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November 18, 2022

FOMO Is Not A Strategy

Phillip and Brian talk with Dr Amy Gershkoff Bolles about how having an innovation strategy that connects to your larger corporate strategy and a very disciplined approach, looking for opportunities that add value for your business and most importantly for your customers, is key to longevity. Evaluating opportunities in the digital and technology space, given how much opportunity there is, is a very important discussion. Listen in to hear what they are doing at Levi’s, and how the future there is bright.

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this episode sponsored by

It’s in the Jeans

  • It’s so important to be both building for scale and testing and learning simultaneously
  • Innovation is in the lifeblood of Levi Strauss and Company, and has been for 170 years of business
  • Amy and her team developed a scorecard and framework that allows them to objectively assess new technology or digital opportunities and evaluate how they work with the overall corporate strategy
  • Data, AI, and digitization can be used to make very meaningful differences in the costumer experience, and we are really at the beginning of understanding how to use these tools effectively
  • “We're in the first inning in terms of the opportunity that lies ahead for data and AI and digitization to impact consumers and businesses. And I'm really excited to see the next eight innings that are in front of us.” - Amy
  • The lines between the digital world and the physical world have been erased, especially for Gen Z consumers, so a brand must provide that seamless experience for consumers
  • Levi’s has used data and AI to develop a comprehensive loyalty program that provides opportunities for consumers to have a personalized experience that is tailored to their needs
  • “What future commerce perspectives and enterprise value might incorporate ten years from now could be a million things, but if you don't have the right framework in place, you won't be able to build for the future.” - Phillip
  • Levi Strauss and Company is partnering with Silicon Valley Bank to find new and exciting start ups to work with that will continue to advance their strategy and approach to providing unparalleled experiences to their customers

Associated Links:

Learn more about Dr Amy Gershkoff Bolles and Levi Straus & Co at LeviStrauss.com or on LinkedIn.

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Brian: [00:01:26] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:30] I'm Phillip. And speaking of the next generation, we have the next generation of thinkers and brand operators. We are leveling up here today. We have a special guest with us joining us on the Future Commerce podcast. It's Dr. Amy Gershkoff Bolles, who is here to tell us about her role at Levi Strauss & Co. as the Global Head of Digital and Emerging Technology Strategy. Welcome to the show, Dr. Amy.

Amy: [00:01:54] Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Phillip: [00:01:58] And it's great to have you. It's an esteemed honor to have you because we are often talking about prestigious brands like Levi Strauss and Co, or just what I might just call Levi's, something I wear every day. I think that you have an amazing story of transformation as a brand over the last few years, something we've covered very closely. A lot has happened in the last few years, not just with Levi's as a company, but with the consumer. And so I'd love to kind of understand some of that here today and how you're thinking about how the brand is connecting with consumers today and how you're powering that with data. But let's learn a little bit about you, Dr. Amy. Tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are and how you came to be with such an amazing storied brand.

Amy: [00:02:41] Well, thank you. So, yes, as you mentioned, my role at Levi Strauss is I head up global digital and emerging technology strategy, which means that I think holistically and globally about our digital and technology strategy as it relates to our business, our consumers, and also our employees. So that also includes all of our digital upskilling programs which are critical to the next generation workforce. Prior to joining Levi's, I spent many years working in high-growth venture capital and private equity-backed startups where I've had both technical and operational roles. So I've been myself a Founder and CEO as well as Chief Operating Officer, General Manager, and Chief Data officer. So I've had the opportunity to sort of have a variety of roles in high-growth startups. I've also been an investor myself as well as a board advisor, and then I've had C-level roles as well at public companies and also currently serve as a public company board director. So I've gotten to see companies sort of at every stage of the journey from early-stage startups all the way to larger public companies. And I've also had the opportunity to have experience in academia as well. I was a professor at Princeton University as well as at the University of California Haas School of Business. So I've gotten to see data and technology and digital from the academic perspective as well. And I also was the Head of Media Planning and Buying and Analytics for the Obama reelection campaign. So I've had kind of that civic experience as well. So all of that kind of background in both high-growth startups, large companies, academia, and the public space has, I think, given me a bit of a maybe unique vantage point on how data and digital and technology can play a role in lots of different ways in people's lives. And so I joined Levi Strauss this past Spring, but my relationship with Levi's goes all the way back almost 30 years to when I bought my very first pair of Levi's 501 jeans as a teenager. So I was really excited for the opportunity to join this brand that I've had a three decades long relationship with. And I know you mentioned you wear Levi's almost every day yourself. So we love to hear that and look forward to hearing your Levi's story as well at some point today.

