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: 03/23/2017

    Will customer tracking help save shopping malls?

    As stated by several of my fellow BrainTrust colleagues, transparent collection and use of private data is a must, so I will focus on the first part of the discussion question.Malls are facing an existential challenge and need to rethink their role and function at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Their original model was valued around convenience, efficiencies and an expanded choice set for consumers.Across those values, the mall today is slowly being replaced by online marketplaces/aggregators such as Amazon and eBay. Retailers' own online shops, to the extent that they don't integrate the store into the complete shopping experience, can also work to reduce mall traffic. The business model of anchor stores, which provide stability and lifeblood to malls, are coming under attack.This landscape calls for much more than behavior tracking that sheds light on what happens once a shopper enters the mall. My sense is that mall and store operators know this information already, but maybe seek confirmation or hope for some surprising insight. So in and of itself this is fine but would be low on my priority list unless you use it to test a new mall layout with novel activities and community spaces.An interesting approach may be to use augmented reality to enhance testing of modified mall designs and virtual reality for greenfield designs. The bottom line is that the problem is much bigger than gaining insights to existing tracking behavior and more about making malls (however defined) more relevant again.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    What do know-it-all shoppers want?

    At the risk of over-simplifying, I suggest two types of customers and two types of sale situations.You have customers that will do all the research ahead of a store visit or are making a repeat purchase. They are looking for a quick, easy, frictionless transaction. The other customer type is looking for expert advice on a new or complex sale (relative) and seeks expert in-store advice to validate and guide a decision.In the sale situation, you have purchases of basic items or repeat purchases of previously researched items. The other situation consists of purchasing new items, technology or a solution bundle that have a foothold or legacy dependencies and higher price points.Such a 2x2 matrix does not signify that frictionless is less desired by one customer type or sales situation, but the emphasis changes within the quadrant. Bottom line, if a customer walks into a store, a retailer must figure out a way to make the sale. After all, in today's retail reality, walking into a store is a big deal. Leveraging technology, knowledge and empowered store associates is more important than ever in the purchase and ownership cycle.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    What will Walmart do with its newest acquisition, ModCloth?

    Jet.com is going on a shopping spree for a portfolio of deeply discounted online properties that can easily plug in and extend the assortment with fresh designs and propositions that honor all body sizes and shapes. However, that doesn’t come without a price. ModCloth is an unabashed community-conscious activist on social issues that matter to their employees and customer base. These are values that form their brand and resonate with their customers. The culture mismatch is real but this tension can bring future benefits to Walmart -- that’s how change happens.Over the next year or so we’ll be in a better position to see tangible organizational and process moves resulting from the Jet.com acquisition. We’ll also see if Jet.com is able to provide a space for the new online acquisitions to flourish and scale while maintaining the core values that motivated their customers or not.Walmart became the largest retailer in the world by following a consistent and predictable formula. Online retailing is changing the retail landscape and in pursuit of growth, retailers have to adjust how they engage customers and create delivered value. For Walmart, the Jet.com acquisition was a significant first step in making distinctive changes to the company. Changing corporate DNA is a prerequisite when the business environment changes radically, as it is today. Walmart is taking the right first steps to ensure the company prospers and grows in the coming decades -- let’s see how they will leverage these smaller acquisitions such as ModCloth.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2017

    How will AmazonFresh Pickup stores affect the grocery business?

    Applying Cowen’s estimates and the FMI/Nielsen projections, it’s highly feasible that Amazon will be in the top five grocery retailers in the US in the next five years irrespective of how successful AmazonFresh pickup stores turn out to be. Center store products are ideal for Amazon's traditional model and subscription business. From price comparisons to in-stock position, to ease of ordering and fast deliveries, it's hard not to imagine a very different grocery retailing landscape by 2022.Amazon is experimenting to find the right mix and size of physical stores to not only complement their online core but to discover and validate the options that grocery shoppers will come to expect and value. The company is pushing hard to establish the standard shopping experience by moving quickly, being novel and being totally irreverent to the status quo.For other grocery retailers, fresh has been a major differentiation and, when executed well, a strong margin contributor for the business. With Amazon’s steady attack on the center store aisles, their continued probes into fresh -- from identifying range/assortment, ordering and delivery/pickup options mean that grocery retailers will revisit their processes to ensure they can deliver a frictionless omnichannel shopping experience that is easy, fun and convenient that meets and anticipates their customers’ needs and rising expectations.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2017

    Will ‘Fearless Girl’ lead to more women on retail company boards?

