PROFILE

Mohamed Amer

Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor

Living in Southern California, Mohamed is keen on applying his corporate and entrepreneurial executive leadership across strategy, technology, and communications in the service of progressive boards of directors, c-suites, and startup companies.

Building teams and driving results spanning multiple industry sectors and domains, Mohamed brings successful experience in public and private sectors across mission-critical operational, supply chain, strategy, communications, and technology roles.  He is a highly trusted coach and advisor for senior executives and entrepreneurs in the technology and consumer-facing industries.

During his tenure at SAP, Mohamed held several senior roles that included leading the solution footprint, M&A, and go-to-market strategy for the global grocery business, and developing the future supply chain product area for retail. While leading the Retail Business Unit in the Americas, he supported business development, key customer implementations, and strategic relationships as well as managing key user groups and executive customer councils. He also led internal and external communication roles across multiple sectors and most recently having responsibility for executive communications in SAP’s Office of the Co-Presidents.

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 (acquired by Accenture) 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: 02/24/2020

    What are the biggest barriers to AI adoption for retailers?

    The biggest barriers are going beyond the hype and getting the c-suite to understand what artificial intelligence is, and how it can be applied to drive top line growth and generate bottom line efficiencies in their specific business model. Even more impactful and profitable is the potential to change your existing business model through novel application of AI. However the necessary mindset here is not one of incrementalism in the sense of continuous improvement, but one of pursuing new ways of doing a process (simplifying) or even completely eliminating processes (eliminating friction). Artificial Intelligence has such a potential, but it doesn’t just happen by flicking a switch. As AI gets bandied about its luster is well deserved, yet the hyperbole makes it easy for reluctant executives and analysts alike to snicker and disregard. Any change that challenges the existing assumptions upon which the business is founded, or by which past successes were achieved will be considered safe to ridicule and ignore. In the 2020s, Artificial Intelligence will be as ubiquitous and as useful as the pervasive spreadsheet. It’s simply the “killer app” of this generation.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Consumers hate paying for shipping more than just about anything

    To my colleagues that treat consumers as perfect decision makers, sorry to burst your bubble: they’re not! Consumers don’t care nor do they have to realize anything about the real cost of shipping or that there’s no free lunch. Their expectation is to get the best deal they can because they figure the retailer is big enough to look out for themselves. They want their order delivered for free and the same day and are willing to pay a slight premium for that convenience and simplicity. Shipping fees give consumers a reason to abandon the proverbial shopping cart and is simply a hangover from the days when catalogs were popular shopping venues and everyone expected to pay shipping. Amazon changed all that. If you don’t kill your shipping fees, you are guaranteeing loss of sales to competitors and higher abandoned cart rates. The resultant death spiral will make it nearly impossible to escape the vortex. This is not a time to ponder or settle for others’ crumbs. To remain viable, you’ll need to expand your decision horizon and create greater optionality -- simplify your pricing, invest in supply chain efficiencies and reliable delivery partners, and utilize extended physical networks so that you can eliminate this senseless and self-inflicted friction.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Should retailers scale hyper-localized store elements chainwide?

    This is akin to the centralized-decentralized debate between efficiency-seeking operators and consumer-facing unique differentiation by marketers. You cannot scale the specifics of an experience, but you can do so with the concept. Broad ideas do scale, local manifestations and execution playbooks do not. For example, adding a playful experiential element to enhance the in-store experience in an upscale suburban mall will likely look different than one in an urban mall or one that serves a college region. So while adding local art in a store is the core idea, the featured artists and their works reflecting unique styles will vary by store location and local sensibilities. The key is to understand your brand values and your customers so you are able to design enhancements to the in-store experience in novel ways that are scalable at the core but can be executed locally in ways that are most meaningful and relevant for the communities they serve.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    If you’ve got a couple of items that are properly barcoded, the decision is simple: self-checkout is faster. Got a full cart or a bunch of vegetables and baked goods? Then go directly to the shortest checkout line you can find. Anything else requires a quick visual assessment with some mental projections about time and your own hassle index. Retailers must keep the focus on the customer experience, deliver technology that works every time and is easy to use. Give your customers options so they are in charge of their time. A favorite exception of mine in this area is Trader Joe’s which does not have self-checkout but has consistently delivered the fastest checkout experience through their constant visual scanning of the lines, a highly manual but equally effective "bell ringing" system and an ability to instantly flex the number of checkout lanes. They have no reason to ever consider self-checkout.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Will store associates become the ultimate personalization tool at retail?