Brian: [00:05:12] What have you not done, Dr. Amy? I feel like you just named off every possible role that I could ever think of. That's got to bring a ton of value to Levi's.

Phillip: [00:05:23] Such perspective. Yeah. 

Brian: [00:05:24] Yeah. As you're coming into this, well, storied brand itself, like you said, everyone sort of has a story with Levi's at some point in their life, or maybe continually, as Phillip does. I'm also a regular Levi's wearer. But as you've come into this culture, how has it been getting to know the brand, getting to know the team, getting to know the customer, and how has your history been able to inform what you've brought to the table as you start to learn more about what you need to do with your customers at Levi?

Amy: [00:06:02] Well, it's a great question, Brian. And I think one of the things that's so interesting is [00:06:08] regardless of whether you're talking about a very small, high-growth startup or a large public company that's trying to appeal to consumers or a political campaign that wants to reach voters, there are certain commonalities in driving innovation that are common to all of these organizations, regardless of size and type. And one of the primary ones that I've seen in my almost 20 years in this field is how important it is to always be building for scale at the same time you're testing and learning and walking that line where you're doing both at the same time. And there are some organizations that are excellent at testing and learning, but they struggle to build for scale. And there are other organizations that are great at building for scale, but they struggle with that agile testing and learning kind of motion. And the organizations that really flourish are the ones that do both, because scale is what drives enterprise value for your company, for your business, and for your organization. But it's also what drives value for the consumer. [00:07:16] If you want to reach all of the consumers or potential consumers for your brand, it can't only be through a very, very tiny A/B test. In order to really reach all those consumers, you have to be operating at scale. But at the same time today, the digital data technology landscape is evolving so rapidly that you have to be in a very agile testing and learning mindset where you're always surveying the market and you're looking for the latest new innovation and you're being very thoughtful and disciplined about whether that innovation has applicability for your business, for your consumers, and if so, engaging in a testing and learning approach that allows you to have an eye for the North Star of scale, but at the same time be building for North Street, thinking about how you're going to test into market quickly and can really start learning from those results.

Phillip: [00:08:13] There's an idea of the journey that a lot of digital brands have been on, or at least digital-first brands have been on, which is that eCommerce when it was a nascent channel, we thought of these sort of like iterative development as a sort of like project based mindset. We build something, we put it on to the market, and we wait for market feedback. This has come full circle now where almost in the software development lifecycle sort of mentality is that it is actually a very program-centric channel now and that we are continually learning and taking those learnings and evolving our mindset. That's your whole job, it sounds like. So how do you bring a company that's already sort of centered around this mindset of the evolution of thinking, because that's how I think of the brand, that's how I think of L S and Co. It's not this idea of what we call a legacy brand. It's a generational brand. This is a brand that's endured the test of time over a century. Longer. What is your perspective on how far they've come with digital transformation and what the next phase of that looks like under your stewardship?

