PROFILE

Mohamed Amer

Global Head of Strategic Communications, Consumer Industries, SAP
Living in Southern California, Mohamed joined SAP in 2003 as Solution Manager in charge of global grocery segment within the Retail Business Unit. Subsequently he led the Supply Chain product area for Retail in the Americas. For three years he led the Retail Business Unit in the Americas supporting business development, key customer implementations, and relationships as well as managing User Groups and Executive Customer Councils. Mohamed also led the building and championing of internal and external Retail communities. He is currently the Global Head of Strategic Communications for the Consumer Industries at SAP (Retail, Consumer Products, Wholesale Distribution, and Life Sciences).

Prior to SAP, Mohamed was co-founder and President of NEXstep, an Internet supply chain software startup which was acquired by Viewlocity. He also held leadership positions in the retail management consultancy, Kurt Salmon Associates with extensive Retail and CPG client engagements as well as general management roles in the office products industry at Boise Cascade and Buhrmann-Tetterode.

Mohamed held a commission with the US Navy (Lieutenant Commander – naval aviation and naval intelligence) and has earned an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, an MA in National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School, and an MA in Human and Organizational Systems at Fielding Graduate University.
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  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Is four-wall profitability still a relevant metric?

    Metrics exist to help managers compare performance across time and place; they are a best-effort attempt to eliminate variability, make valid comparisons and eventually investment decisions. They also reflect the current business model assumptions (stated and implicit). Years ago in business school, case studies were used to emphasize looking for and using what I call "short-cut" metrics to quickly assess a company's health -- these abstractions rise above the noise and help managers cut through the haze of complexity. Same-store comps, sales per square foot and order size were all key indicators of future success and levers by which to run the company.Today the retailer- or product-centric model of efficiency and asset utilization is giving way to a technology-fueled consumer-centric one. That doesn't mean the existing metrics are worthless, but they do become incomplete and can easily mislead management into faulty decisions that solve the wrong problem.As long as majority of retail sales takes place in the store, it is not advisable to abandon four-wall contribution. While new metrics are needed, the bottom line is that future success requires that you understand what activities inside those four walls (and outside) really mean in an omnichannel business -- the synergies across physical and online will only get stronger leading to even more difficulties for those desiring to view and manage these separately.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Can soccer be a differentiator for Target?

    Smart move but don't expect any quick sales results out of this announcement. This is more of a long-term investment on Target's part and should strengthen the brand and help future sales. Having the company's logo appear on the jerseys of the local team, Minnesota United FC, further solidifies Target's deep connection to the community.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    Will online sales redeem struggling brick and mortar retailers?

    I've shared my view in the past about retail becoming a hybrid model where digital and physical retailing meld together in ways that makes discussions of specific channels almost meaningless. The key is to take the full customer experience from the customer perspective and not from the retailing side.Taking a different way of looking at today's question, we can look at another major shift in IT: going from on premise software to cloud computing. At first it was vilified by some tech titans, then embraced, and now is considered the future delivery and consumption model. Industries have come to embrace cloud computing for the agility, flexibility and cost it provides; yet, they are tenaciously hanging on to some on premise (or hybrid) footprint for strategic and security reasons. The ongoing shift in retailing from physical to online may not have similar path or pace forward, but it’s instructive nevertheless to see how we tend to oppose any change to the status quo for what seem to be good strategic reasons.Instead of thinking of either/or options, we ought to consider stores AND online, physical AND digital. One does not redeem the other, one does not define the other. They must work together as one, otherwise the inconsistencies will eventually tear the organization apart and/or drive customers away.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    NRF Show attendees aren’t sure how 2017 will shake out

    Driven by consumer confidence, the retail industry performance, as a whole, in 2017 will be healthy. That said, adding meaningful jobs, a rise in home equity, tame inflation coupled with slow rise in interest rates, and continued rise in the financial markets will power consumer confidence higher.However, the performance of individual retail segments and companies within the industry will vary greatly. Retailers need to position themselves to win in 2017. Their share in the growth will greatly depend on 1) the realization that the changes all around are not trivial or transitory; and 2) the speed and energy by which they pursue their digital future.Retail has always been about the customer and giving them a reason to come back for more. Technology in the form of the internet, social networks, and mobile devices has changed the way people shop and what they expect from retailers. The faster retailers not just adjust, but fully embrace, the new retail reality, the more likely they are to share in the exciting opportunities ahead.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2017

    Target gets creative help from Gen Z in new apparel line

    A few years ago I had a heated conversation with a colleague about "customer engagement." My argument was that the internet and social media were making it possible for anyone to speak their mind, to have a voice and that was going to change how retailers create and market products — creating the need for genuine engagement. The counter argument was that all customers care about is getting the best price discount — price embodies the full value equation.Collaboration in business is not a hokey, but a viable business concept. In consumer-facing industries, it’s even more important given customer expectations of super-personalization and co-creation. Customers — regardless of age cohort — don’t want a retailer to do things to them, but to do things with them. The more you can involve (engage) your core customer in design to how they experience the product, the more you’re able to give them an ownership stake in your brand’s future.This is a smart move by Target and captures the imagination of a very important generation by instilling the brand in that group’s identity matrix.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2017

    Will Walmart’s Scan & Go catch on this time around?

