Levi’s has hired its first artificial intelligence (AI) officer. Katia Walsh, who was most recently Vodafone’s chief data and analytics officer, will begin her tenure at Levi’s on April 29. According to a company statement, Walsh will focus on building “data, analytics and artificial intelligence enablers” that will strengthen the company’s present and future business ventures. Levi's hasn’t been more specific than that, but it’s a safe bet Walsh will tap her expertise to build on the AI efforts specifically — and the digital advances in general — Levi’s has made in recent years.
Total Retail's Take: Quite the departure for the 146-year-old denim brand, but this is a sign of the times in the retail industry as technology plays an ever-increasing role. One doesn't necessarily equate cutting-edge technology with Levi's, but the brand has made several investments recently to become more digital in nature. For example, in 2017, Levi's launched a virtual stylist feature on its website, with users getting AI-driven fashion advice from a smart chatbot. In addition, the brand partnered with Google that same year to produce a "smart" jacket that links to wearers’ mobile devices via Bluetooth, enabling them to simply tap the cuff to access music, phone calls or directions. The hiring of a chief AI officer speaks to the value the retail industry is placing on the technology going forward. As retailers and brands collect more and more data, they're turning to AI and machine learning to help interpret it and take action across multiple parts of their businesses. Walsh's hiring, and specifically her title, is likely to become commonplace.