Amy: [00:09:20] It's a great question, Phillip. And one of the things that I think was so wonderful about joining this company, as you mentioned, this company is more than 170 years old, and yet there's so much innovation and innovative spirit that has enabled the company to stand the test of time and the way that we have. Our CEO likes to say that Levi Strauss & Co. was the original Silicon Valley startup because the iconic Levi's 501 Jean, which is coming up on its 150th anniversary next year, which is amazing, the patent for that gene was a partnership between our Founder, Levi Strauss, and a tailor named Jacob Davis. And so innovation is kind of in the lifeblood of the company and is part of how the company operates. And so as I came in, I saw here we have all of this exciting innovation already happening in-house. And then you look externally at the landscape, the emerging technology, and the digital landscape, and you have just a wealth of opportunity. There are so many new and exciting innovations happening in this space every day. And so what we did first was to take a page out of the playbook of industry best practices. I mentioned I taught in a business school. This is kind of straight out of what they say is the best practice from business school and from other iconic companies, which is to start with building an emerging technology framework that you can use to evaluate any digital or technology opportunity to determine if it's right for your business and right for your customers to start down the journey of testing and learning. And so [00:11:11] we started with the framework and with determining how we would make decisions on where to prioritize and where to invest because that's the best practice is to start with the how then you apply it to the what. So then you take this framework and you apply it to what to prioritize, what to prioritize, what to invest in, what not to invest in. And so this framework was grounded in our company DNA and our values. It was designed to drive enterprise value at scale for both our business and our customers. And so we developed this scorecard and framework that allows us to take any possible new technology or digital opportunity and evaluate the strengths of the resonance of that opportunity with our overall corporate strategy. [00:12:04] It allows us to look at that opportunity and do some robust analysis financially. It allows us to look at how resonant that opportunity is with our company brand, our company DNA, and our corporate values. Levi Strauss is a very values-driven company. So we look at that. And most importantly, we look at the positive impact that any technology or innovation would have on our consumers, on our customers. They are the most important part of our business, and so we look at all of these factors and then this allows us to take a very disciplined approach to determining if is this an area that we do want to test and learn and begin to innovate. Or is this an area that's not right for us as a business? And having that discipline framework has been really crucial for us in terms of being able to engage in this rapidly evolving tons of opportunity landscape but in a very thoughtful way.

Phillip: [00:13:00] I know, Brian, you're champing at the bit. I want to let you in there. Just very concretely, and we don't often delve into the tactical, but is there a good example of the kind of thing that gets prioritized in that framework and the kind of thing that gets deprioritized in that framework? And if you can't speak to specifics, what you're working on today, from my time as a consultant, often it's really the value of the framework is teaching the team how to act as a team and what to value and how to hold each other accountable in the framework, the framework itself, the actual document or the instrument gets used less over time as the team gets its legs under itself. So my I guess now I'm leading the witness, but what are the kinds of things that you wind up finding are important to the business versus the things that take sort of the back burner?

Amy: [00:13:54] Yeah, it's a great question. And so we've started really by evaluating opportunities in two big areas. One is in the Web 3.0 space, obviously, tons of opportunity there, ranging from everything from decentralized web content to blockchain-enabled applications as well as the industrial 4.0 space. Perhaps it shows up a little less in people's news feeds, but it's no less exciting. A wealth of opportunity in design, manufacturing, supply chain, and operations production, which are all areas that I think every company today is definitely having at the top of their minds. And so we applied this framework in those kind of two areas. And while you're right, I can't speak to too many specifics. I can tell you at a high level we were very excited about some of the opportunities to really positively impact the customer journey. So everything from how customers become aware of the latest trends and new products and latest fashion trends to finding the right size and fit that's going to look great and feel great to them all the way through to what is hopefully a great, seamless, memorable, personalized purchase experience and then all the way through to actually wearing that fabulous pair of jeans out and about in their daily life. And at each of those different touchpoints, there are actually some really exciting new and innovative technologies that can assist the customer in having a memorable, fun, personalized experience along the way, whether it's in that discovery phase of finding the latest fashion trends or whether it's in that finding the right size and fit phase all the way through to that purchase and post-purchase experience phase. And so we're really excited about a lot of the new latest and greatest innovations all along the customer journey in that regard.