    I think Paula cut to the chase on this one. It's clearly not about a dearth of capable or qualified women candidates. Organizational changes are difficult to bring about, and when they touch the core power structure of a company -- its board of directors -- that change comes at a glacial pace. For all the talk about diversity, the efforts need to go beyond incremental improvements and metrics anchored in the past. It's the rare recruiter that pushes back on their client to convince them to widen the net or alter their selection process. Clients pay for a service and get what they believe they need.How do we create more diversity across upper management in retail? Simply make it a bold and strategic priority for the organization and bring it to life in a very visible, concrete ways. The pace of change in today's world and corporate transparency make incremental changes unacceptable. Gradualism comes at a cost of alienating half the population, and even more if you consider marginalized ethnic groups, while further distancing the board from the reality that is their customers. Ignore the issue long enough and it will sound the organization's death knell.One week does not change minds, and barely raise awareness -- even when done in a very visible way on Wall Street, the clubbiest of clubs. The location of the statue is perfect in its juxtaposition to the roaring bull; she firmly stands her ground, ready to take on a man's world. Although the "Fearless Girl" statue is slated to be removed, what she stands for is not. The statue should become a permanent fixture opposite the bull as a reminder of this perennial struggle.
  • Posted on: 03/02/2017

    Did Wall Street miss on Best Buy’s Q4 results?

    One day does not a stock make, and Best Buy shares are bouncing back today. Wall Street traders tend to overreact in both direction, but I see the company's strategy under Mr. Joly and their fourth quarter performance as indicative of a stable outlook for the year -- which would be significant in itself given product availability issues and extreme price pressures.Mr. Joly's three growth pillars are sound as they address customer needs and how they shop while working to reduce cost and drive efficiencies. Best Buy has come a long ways since 2012 when it was on the brink of collapse. With the "Renew Blue" program, Mr. Joly set the company's turnaround on a more firm footing. He's now moving to the growth phase with the "Best Buy 2020: Building the New Blue" program.One area that has more potential for the company is the Geek Squad and in-home advisers. Anytime you can eliminate decision complexity or provide care-free installation and integrate all of this in a one-stop shop package, from a workflow and transaction perspective, then you have a real chance to "Amazon-proof" your offering or service.Bottom line, as long as the company continues to focus on the customer experience, to form strategic partnerships with the likes of Samsung and Microsoft and to deliver a consultative selling floor with friendly, knowledgeable and empowered store staff, I see Best Buy heading in the right direction and we may even see a growth spurt in a challenging retail segment.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2017

    Will Target’s $7 billion investment pay off in market share gains?

    It’s not about understanding the changing retail landscape, but about coming to grips with the pace of that change. It’s not about executing an impressive multi-year CAPEX plan, but about making fundamental changes to the assumptions driving strategy formation. It’s not about competing along traditional measures, but about taking steps to create novel and unprecedented competitive advantages.Consumers are making the retail shopping (and ownership) experience front-and-center in the hotly-competitive retail industry. Placing investment bets on optimizing elements of the business such as stores, prices and online transactions are all fine in isolation -- the key though is to bake-in the relationships and connections between and among these elements. They have to be strong, consistent and focus on an original design.I have great admiration for Target and their place in the communities they serve. The company has had a very loyal brand following with much goodwill. Some of the planned changes are necessary but not sufficient. The company can either decide to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart along previously established battle lines or move the battle to higher grounds where they can not just defend but launch their own offensives. Retail’s future battles will not be won on price, but on a shopping and ownership experience that is just starting to be understood in light of our technology-filled lives.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Why are stores waiting until checkout to ID shoppers?

    It’s not about technology limitations but about instilling a new set of behaviors by both retailer and shopper. The litany of technologies and use cases in the report speak to an inherent desire to design a passive technology solution that either does not require action by customers or identifies them indirectly when they take some other action such as logging on to the store’s Wi-Fi. Why not make customer identification a conscious step in store design and be clear about it with your customers?Let’s think about the Amazon Go store. The customers self-identify when they step into the store by scanning their mobile device. It’s an explicit opt-in action that gives the store the right to monitor and facilitate their shopping. For brick-and-mortar stores, they can make identification an explicit opt-in step. Instead of making the customer wait until they checkout to find out how much they saved, why not do the scan at the entry with a promise to deliver a more rewarding shopping experience?Customer apprehension is very real whenever you use technology to collect information without being explicit and clear that you are doing so or explaining how you will use that data (remember Nordstrom a couple of years ago?). Customers don’t mind sharing their information with a retailer in return for a more personalized shopping experience. They don’t want to read a multi-page legal disclaimer on their mobile phone to understand what the retailer will do with their data. Keep it clear, understandable and transparent.Instead of framing the situation as doing things TO a customer as target, let’s change it to working WITH customers to improve their shopping experience. At the end of the day, it’s up to each customer to self-identify and for retailers to communicate the clear benefits of doing so.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2017

    Will a new TJX concept put more hurt on department stores?

