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.
  • Posted on: 06/18/2018

    Microsoft exploring checkout-less technologies

    Technology R&D does not turn into real-world applied processes without serious investment and a healthy dose of trial and error combined with suitable market timing. That requires either addressing a known unmet need or creating a completely new product/process for a still undefined need. Microsoft's and other companies’ investments in automated checkout adds momentum to a technological shift that addresses consumers' complaints about the inherent high friction of queuing up, the cumbersome and time wasting item loading/unloading processes and the payment process. When was the last time you picked the shortest checkout line only to have the person in front of you pull out a handful of paper coupons to be scanned and validated? Paradoxically, what makes it even worse is that the bigger your purchase basket is (the more valuable you are as a customer), the more that the hassle of these antiquated processes becomes exaggerated. We are in the early innings for these technologies but the game will accelerate quickly as the artificial intelligence tied to new sensors quickly learn through massive data feeding the necessary machine learning algorithms. Don’t expect mass roll-outs in the next year or two but rather focused pilots with limited roll-outs to create the large data sets that will train the combination of sensors and machine learning algorithms to refine results and accuracy of outcomes; the hockey stick factor will follow. The checkout bugaboo is real and I am confident we will find ways to solve it which will push the cashier-less retail sales volume in grocery past those in the traditional cashier model within 10 years. Part of the attractiveness of online retailers is that there are “no checkout lines.” Friction is reduced, gas money is saved and physical effort is eliminated. It’s time to completely rethink how we facilitate shopping in stores if we expect them to remain core in the retailing world.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Ah, glad to see that the consumer made it in your vision. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked at the same picture and were in agreement on what it means. Vive la difference ... and that's what makes the world go round.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Thanks for your comment, Doug; in times of change it's natural to have different views of what we're looking at. You may not want an "Apple Store" experience, but that misses an important element. You need that charging cable for a reason, it's not because you wake up in the morning and tell yourself, I got to get me a charging cable. It's because a charging cable has become a necessary part of what you do everyday; that cable means more than charging an electronic gizmo, it helps you do certain things that form your daily routine and that routine, in many ways, is what defines who you are. It's this more expansive mindset that is increasingly necessary in order to sell more "stuff" in today's economy. Products are important, no doubt about it, but if that is your focus, you will make the wrong business decisions and will lose the war of survival. When your strategy is exclusively built around how well you source, buy, flow, price and display a product ONLY as a product and not as an essential item that your customer uses and even identifies with undercuts the long term success of your business and leaves you with only one strategic lever: being the lowest price (and needing to have the lowest cost to shelf/home). Retailers will always sell stuff, but they make their money fulfilling needs as well as hopes and dreams.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    Will IHOP’s burger buzz translate into sales?

    Let me start off by saying that I am and have been a big fan of IHOP breakfasts for decades. It's easy to criticize and we know that initial value creation comes not from tweaking existing models but from initiating new ones. So kudos for the bold step. Yet, this move by IHOP may suffer from the "grass is greener syndrome." Rather than further differentiating their current branding by improving the food quality, menu and service of the all-day breakfast experience, the company chooses to move into the burger arena. This is a high-stakes move that either reveals an inherent macro-weakness in the breakfast market or an extremely attractive menu/daypart combination that IHOP just could not dismiss. Will the new focus dilute the quality of the breakfast menu? Will operational execution in restaurants suffer? Will existing patrons try the burger options? Will the campaign attract and sustain new customers? Lots of questions that will only be answered over time and by how well the company adapts to how consumers respond to this new strategy.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    The shift from a product-defined retailing paradigm to co-creating customer experiences is well underway. That means not just defining what business one is in, but the entire organizational structure, strategy, capital investments and metrics. From the board level to the store and web storefront, the change is irreversible. As Max so cogently stated, retailers need to fill a role in consumers' lives. It's not the stuff you sell that matters, it's the experience your customers have and feelings you engender that will define your business and brand. Start with the customer and the rest will follow.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Should retailers incentivize store staff to accept digital transformation?