Brian: [00:17:31] That's super good. Thinking back to your framework and you also mentioned Industrial 4.0. A lot of data goes into Industrial 4.0 and also into building a framework and analyzing a framework. I think to Phillip's point, and Phillip, I don't feel like you were leading the witness too hard here, but I'm going to lead a little bit harder. We were just talking to Kirsten Green, the Founder, and Managing Partner at Forerunner, and we asked her how do you feel about data? Are we post-data? Are you trusting your gut more? We've seen a lot of like we have so much data we don't even know how to necessarily use it. In fact, data is overwhelming our systems and making it useful is very difficult because we have so much of it. And Kirsten went on to say actually we're at pre-data. We haven't even touched how well we can use it.

Phillip: [00:18:27] {laughter} Shocking answer, by the way. 

Brian: [00:18:28] So as you've come to establish frameworks and you're using new technologies you're gathering a lot of data, you're thinking about how this data impacts that rubric, that framework that you've built out, and you're scoring. But how have you been able to handle the amount of data that you have? Do you feel like it's clouding things or are you finding insights that are actually more helpful? And how does that impact your decision-making? Sorry for the multi-part question.

Phillip: [00:19:04] Seven part question. Go ahead.

Brian: [00:19:05] Yes.

Amy: [00:19:07] A great question, Brian. So [00:19:09] if you look at not only data but data and AI and digitization, they are helping to accelerate really all aspects of our digital transformation at Levi Strauss and Company. If you look end to end from designing the jeans all the way through manufacturing, supply chain, production, the whole customer journey as I described, from finding the right products for you, determining the right size and fit, and all the way through to the purchase experience, every stage along that journey, there's opportunity for data AI digitization to enhance the experience for the consumer, which is always front and center of how we think about any innovation that we might deploy, as well as drive enterprise value for Levi's as a company. [00:20:00] And so, you know, I'll give you one example. A recent example is that if you look at our stores in Italy, we have stores in many cities in Italy, including Milan and Rome. And if you look at those stores, Milan and Rome, of course, as cities go not that far apart geographically speaking, and we looked at data that included data on not only how the demographics of those cities differ for our customers and potential customers, but also other data sets like traffic patterns and even weather. And the weather in Milan and Rome is not that different. It's a few degrees difference, but it turns out those few degrees actually make a big difference in what consumers there are looking for. In Milan, we found in general that consumers preferred a bit darker washes on their jeans. We could sell more outerwear. Just a few degrees cooler, and all of a sudden outerwear sells much better. Whereas if you look at our stores in Rome, there was a preference for more lighter wash jeans. You could sell women's skirts a bit later into the season. We sell more t-shirts because it's a bit of a younger-skewing demographic. And so we're able to leverage data as well as some AI as well to predict what consumers would want to buy in each of those stores and adjust our stores accordingly. So that's sort of just one small example of how data and AI can actually make a pretty tangible difference to the consumer experience. But if you sort of take a whole step back and look not just at Levi Strauss, but at macro conditions in the technology field in general, I would agree with your other guest that we are in very early days in terms of the amount of opportunity that lies ahead for data and AI and digitization. And I think back to ten, 15 years ago to when I would give conference presentations or give a keynote address and the topics that I often got asked about ten years ago to speak about were topics like business intelligence and how to design the best dashboards and how to ensure that executives at any company could have at their fingertips the data that they need to make decisions. But now, for many companies, that very first step has become a bit more table stakes. But we're now into this very, very interesting next chapter of the journey, which is how AI can help take all of that data and enable smarter predictions that can drive value for consumers and business value, enterprise value for the business itself. And we're also in a very exciting phase of digitization and how digitization itself generates additional data. As we look at both Web 3.0 and Industrial 4.0, there're lots of opportunity for digitization to add data to that journey. So I would say [00:23:16] to use the baseball analogy, we're in the first inning in terms of the opportunity that lies ahead for data and AI and digitization to impact consumers and businesses. And I'm really excited to see the next eight innings that are in front of us. [00:23:34]

