Taking a 170-year-old company into the digital age is no small task. As the world of retail adapts to developments in AI, changing global trends and rapid expansions in online shopping, Levi Strauss & Co. is doing some adapting of its own. We sat down with Jason Gowans, LS&Co.’s new chief digital officer, to tell us a bit about what that looks like at the company.
Six months into your new position, we know you must be busy. What’s the biggest task on your plate right now?
It’s been a busy few months. My primary objective is still getting to know the ins and outs of LS&Co. As you can imagine, there’s a lot to learn about a 170-year-old company. And becoming acquainted with every last detail is key to my second objective: modernizing the business from the inside out. It’s such an honor to come on board to such a prestigious heritage brand, and we want to make sure that we make all digital transitions with intention and care.
Tell us more about that. We hear a lot about digital transformation these days — what does that look like at LS&Co. today?
It’s a great question, and the answer has a lot of layers. As a company, we’re in a unique position of having operated in a wholesale model since the 1850s. With that in mind, there are legacy processes and mindsets you have to rework when you go from serving wholesale customers to becoming direct-to-consumer (DTC)-first, and that starts with being consumer-obsessed.
Knowing that I came on as the first-ever chief digital officer and am responsible for meeting our goals, we’ve created a three-pronged approach that allows us to push technological boundaries, without sacrificing the quality we’re known for. First, focusing on the fundamentals; second, evolving the assortment; and third, creating a unique digital flagship experience.
Can you briefly unpack what each of those steps look like?
Absolutely. Like I said, step one is all about the fundamentals. That means placing a strong focus on enhanced discovery and search capabilities to provide more personalized content and offerings on our website and in-app. I’m all about innovative digital transformation, but my priority is ensuring that our everyday consumer-facing technology is the best it can be — from product discovery to order fulfillment to creating a robust review database.
For the next phase, we’re focusing on expanding our assortment, pursuing increased differentiation and partnering on exciting collaborations. We want to make sure that our collections are easily accessible both online and in store, so we’re working on expanding those choices, as well as decreasing the burden on consumers to find the size and fit they’re after. We’re also placing a bigger emphasis on transparency. Today, we might have different price points for similar products, but it isn’t clear to the consumer why that is. We’re intent on looping the consumer into our decision processes and making it clear where their dollar is going, every step of the way.
While a lot of our work is future facing, the third phase gets back to our roots. As we work on bringing our online shopping experience to life, we want to imbue it with the spirit and hospitality of an in-store Levi’s® shopping experience. Even if consumers are doing their shopping online, we still want them to receive the personal, top-tier treatment they would expect in store. To achieve that, we’re combining data, insights and emerging technologies to create an integrated omnichannel experience.
That’s a big job for your team. Does AI play a role in streamlining any of that process?
Definitely. In recent years, we’ve made tremendous progress in starting to experiment with and embrace new digital capabilities, AI and machine learning. Now we’re ready to scale our efforts, enabling a superior consumer experience and driving profitability through digital technology.
Leveraging data and AI has played an important role in our ability to optimize promotions and improve our inventory management. We may be in the denim business, but access to cutting edge AI technology is getting us closer to looking and working more like a technology company.
Finally, what would you say are your main goals as chief digital officer, and what is the purpose of achieving those benchmarks?
We’ve definitely got some ambitious, concrete goals ahead of us. With our digital transformation in mind, we aim to triple ecommerce sales and expand our DTC business to 55% of global revenue. We also hope to increase net revenue from $9 billion to $10 billion, with 6-8% organic annual growth.
But what we’re really after is a better experience for our consumer, which creates a domino effect. We believe our efforts at modernization will lead to an increase in consumer satisfaction, conversion, average order value and purchase frequency, which will all help LS&Co. to grow and thrive well into our next 170 years of business.