    Good move by Walmart and points to one of the major changes we'll see in US retailing over the next two years.Retail checkout lines are a notorious detractor to the ownership experience. In grocery segment and big box formats this is acute. So anytime you can eliminate, or greatly reduce, the effort and time associated in that final step (the last one the customer remembers before leaving the store) the better your brand will benefit and earn more repeat trips, all else being equal.When it comes to technology, timing is critical and the speed by which consumer-level technology is being adopted portends well to future in-store retailing initiatives. Intuitive and ease of use are a must as well as the store's network speed.Each store chain will need to understand their customer demographics, shopping behavior to assess what levels of adoption to expect. These will vary from type and range of assortment to customer age groups and store location (urban v. suburban). This makes it more difficult to make generalizations from a one store pilot, yet it does manage expectations and helps to provide a more controlled environment. It also provides a "safe" environment to work out the app and process kinks before expanding the pilot.Postscript: back in 2003 I had the opportunity to visit Metro’s Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany. Using RFID tags and a specialized shopping cart, they were looking to change the in-store experience and eliminate checkout as we know it. With Amazon Go and Walmart’s Scan & Go, we’re on the cusp of substantive change in the retail store.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2017

    Will its massive jobs announcement change public perceptions of Amazon?

    To put it simply, the announcement puts an exclamation point on Amazon's future growth plans in the U.S. The nature and timing of the announcement is more reflective of the political winds and in creating less acrimonious relations between the incoming administration and Mr. Bezos.The emerging narrative of the next four years will be about job creation in America. To be part of this narrative, a company needs to be on a significant growth trajectory. To the extent that retailers close stores and layoff employees, they will be at the wrong end of this emerging trend. Stated differently, traditional comp store sales metrics will be complemented by a "job index" in which adding jobs (or at least protecting existing jobs) will be an additional pillar by which to view company performance and implied "citizenship marks."
  • Posted on: 01/13/2017

    Penney CEO says stores critical to omnichannel push

    The whole notion of having an omnichannel strategy implies having physical stores in the equation. J. C. Penney's investments in their e-commerce business make sense and while it's important to build out the associated capabilities, it's even more important to ensure that they create and execute on a vision centered on customer experience that includes all touchpoints. Put another way, it's not about optimizing each touchpoint or interaction but on purposely designing a fresh, consistent shopping and ownership experience that leverage its physical and digital assets.J.C. Penney is facing massive headwinds with the tectonic shift in how people shop and what they expect from retailers. This shift has called into question the future viability of department stores and malls as we know them today. The company has enough smart people to see the trends, identify what they need to do to survive the transition and create a new future. The challenge is in having the organizational wherewithal to pivot deeply and quickly while supporting the existing business model.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2017

    Will 2017 be the year retailers start making their stores relevant again?

    There's a definite realization emerging by many retail C-suites that what had worked in the past is not working as well now and may not work at all in the future. How does one break out of the existing paradigm? The real problem is the old herd mentality. A false sense of comfort and security permeates the herd as long as everyone is doing similar things and moving along in the same general direction and at the same pace. There's perceived safety in numbers but with danger (change) lurking behind each tree and over the hill, such safety is illusory. The fly in the ointment is the new consumer.Armed with cool and useful technology, the consumer is demanding the ease, transparency and immediacy that they enjoy on their smartphones to spread to how they buy, explore, discover, compare, shop for, share and use products and services. Amazon -- by sheer luck or design -- has timed their investments and offerings well for this new consumer. Stalwarts such as Walmart are adjusting to the tectonic shift in consumer behavior. Viewed by size or impact, we have two players -- Amazon and Walmart -- that are defining the future of retailing for the next decade. The rest of the pack are watching, making small moves here and there while keeping an eye on the others in their immediate area. I admit that it's extremely dangerous to make such broad statements, but they do help illustrate and simplify a complex landscape to get the point across. Exceptions surely exist but these have not moved the needle at the industry level or are too early to gauge.On the eve of the NRF I am hopeful that retailers will not be suffering a failure of the imagination and use it only to benchmark against a familiar retail competitor or to investigate how technology can support small incremental moves. I am optimistic that they will rise above the herd and peg their success against retail's new customer-based reality. This reality rewards ultra-convenience, transparency, immediacy and highly-personalized experiences. The value equation in retail is shifting and to catch up you have to move faster than the current pace of change otherwise you will never get there. The store can and will play a role, but it must be realized within a new context and done strategically with agility and speed.Bold moves are required because I am certain that the changes coming to retail over the next 10 years will herald a new and exciting era of retailing that will shock the industry as we know it today. Looking back at 2017, we’ll all nod in agreement about how clear the signposts were along the way. Hindsight is always 20/20.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2017

    What would an American Apparel acquisition do for Amazon or Forever 21?