    TJX is pushing all the right buttons for their shoppers. Their stores and assortments are fresh, inviting, surprising and full of quality name-brand values. They're easier to shop (and park) and each trip brings with it something new. This lively and dynamic format contrasts with a department store format perceived as old and staid.As long as TJX can properly differentiate the two formats and provide the right buying and merchandising support, they'll have a good chance to make them successful.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Will Dunnhumby’s analytics do for Whole Foods what it did for Kroger?

    Historically Whole Foods has differentiated on having the right products in their stores, they didn’t worry about knowing the customer in the ways that Dunnhumby and other analytics vendors can help them achieve. So this is a big deal and a big change for the company as they take on multiple major initiatives simultaneously.The situation with Whole Foods is very different from what Kroger had faced when they embarked on their analytics journey with Dunnhumby. Could the company benefit from this move? Of course it can; the challenge resides in how much Whole Foods can digest as it executes on multiple fronts to reverse declining same-store sales and rolling out more 365 stores.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    Lidl is ahead of schedule for U.S. store openings

    Entering the US grocery market is not for the faint of heart. Lidl has taken their time to study and explore their ideas. They've taken notice of what is working (Trader Joe's, Aldi) and what has not (Tesco's Fresh & Easy). Also, Lidl is aware of how the traditional grocery segment has responded to new entrants such as Whole Foods in the 1980s and '90s and to Aldi's discount model or Trader Joe's fanatic customer base.The biggest challenge facing Lidl is translating those understandings to a differentiated store experience for a skeptical customer base wondering why they need one more grocery chain from which to choose. Focusing on one region to establish their presence is a good approach. Marketing and communicating with their future customers and how they execute in the stores they open will determine Lidl's success in executing their strategy. The potential is high, but so is the risk. My bet is on Lidl to make this a big success despite some bumps along the way.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    What will Walmart gain from its Moosejaw acquisition?

    The typical Moosejaw customer quote says it all, " ... this love runs deep ... " Since its founding, Walmart has appealed to the rationally calculating, deal-seeking side of our brain: from always low prices to save money, live better. With the experiential lifestyle trend and future buying power of Millennials, Walmart is running a huge M&A lab to make changes to the company's DNA.The key for Walmart -- and for Moosejaw and its loyal customers -- will depend on how quickly Walmart internalizes the new retail paradigm represented by the likes of Moosejaw and Jet.com.Implications for competitors? They're hoping Walmart's past success will keep the company from adopting the necessary changes to maintain the company's leadership into the next decade. However, hoping is not a plan. Competitors need to apply technology to strategically embed their brands in the lives of their consumers and to organize internally around how they can consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Is Amazon the most innovative company in retailing?

    For years Amazon has been the poster child for innovation in retail and elsewhere. Their unswerving focus on applying technology to delight their customer as well as fully appreciating the role of trust and speed has created a virtuous circle and greater freedom to experiment in ways just not feasible for competitors. Internally, they are geared to risk-taking in order to continuously pushing the envelope of what’s possible -- thereby creating opportunities where none were previously perceived. At their core, Amazon is a technology company that now happens to sell everything to anyone.In science, there's theoretical and applied knowledge. The former is of little value without the latter which cannot exist without the former. Retailers do not need to own theory (technology), they need to own how they apply it to their customers. Combining the right technology with a laser focus on making the lives of their customers better, simpler, and more convenient will drive the retail innovation agenda. That translates to developing the right set of partnerships in the technology sector and creating differentiation in what you choose to apply and execute -- with speed and agility -- for the benefit of your customers.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Will having the same buyers for online and stores work for Walmart?

    I believe the latest coming out of Walmart is that the two buying teams will remain independent of each other; however, any item that is sold in stores will be available online through the same buyer. There will continue to be online-only products that are the purview of the online buying team.For the vendors, it'll be logistically easier to deal with a single buyer regardless of the sales channel. For Walmart, expectations are for lower cost of goods and greater visibility for the buyer on product performance across stores and web.In this post Jet.com merger world for Walmart, what we're witnessing at the world's largest retailer are the early signs of the type of process changes necessary to bring the internal organizational setup in sync with how consumers shop today.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Zappos takes to the road to connect with consumers

    There are many ways to connect with consumers across the digital and physical spaces; pop-ups are certainly an easy, low-cost, and dynamic option. By delivering consistent experiences across a variety of customer touchpoints, Zappos and other brands can better positioned to create enduring connections with their customers and communities.In this specific case, Zappos is truly unique in that they view the company as primarily a service company that is creating experiences in which they sell shoes and clothing. The company is a living management lab with fresh ideas worth considering and adapting by more established brands.

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