Chief Global Strategy and AI Officer
Levi Strauss & Co.
“Every company today is a data and tech company, whether it realizes it or not.”
Your data will never be clean and it will never be perfect. So how do we create meaningful models anyway? As Dr. Katia Walsh puts it, data leaders are facing a “tsunami of data.” But that tsunami shouldn’t stop you from testing, iterating, and moving quickly. Dr. Walsh is the Chief Global Strategy and AI Officer at Levi Strauss & Co. and today she shares how her team has leveraged a mindset of “think big, start small, scale fast” to create cutting-edge data models and digital capabilities quickly.
5:12 Why every business is a data business
10:20 The 3Cs (connections, commerce, and creation) in action
14:09 Creating meaningful custom experiences in-store using data
18:45 Why Katia’s motto is “think big, start small, scale fast”
23:21 You will never have perfect data and that’s okay
27:55 Where to look for your organization’s next data leader - it’s not where you think
29:10 Data literacy is a mindset, not a technical skillset
What are the 3Cs every business needs to invest in? [5:12]
Building out new digital and AI capabilities is about improving the 3 Cs. Modern business can't survive without them:“We talk about using digital data and AI as a capability to create three smarter Cs: 1.) Smarter connections with our consumers 2.) Smarter commerce and 3.) Smarter creation, which is the essence of a company like Levi Strauss & Co.”
When it comes to customer data, it's not business, it's personal. [11:11]
From the recommendations engine on the website, to location-based options in-store, to the loyalty rewards customers have access to, Levi & Stauss is creating personalized experiences at every point of the customer journey.
Why is it important to think big, but start small, and scale fast? [19:11]
Building “the perfect” model takes time, resources, and buy-in from leadership. But what if your model didn’t need to be perfect and you could demonstrate ROI quickly on a small scale? Katia tells us how they do just that at Levi Strauss & Co.
“There's a model that I found tremendously helpful in my career… and that is think big, start small and scale fast… We want to make sure we focus on both transformative capabilities that may take a little bit longer to materialize, and at the same time also quick wins so that we show that value and gain momentum. Once you gain momentum, you gain champions. And once you gain champions, you gain a following. It becomes a movement throughout the enterprise and you no longer have to do it yourself. You do it together as a whole company.”
Data is a reflection of the world and the world is messy. Your data will never be clean and it will never be perfect - but that’s okay.
“You cannot stop data by definition. If you're trying to make it clean, you have to stop it. That's just not possible. It's a tsunami of data… [For example, in 2020], when we gathered data and created price elasticity models and applied machine learning, we realized that consumers in most cases would pay full price because of the strength of the brand… and because we did that, we were able to not discount, to charge full price, and also get to consumers what they needed when they needed that. So it was truly a win-win and it helped us emerge from the crisis that we all faced even healthy as a company than we have been before. Did we wait for the perfect data? No. Did we wait for even the perfect models? No. Did we make sure that we solve the problem right when we needed it? Yes, absolutely. And we do this all the time across the company.”
Data literacy is a mindset. [29:10]
Your organization’s next data champion or data leader may not come from the background you’d expect. Katia tells us how journalists, stylists, and store managers are all making for great data scientists with the right training and right mindset.“People in this field can come from all walks of life and backgrounds… It's really about the mindset of problem solving, curiosity and lifelong learning. Once we had this revelation, we actually applied that at Levi Strauss & Co. to train employees around the world in machine learning… We have people who come from design, people who manage stores, stylists, people in finance, and in HR that are now trained in Python and machine learning and agile ways of working. And they are the biggest champions of digital transformation throughout the world of Levi’s.”
The new data types that you're using, this is a lot of different data. So how do you decide where start, what data will help deliver a more personalized experience?
It's not about the data it's really about driving desired outcomes, just like the world has moved beyond proving the need for use cases, uh, and to building capabilities. Uh, we are now in, uh, living at a time when it's not even anymore about data driven decisions. Of course, we have to make data driven decisions that is a given again, that's a table stay, but we need to move be beyond that into driving desired outcomes. Uh, and this is where, uh, there's a model that I found tremendously helpful in my career and certainly applying it, uh, to my experience at Levi's as well. And that is think big, start small and scale fast.
We wanna make sure we have, we focus on both transformative capabilities that may take a little bit longer to materialize. And at the same time also quick wins so that we show that value and gain momentum. And once you gain momentum, you gain champions. And once you gain champions, you gain a following. It becomes a throughout the enterprise and you no longer have to do it yourself. You do it together as a whole company.
Dr. Katia Walsh leads strategy, data, analytics and artificial intelligence at LS&Co. She focuses on setting the company's holistic digital and corporate strategy and infusing it with data, analytic, and artificial intelligence capabilities to drive business value across LS&Co. globally. The impact ranges from innovation incubation to strategic growth initiatives, new business models and new ways of working.
Katia has more than 20 years of cross-industry experience combining strategy, data, analytics and machine learning, and a track record of making global brands indispensable to their customers through these capabilities.
Katia holds a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Strategic Communication with a specialization in quantitative methodology.
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