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#SAPCXLive: “Innovation is in our jeans,” says Levi’s

After filing a patent for the first pair of blue jeans in the US 150 years ago, Levi Strauss & Co. has since developed its retail brand into 110 countries with 200 branded stores, 50,000 concessions and 40 websites.

Speaking at SAP’s Customer Experience event in Barcelona, Levi’s product manager Melissa Mahar describes how the retailer is still innovating today. This includes the development of a digital Jacquard jacket with Google which allows cyclists to use hand gestures to listen to music or directions, while its current FLX project uses lasers to replace the chemicals and washing in the production of denim, which speeds up manufacturing while being more environmentally sustainable.

“Innovation is in our jeans,” says Mahar, who admits she is a fan of a pun.

“Now we’re taking that same innovative spirit to our digital experience,” she continues. “The business was continuing to increase and doing well, and we knew what works. But what we’re doing right now and yesterday, we knew it isn’t going to work tomorrow.”

So, two years ago, Levi’s set upon an eCommerce replatforming project with SAP, which the denim brand entitled “Project Zen”.

“Anyone who has gone through a replatforming knows it can be exciting and fun, if you’re into that kind of thing, but it was a lot of hard work and craziness, so I don’t know who came up with this name,” laughs Mahar during a session at SAP’s Customer Experience Live this week.

But within a year the new website was live in the US and Canada, with Europe following four months later.

Mahar describes how Project Zen was about getting the basics right before going on to “really fun, zazzly features”. These basics include taking advantage of usability features straight out of the box from SAP, including improving search and navigation as well as checkout optimisation.

“Apparently customers really like faster websites – so our performance improved,” she says. “And we also had better tools for our business users to curate the site and use the new promotional capabilities, as well as being able to expand into different countries faster.”

Levi’s planned to get the new platform out in front of customers as quickly as possible so it could react to customer data and insights, while also developing new customer-facing features such as customisation and voice applications.

During her session, Mahar ran through the latest innovations rolled out by Levi’s:

  • Customisation: In-store shoppers can visit tailoring stations to have their jackets customised, but until a month ago this was not an option online. Now, the Levi’s US website allows the customisation of denim jackets and t-shirts, which Mahar says encourages brand loyalty. “People have been really thrilled to see this, engagement is through the roof and we’re really excited about the extension of this feature, and what it means about adding new product types and expanding to new countries.”
  • Associate ordering system: Levi’s has prioritised connecting the offline and online experience and, around two months ago, the launch of an in-store clientelling app in Europe allowed the brand to leverage its online inventory in-store. Shoppers who want a size or colour which is out of stock in-store can talk to the associate who uses a tablet device to order the item to be sent to the customer’s home. This connecting of online inventory in store was impossible with the old digital platform. “It’s really helped us sell the sale, and even extend the sale.”
  • Voice: “Voice is not necessarily a new technology – I can remember trying to talk to Siri and it not understanding my accent and now I’m living with Alexa.” Mahar describes how in order to play catch up with the development of voice, Levi’s has in the last two weeks launch voice search functionality on its Dockers.com website. “We’re testing it on a subset of users coming to our site to understand the reception and how we can layer it into our overall search and browsing experience.”

Without really focusing on the basics, we couldn’t really do this,” concludes Mahar. “A lot of people focus on innovation and the fun things, but it’s about getting the basics right.”

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