    An American Apparel acquisition by Forever 21 makes sense only given the targeted customer segment and if the brand is prepared to move upscale. The latter is problematic from both the perspective of strategy and ability to execute.For Amazon, Millennials as a digital native group are an important segment that they target (as in with Amazon Go), and private label apparel is becoming an important source of growth. American Apparel can help nicely in both of these areas and add "made in the USA" to boot. They would give Amazon an immediate, and diverse, store footprint across the U.S. and in key cities in Europe and key Asian markets. However, Amazon could also shed the stores and focus on the manufacturing/wholesale portion of the business.
  • Posted on: 01/06/2017

    RetailWire’s top five discussions of 2016 – What will top the list in 2017?

    The number of comments is certainly a good indicator of the relevance and impact of the topic for retailers. The five stories here represent what was on the mind of retailers in 2016 and Amazon was in the thick of it.For 2017, I expect top stories to take us further in executing the realities of the ongoing digital shift in the economy as we see disruptions in how value is created in retailing. My top five headlines will take on the following themes: 1.) Walmart and Amazon dominating the industry with their deep R&D pockets and willingness to make IT investments; 2.) Labor content in stores shifting to more customer-facing activities as in-store processes get reinvented by the help of IoT technology; 3.) A renaissance of visual merchandising as storytelling across all points of customer interactions; 4.) The use of artificial intelligence (AI), and specifically augmented reality (AR), to enhance the customer experience as well as the infusion of AI and machine learning into retail applications; and 5.) significantly more retailers using their massive data -- structured, unstructured, historical and real-time -- in the moment to deliver context-aware, relevant and personalized customer communications and offers across all interaction points.Exciting times ahead!
  • Posted on: 12/30/2016

    Amazon considers floating warehouses

    Big, bold, audacious and even absurd. Amazon is thinking well into the future and obliterating existing business paradigms as it reinvents the future. Unlike most well established companies, Amazon's strategic horizon is based not on competitors' moves or accepted business models but on redefining market and consumer values while completely re-imagining new paths to such values.Bringing a patent to life is not automatic or at times even desirable. It works to keep competitors out as well as increase strategic options for the patent owner. Nevertheless, what Amazon has done here is demonstrate the long-term and strategic direction of its use of drones and its inventory and delivery network. Keep in mind that there has been actual R&D on super dirigibles that can potentially carry huge payloads.The argument that this is primarily a PR play loses steam when considering the long gestation period and the R&D cost required to win such a patent. Moreover, one doesn't keep a PR play in obscurity, as this patent was reportedly awarded in April.
  • Posted on: 12/29/2016

    Which spot gets your vote as the best international Christmas commercial of 2016?

    I really enjoyed these spots! I loved the John Lewis spot and found it very effective. Yet Allegro's "English for Beginners" earned my top choice. The story was brilliantly told, it connected across generations and cultures, it honored family and it demonstrated how love is the ultimate foundation for happiness.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2016

    Will data-driven checkout get shoppers through the line faster?

    What Amazon Go has done is use technology to completely redefine the checkout process by reimagining the shopping experience. It wasn't a tweak on existing processes. They began with a clean slate and limited assortment. They identified a segment that is willing to try, and even asking for, a different grocery shopping experience.To apply sensors to an existing store footprint means adding greater variety to the processes which actually increases execution complexity and the potential for failed consumer expectations. Certainly testing and piloting new ideas is a necessity to survive and thrive; however, how you choose to roll out and execute will determine their success. Trying to be all things to all people is a sure path to frustration and missed opportunities.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2016

    What does Alexa’s holiday win mean?

    Amazon's ability to bring together different technologies that redefine convenience and raise consumer expectations -- and to do it at scale -- is losing the surprise factor. This is dangerous for Amazon, as it becomes more difficult to meet rising expectations, as well as for competitors who may cede the battle. But it is surely an enviable position to be in as it continues to generate its own tailwinds.Nevertheless, what we're seeing in this case from the holiday spending is the trust consumers have placed in Amazon and their appetite for "gadgets" that add convenience and reduce effort/friction in doing what they want to do. Voice may be viewed by many as a marginal technology application in the artificial intelligence arena, but it has tremendous potential to disrupt user interfaces and brand experience. Amazon bringing AI technology into the consumer mainstream brought practical applications and use cases.

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