Phillip: [00:23:35] The mind sort of wonders where we're going to be in just a few year's time, because I look back at the amount of innovation that we've gone through in the last five years alone, and it feels like a dramatic leap forward. So you're sort of paving the way to what the future... You're building a future. It's called Future Commerce, so we like to think about not necessarily what you're doing now, but how what you're doing right now is paving the way. You've mentioned Web3 a few times. I'm curious what some of those opportunities look like, as I'm sure they're experimental. Web3 incorporates a number of things. It can be digital loyalty. It can be to some it's sort of tokenization of membership. Like Brian's a big fan of Costco if you don't know the show. He loves Costco.

Brian: [00:24:37] Bought my Levi's at Costco.

Phillip: [00:24:39] {laughter} It can be membership as well. And so when you think about this potential future, you see a lot of signals of a lot of prestigious brands that are moving in that direction. What are some of the ways that you might get data to tell you that that is a place where innovation may be had for a company like Levi Strauss?

Amy: [00:25:02] Yes, Phillip, that's a great question. And one of the things that I think is so interesting about Web3 is that if you look at younger consumers and especially Gen Z consumers, for them there is no physical world and digital world. There is no Web2 world and Web3 world. For the Gen Z consumer, the lines between all of these different parts of our lives have been completely erased. They are seeing a seamless experience between the physical world and the digital world, between Web2 and Web3. This is all just living their lives, and this is how they live their lives. And so for us as retailers or as companies, I think the key thing for us is to think about how to design experiences for customers that bring together the best of the physical world and the digital world, and to think in the same way that our consumers think. And for them, it's one seamless experience. So I'll give you an example. If you're trying to discover the latest trends in fashion or you're trying to find the best size and fit for the next pair of Levi's jeans you want to buy, if you don't buy them from Costco like Brian. And so you want to find the best size and fit for you. The question is not is that a digital experience or a physical experience? Is that a Web 3.0 experience or an in-store experience? You want to just design the best possible experience. And so we're looking at the entire customer journey and at ways that we can blend the two. So for example, you might be in one of our retail stores and fall in love with a pair of jeans and then we are able to on an app you can pull up to see our full assortment of all the different washes that might be available, because in any given retail store we might only have a few washes, but we have an entire assortment available online. Or perhaps you're online, on your phone at home on the couch. And you want to find a way to discover the latest products and trends that will lead you to your next pair of jeans. That's an experience that you can have in Web2 or Web3. You can have that through an app or you can have it through a number of other different shopping experiences. And so we're looking to blend all that together to create a shopping experience that's memorable and personal and fun and that leads you to your next great pair of jeans or great shirt that you wear out proudly and absolutely love.

Phillip: [00:27:54] Brian, you have now self-professed that the channel is super important where wherein you buy it. Price club shopping is your sort of thing. Once upon a time, Dr. Amy, you don't know my story, but I used to weigh 334 pounds. And I have a fitness journey over the last six almost seven years that is really I think quite changed my life for sure, but changed the way that I approach fashion definitely. I can actually dress in a more... I look at things like Levi's as like, "Oh, I can wear that now." That's like a completely different mindset. So when I look at fit, for me, I'm still in the very highly experimental trying to figure out like who I am as a consumer. And I think that that is an often overlooked sort of journey in that I skew a little older, but the way that I approach fashion probably skews a little younger. I'm trying to figure out who I am as a consumer, and that's where I I'd love to at least like let's hinge on that for a moment. Consumers don't behave in a rational way. We can't just firmagraphic/psychographic/demographic, broad strokes paint how people behave, but in some ways we actually kind of can. So I'm curious if a data-centric, AI-centric approach to channel independence and sort of just thinking holistically about how a customer actually shops and who they are, not necessarily who we want them to try to become or how we're going to try to put them into a particular journey. Thinking about that, how are you digitally enabling that more personalized experience to someone like me who has a very unique circumstance and approaches your brand very differently to maybe someone else who's a 40-year-old middle-aged white male with a podcast? Basically I'm a stereotype to some degree, but I'd love to figure out like, how does that become more personal over time for someone like me who has a really interesting set of circumstances that I bring to my brand experience?