    Let's be honest here, people don't like change because of fear. Fear of not knowing if they'll be successful in the new way of doing things and fear of losing their paycheck or having it reduced. Success in any change program -- big or small, company-wide or only in one department -- will be based on how well management addresses the fears of the front-line worker. It's not rocket science, it's human nature. The former has precise mathematical formulas, the latter involves human emotions and is a people business.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    Yes, the culprits are a definite minority and liberal shipping policies will be the industry norm. Stepping back a bit, comparing the rate of return items between a store-only world and an online world is non-productive and wrongly anchors one's expectations in a non-reproducible retailing epoch. Time to get used to new norms and expectations on purchase (and return) behavior that will vary greatly by merchandise category while not letting a bad apple spoil the entire basket. The new retailing model is frictionless and chock-full of new conveniences, both in-store and online and across the ownership cycle. Those wishing to participate and flourish will adjust accordingly.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2018

    Is AI the key to legacy brands’ revitalization?

    The key here is well stated by Mr. Ganapathy, "AI itself is simply a means, it's not the end." Artificial intelligence technology increases your decision options, greatly accelerates your ability to (re)test and apply, and challenges current models of thinking while infusing new agility into your organization. Is AI a revolutionary tool and lever? Absolutely yes. The turnaround silver bullet of retail? No way.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Mental health is a retail management issue

    This is a very difficult topic. Mental health transcends any industry yet hits in a very personal way. Retail is a microcosm of the communities served and as a mirror to society, retailers can take the lead in attacking the stigma attached to mental health. Witness the numerous sports injuries and our ability to talk about them, sometimes even with pride, because they are clear, tend to have a finite path and closure, the pathologies are known and the remedy is logically accepted. Enter mental health and the impacted organ is our brain, our body's computer, the keeper of who we are and how we make sense of our world and our relationships. The disease works hard to protect itself by camouflaging reality and heightening fear and distrust. Mental health is a very private and perniciously lonely disease that we tend to address with a blind eye and ludicrously limited budgets. There are no easy answers, but the start has to be the elimination of the stigma and realize that massive funding is necessary in addition to creating a new and different kind of narrative that avoids the simple and simpleton messages and are prepared to dig into the darkness within which mental health spreads.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    Is data-driven marketing holding back storytelling?

    Storytelling is an art with a basic formula that is sufficiently flexible to accommodate any piece of communication. Data does not hinder storytelling. What is a story without data, without information? The challenge is not to limit one's thinking to an either/or world of cold data or human emotions. Reality is that telling a story involves data - some sort of information - and data must be part of a story but it cannot be the story in and of itself.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    What will Starbucks do without Howard Schultz?

    After 40 years at the helm, it's impossible to ignore the departure of Howard Schultz. The immediate impact will be internal - Mr. Schultz has provided the continuity and tenacity of a founder's vision combined with that inherent credibility. Sure, there has been a transition in place, but that cannot eliminate natural short term - and fully surmountable - concerns. The current leadership team needs to over-communicate on staying the course regarding the company's cherished values. On the external front, the path forward for Starbucks is well in place across the globe. The business challenge is having a relatively mature business in the U.S. (store growth) versus the booming growth trajectory in China. Is the company's story a growth story or a value story and is a two-pronged strategy the current reality and, if so, is it desirable and manageable? How can Starbucks reignite growth in its home market and maintain a single "growth" narrative?
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Does it pay for retailers to price-match their own websites?

    Any downside to self-price match pales in comparison to the goodwill a retailer builds with their customers. Time to move away from maximizing each transaction while losing out on longer-term revenue and profitability gains made possible by price transparency. With all the choices available to consumers today, retailers are looking for ways to encourage their customers to come back in their stores or websites. Why should they jeopardize that for a short-term gain that may sour that customer?
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    The Neighborhood Goods model is worthy of our attention. The footprint is small enough to mitigate high fixed-cost investments yet big enough to test a new set of relationships with brands, big and small, as well as executing on a new consumer experience. Two key execution points moving forward: how well will Neighborhood Goods deliver on the vision and can the company create a consistent and differentiated brand and image in the mind of consumers independent of the vendors that make up the fluid assortments?
  • Posted on: 05/25/2018

    Convenience is king as new-gen vending units add meal kits

    New age smart vending machines are redefining consumer convenience and will come in novel ways and sizes from new fixed locations to mobile ones. Connected vending machines will become an intelligent node in a retailer's network and create compelling means to reach customers. Meal kits are another play on time-saving convenience. Combining the two elements of smart vending machines and meal kits will translate to more convenience and choices for consumers. We're only limited by our imagination and our ability to execute on novel ideas.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Amazon bans chronic returners

    Amazon's return policy is part of the trust and confidence the company has built into their model. Returns are a natural element of any retail operation and can easily erode margins, so it's understandable to see Amazon focus on this large number. My only suggestion is to err on the side of caution so that customers making legitimate returns are not thrown out with the bathwater.

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