The Groundbreakers: The executives behind key changes at influential companies
SVP, chief strategy and AI officer at Levi Strauss & Co.
Before joining Levi Strauss & Co. as chief of global strategy in April 2019, Katia Walsh was a journalist and earned a doctorate, both of which taught her the importance of leveraging data to craft strategies, she said. At Levi’s, which is a symbol of democracy and freedom in Walsh’s birthplace of communist Bulgaria, she’s been busy growing the AI and data team, streamlining processes across the supply chain, forecasting demand patterns and incorporating AI into business operations across the board. In the first quarter of 2022, Levi’s earned $1.59 billion in revenue, exceeding the expected $1.55 billion.
How has your work played into Levi’s evolution?
“In recent years, Levi’s has made tremendous progress in experimenting with and embracing new digital capabilities, including AI and machine learning. Now, the company is starting to scale its efforts, with goals of enabling a superior, world-class consumer experience and driving profitability through digital technology. A few examples include our enhanced e-commerce site, successful consumer app and popular loyalty program, as well as new channels of engagement like appointment shopping, mobile POS, ship from store, curbside pick-up and same-day delivery. Leveraging data and AI has also played a large role in the company’s ability to optimize promotions and improve our inventory management.”
How can brands use data to drive desired outcomes today and in the future?
“Personalized experiences will continue to be a big part of what AI delivers everywhere, including in retail. But another big area of impact for AI is in precision. There is no reason that the retail industry cannot have precise demand and supply planning, and AI can deliver that. Through AI, retail companies should be able to know exactly what they need, in which location, in which channel, for which particular store, for which type of consumer, and at what time and price. Further into the future, when it comes to retailers that are also manufacturers, like Levi’s, we can flip the paradigm. In the past, and even today, companies first manufactured and then they’d sell. In the future, we can instead first sell through digital tools — through digital design, mobile and online selling — and then manufacture precisely to meet consumer demand. Think about the implications of that on sustainability, creativity and finances.”
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