Amy: [00:30:18] Yeah, it's a great question, Phillip. And I think one of the things that I've always loved about Levi's in my experience as a consumer for almost three decades now, is that Levi's really has taken the approach that every customer has their own story. So you have your story that you just told. Brian has his story that he told a few moments ago about where he gets his Levi's jeans and how he shops. My shopping story is different. Every consumer's shopping story is different, and those stories can change over time. Phillip, as you just highlighted, the jeans that you're interested in purchasing right now today, it sounds like from what you described, are very different than the jeans you might have purchased ten years ago. The same is true, actually for many consumers today. The jeans that we would have purchased, say, three years ago before the pandemic might look a little bit different than some of the sizes and fits that many of us are purchasing now today. And so what Levi's has tried to do and part of what I think has given us this 170-year-long, storied history as a brand is really approaching the opportunity to enable every customer, regardless of whether they're Gen Z or one of us or someone in the Boomer generation, to be able to have that personal connection with the Levi's brand. And one one of the ways that we've leveraged data and AI and technology to sort of further that journey is for our Red Tab Loyalty members. So obviously if you sign up for a loyalty program, we can then understand a bit more about your journey as a customer over time, because then you're part of our loyalty program and family and that allows us to create tailored and personal experiences for you, both in terms of personal shopping experiences, as well as more tailored kind of rewards experience as well. So that's another way that we can kind of create a more memorable and personalized experience that's very much tailored specifically to you as a consumer.

Brian: [00:33:56] So looking at your strategy around Web3 and some of the innovation that you've been looking at, innovative technologies you've been looking at recently, how much do you focus on your existing customer that's part of your loyalty program versus looking at acquisition more general consumer? And are you testing things out on loyal customers or new customers? And what kinds of results are you seeing from different segments?

Amy: [00:34:27] Yeah, it's a great question. And as I was mentioning earlier, I've worked in prior to my experience at Levi's, I've worked in both earlier-stage venture-backed private equity-backed startups and much larger public companies. And one of the common threads to what drives successful innovation there is balancing that test and learn as well as building for scale. And I think in a similar vein, one of the common threads that I've seen in prior companies that I've worked at is that, again, regardless of the size of the company or stage of the company, it's always important to balance continuing to deliver delightful experiences for your biggest fans as well as always seeking to bring in new fans who will be your next generation biggest fans as well. So at Levi's, similar to many other companies I've worked at previously, we're always seeking really to do both. It's always important to make sure that you're continuing to inspire and delight your biggest fans, but you're also looking for the next set of new excited fans who will be the future Red Tab Loyalty members. And so we're always looking to kind of continue to strike that balance as we think about both testing and learning and building for scale, whether that's in Web3 or in the space of data or AI or other kinds of innovation or digitization or technology opportunities.

Brian: [00:35:54] Have you tested any Web3 technologies with your existing consumers? Are you looking at it to drive? Are you using it in any sort of like loyalty ways? Or is that not on your roadmap? Are you thinking about Web3, the idea of like a token-based membership, or things like that? Has that started to shape your thoughts around how to further engage those existing customers?

Amy: [00:36:15] Well, Brian, you're absolutely right that there's a ton of opportunity in this Web3 space. And because there's so much opportunity, that's why my team has really been very focused over the last several months on building out this framework that we can use for evaluating each of these opportunities so that we can be able to look at each one and determine is this going to deliver positive experiences for our biggest fans today and the future fans of tomorrow? What does the financial analysis say about enterprise value for our business? How strongly is this aligned to our company DNA and our company values? And how is this aligned with our overall strategy? So we've just kind of completed development of this framework and we're now starting to apply it looking ahead to other opportunities. And we're seeing very positive results from having such a disciplined framework to be able to evaluate these opportunities. So nothing to share yet in terms of results but excited about where this is all headed.

