At Levi Strauss & Co., innovation is in our DNA. Our biannual hackathon serves as an important hallmark of our culture of innovation — reimaging, rethinking and redefining what’s possible.
Zach Crittendon, senior site experience engineer, has had plenty of experience in hackathons throughout his career and has participated in previous ones at LS&Co. When he approached the hackathon in August 2021, he knew he had a winning idea — an idea that could not only improve the online shopping experience for consumers but also be easily managed by creative and marketing teams. He knew how to build it but needed insight on how design and marketing teams could actually use it.
That’s when he asked Rebeka Pelaez, senior manager of digital design, who he had occasionally worked with before, to join his team of one. Rebeka knew generally about hackathons but assumed they were highly technical and required coding expertise — skills she didn’t have. And it wasn’t until Zach reached out that she realized LS&Co. hosted one of its own. Excited to be a part of a new, innovative challenge, Rebeka accepted the offer and started her first ever hackathon experience.
The Winning Idea
As long as you’re working on something that you’re really passionate about and you find it valuable to yourself, then you’ve already won. – Zach Crittendon
The rise of social media and social commerce has led to consumers getting used to short, engaging videos instead of static images. Rebeka and Zach entered the hackathon with a vision to create a content management system (CMS) module that combines content and commerce in a dynamic and engaging way, unlike anything that had been deployed on Levi.com. They wanted to create a way to increase consumer engagement and allow consumers to shop the look through engaging videos.
The two built a module that enables marketing, creative and mechanizing teams to develop shoppable video carousels. The module was intuitive and directly connected to inventory and pricing promotions. The products displayed were inventory-aware, meaning products that were sold out or not available in that market wouldn’t appear, and prices displayed were auto-adjusted to local currencies and current sales in real time. The module was built with the current Levi.com CMS in mind so it could be fully tied into other functionalities and immediately deployed.
“I wanted to create something that I knew the business could easily deploy and that could have a real impact on the shopping experience,” Zach said. “And with the holiday season only a few months after the hackathon, I knew our idea was something that could elevate our capabilities leading into our busiest shopping season of the year. I was confident the judges would see the immediate value.”
Zach was correct. That year, the hackathon had a record 35 teams from 11 countries, and for the first time ever needed two rounds: a qualifier and a final round. Zach and Rebeka’s idea was selected as one of the top three winners.
After winning, the two quickly sprang into action. There wasn’t much to do on the technical side, but it was time to get the broader marketing and design team bought in. Rebeka presented the idea to her colleagues on the global brand creative team to show them how to use the new module with existing content in their marketing toolkits. While the team had used video on the website before, this new module allowed videos to be shoppable.
Hackathons Are for Everyone
While typically thought of as an IT-specific event, LS&Co.’s hackathon serves as an opportunity for all employees to add to our culture of innovation. The hackathon is a one-day event that brings together employees from across functions and clusters to develop new, innovative ideas that will ultimately further the company’s digital transformation.
Our first hackathon of 2022 is currently underway, and presentations will take place virtually on March 14. We’ve expanded the remit and are encouraging all employees to participate, including our Beyond Yoga colleagues.
If you’re on the fence about participating, Zach and Rebeka have some advice.
“Yes, it’s always great to win. But the amazing part about a hackathon is the process and motion of developing a new idea within itself,” Zach said. “Also, you get to make new connections outside of your normal team and collaborate with teams and people that you’ve never met before.”
Rebeka echoes Zach’s sentiment. “Don’t be intimidated by the term ‘hackathon’ and keep an open mind. This event is applicable to all teams. I never thought someone in design would participate and have a role in a hackathon, but look at me. It’s all about the idea and pulling in the right skill sets and talent from across the organization to build your team and in return execute on your idea.”