the industrial 4.0 space. From an emerging technology perspective, there is tons of opportunity in industrial 4.0, ranging from innovations in design and manufacturing to supply chain.

How do you think Levi’s will operate in the livestream space?
One example is the large livestream holiday shopping event that we just had for the holidays with Emma Chamberlain, highlighting some of her favorite styles and products in a live and interactive environment on our site. It enabled customers to discover new products and be able to shop those for the holiday season.

[Read More: Levi’s in pilot to directly host holiday livestream event]

We’re also exploring other ways to create the most interactive, memorable and fun experiences for our customers.

Is Levi’s exploring metaverse opportunities?
As we look in particular at our Gen Z shoppers, they shop and live their lives in an entirely different way than prior generations. Gen Z doesn't see a stark difference between the physical world and the digital world.

Gen Z consumers are looking for experiences that blend the best of the physical world and the digital world together. We’re trying to think with the lens of the Gen Z consumer in mind about how blending the physical and the digital world together can create an immersive, fun, memorable shopping experiences, such as in the metaverse.

How is Levi’s innovating in your brick-and-mortar stores?
If you are shopping in one of our brick-and-mortar stores and you find a great pair of jeans that you fall in love with, we might only have a couple of different washes of that particular size and style of denim at that store.

But right in that moment on our app, you can see our full assortment of all of the possible washes, and then leverage our app to place and order right then and have those jeans shipped to you right away. That is an example of how Levi’s is blending the physical in-store experience with the digital experience. We are looking at lots of different ways to continue to integrate the physical and the digital shopping experience.

[Read more: Levi’s provides stores with real-time mobile data]

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