Phillip: [00:37:12] This actually feels quite similar to a conversation that we might have had a few years ago, Brian, where it was it's less... I'm gesticulating. This is not me answering on behalf of Dr. Amy. In a prior generation, we might have said, "Oh, channel-specific thinking is dead." You have to learn the omnichannel mindset, which is that all channels are fluid at all times from a lot of customers. And so we have to think about where customers happen to be, and that's where we're going to be as a brand. And if you were to extend that now to a modern era, well, that also incorporates things like Web3 now.

Brian: [00:37:48] Right. Totally. Yup.

Phillip: [00:37:48] So people who wear denim buy monkey pictures online. That's just true. So at some point, you have to... Just to be really basic about it. So at some point, you have to think about [00:38:00] what future commerce perspectives and enterprise value might incorporate. And ten years from now, it could be a million things. It could be AI, it could be blockchain, it could be crypto, it could be something, but if you don't have the right framework in place, you won't be able to build for the future. [00:38:15]

Amy: [00:38:15] Exactly.

Brian: [00:38:15] Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like Levi's right now is in the process of applying that framework. That's what I took away from that is that the framework is actively being applied to the things we just discussed. AI, big data...

Phillip: [00:38:31] If you don't have the framework... Just to punch at you a little bit. If you don't have the framework in place, then every good idea looks like something that's potential to chase.

Brian: [00:38:41] I agree. I agree 100%. You can't just chase things willy-nilly.

Phillip: [00:38:45] It's going to change next year, too. I mean, that's just the reality of the world we live in, which is that there are emergent channels all over the place. Dr. Amy, when you're thinking about potential partnerships and investments and how you're growing that enterprise value, which you've said a few times. And I want to appreciate that for a moment. We've talked a lot about growth on this show over five or six years and gone through different eras. Growth isn't just growing revenue, it's growing enterprise value. And that's your job. That is sometimes at odds with the idea that we're just growing top line. We're moving into a sort of an economic season where a lot of folks are shifting this to a profitability mindset. They're applying technology around that, too. Thinking through your partnerships, I know that you all have a partnership with Silicon Valley Bank, and that was sort of an early stage and how you got on our radar of potentially talking to Levi Strauss. What are some ways that you're thinking about building the future there through partnerships and the advantages that come through, that flow through to the consumer, like the end consumer, and how they benefit through some of those partnerships in the way that you're thinking about building things, not just in a silo, but with the right partners over time?

Amy: [00:40:02] Yeah, absolutely. I was very excited about sort of spearheading our partnership with Silicon Valley Bank. There's so much innovation taking place in-house at Levi Strauss already. As I mentioned, the company's more than 170 years old. And our ability to have not only survived but thrived for more than 170 years is because Levi's has taken this approach of continual innovation and continuing to look at opportunities to drive value and delight for our consumers and to generate enterprise value for our business. But in order to sort of complement all those efforts in-house, we're always looking for external partnerships that can help accelerate our efforts. And so the partnership with Silicon Valley Bank is one such partnership. And so in partnership with them, we set up our first ever Levi Strauss & Co. Startup Pitch Day, which we hosted in September. We vetted thousands of startup companies of technology startup companies from around the world. We selected a very select few to come present to us, and those startups were truly global from around the world. We had startups come from Prague and Paris and London and Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv. We really looked at sort of the best and most exciting, most innovative technology solutions that have been started around the globe. And we brought these companies in to talk to us about ways that they could help us further our efforts and enhance the customer experience, especially as it relates to digital and Web 3.0 experiences. And so we're excited about continuing to work with Silicon Valley Bank. We plan to have another startup pitch day in 2023, and we've been continuing to partner with them to look at the latest and greatest cutting-edge technology companies and how those technology companies could potentially help us accelerate our efforts here.

Brian: [00:42:12] That's so cool. I'm really excited to see the outcomes of this.

Phillip: [00:42:15] This actually follows a really interesting trend, Brian, in that we're working on a piece right now that's sort of the like what might have been characterized as a retail venture arm sort of round-up. If you are a generational brand and you're trying to think about what the next generation of consumer is looking for, there are a few ways to get Alpha on that, and only a few. You have to be at the early stage and you have to understand what is emergent and you have to be tracking that as if your brand depends on it, as if the future of your brand depends on it because it does. And I think that that's a really interesting differentiator, that this isn't just some sort of press release around like a venture arm. It's also sort of investing in early stage and understanding where emergent tech is going.

Brian: [00:43:03] It's part of the test-and-learn cycle.

Phillip: [00:43:05] Oh, sure.

Brian: [00:43:06] Exactly what it is.

Phillip: [00:43:07] And why rebuild it from scratch? You have to partner along the way to make it happen.

Brian: [00:43:11] Well, Amy, I've taken away a lot from this conversation. One of the biggest things I'm excited about is I think that the best insight for me was what you said about the next move past business intelligence and how AI is going to be applied at scale. I feel like if I were going to take something away, it would be that that's a place that anyone that's listening to this should be investing in right now. We are still early in the data game and so having the technologies that can actually process all the data that we're collecting is going to be essential for success going forward.

Phillip: [00:43:51] I have a takeaway too. I think that there's something that we didn't touch on and I'd love to give you, like one more minute, Dr. Amy, to kind of hit on this. You said early on when you were talking about your prior roles and the experience that you bring to this role, you mentioned that you invest not just in the reskilling of your own workforce and sort of like taking ownership of how you skill the next generation workforce. But you also mentioned that you're doing that on the other end of the spectrum and sort of the not just early-stage founder, but in the collegiate space as well and academia. What are some ways that you see that shift happening in the education of the consumer? What is the education of folks in your business to stay ahead of where the consumer is going? And this will sort of give you an opportunity to have the last word as well.

Amy: [00:44:39] Oh, well, thank you so much. And I really appreciate the chance to come on to this podcast and get to talk with Brian and Phillip. Both of you. This has been a great discussion. When it comes to education and upskilling, really, this is just a connection to that kind of larger consumer trend we were talking about before. Today's next generation of consumers, our younger consumers, our Gen Z consumers, they're not seeing the world as a physical world and a digital world. They don't see a Web2 world and a Web3 world. They just see it as living their life as consumers. And so the more that we can upskill our employees and upskill the next generation coming through universities, the more it enables those types of digital and technology experiences to drive a more sort of fun and memorable shopping experience for consumers, but also to enable us to connect to the next generation of Levi's fans as well. I would say if I was going to leave your listeners with my key takeaway, it would be that we've really seen at Levi Strauss an enormous amount of benefit from having built this very disciplined emerging technology framework as our first step and using it to really evaluate opportunities in the digital and technology space given how much opportunity there is. And so I would say my kind of key takeaway is that [00:46:13] FOMO is not a strategy. It's really important to have an innovation strategy that connects to your larger corporate strategy and to have a very disciplined approach to this space. And if you take a disciplined approach to this space and look for opportunities that add value for your business and most importantly for your customers, then you'll end up in a really great place. [00:46:34]

Phillip: [00:46:34] Oh, as my 11-year-old would say, "Spittin' facts" at the end there. So amazing to have had you, Dr. Amy. Thank you for coming on the show and thank you all for listening to this episode of Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties. There are six of them now we're growing. You can find that at FutureCommerce.fm, and stay tuned. We have more coming that will expand on the future of what we're building and hopefully, we can build that together for a future we're all proud of. Thank you so much, Dr. Amy.

Amy: [00:47:03] Thank you.

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