    Store associates are core and essential to any successful in-store customer experience. Unfortunately, (re)training takes a back seat to store design, visual merchandising, and technology investments, among other things. Even here, we’re “elevating” the value of the store associates by categorizing them as a “personalization tool.” People and related training just aren’t sexy like introducing a new designer or putting up a new website or adding a cool new app. Training is often relegated to a last step and in which store associates are finally brought into the transformational loop. A much better way is to include and represent the store in the up front strategy formulation and execution. With the right inclusive approach, the power of front-line store associates delivering an exceptional customer experience can become the secret to ultimate personalization. Let’s just not call them tools.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2020

    Will technology even the last-mile playing field with Amazon?

    This is a very tall order but certainly worthy of pursuit. Put simply, Deliverr set out to deliver an Amazon-like fulfillment network and speed of delivery for the rest of online retailing. While artificial intelligence will be key in anticipating demand and pre-positioning items to the right fulfillment sites, you need to make significant investments in a national physical network, the technology within the DCs, the logistics partners and delivery network, and a robust and extensive enterprise system. The offer here is an entire supply chain infrastructure capped by advanced artificial intelligence to drive efficiency and effectiveness. Deliverr’s closing of their Series C funding is a solid milestone and suggestive of high expectations. However, I caution on overly optimistic projections given the four core supply chain elements the company must continuously invest in and excel at, in addition to an incessant application of artificial intelligence. Moreover, Amazon will not cease investing and experimenting as they continue to raise the fulfillment bar. I’m not suggesting we throw up our hands and cede it all to Amazon; just that the problem set that Deliverr set out to solve is a moving target which will prove more elusive and require much more capital than the existing view.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2020

    Brandless halts operations. What went wrong?

    Successfully selling a literal “brandless” brand with near zero awareness based on lower prices is the stuff of superheroes. To succeed you need consumer trust, a realistic plan to capture mind share, and consistently high quality products - all wrapped in a path to profitability. The foundation was never properly set, and last I checked superhero powers are restricted to comic books and our screens.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why are so many organic grocers landing in bankruptcy court?

    With crushing debt, it’s not enough to have a vision of making it easy to live a healthy lifestyle, be in a growing natural and organic segment, offer friendly, knowledgeable full-service in-store and a superior shopping experience or promote high food quality standards. Desire for rapid growth drove significant store count growth and the need to take on unsustainable debt with onerous terms. This was aggravated by increased competition which puts a lid on any ability to pass through higher prices to consumers. Bottom line, it's just bad sector dynamics and company capitalization decisions.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2020

    Will Macy’s cut its way to improved margins and future growth?

    The announcements by Macy’s are welcomed and can make a positive impact in the short term.  The trouble is that these initiatives cannot revive or infuse sustainable year over year growth for the company. The quality of top line growth is crucial and this does cast a cloud on future plans.   Macy’s is going through a difficult pruning of its exposure to low performing malls while the company attempts to reinvent its stores and rationalize its assortments. But in this existential struggle, the company can’t ignore nor escape the downward spiral of the once reigning department store model in retail.  There is a reason why Dayton Hudson morphed into Target and was eventually spun off after acquiring Marshall Field’s (incidentally to Macy’s). Over the past two decades, Macy’s had doubled down on the department store model with acquisitions and bet that size and market share will accrue comp store growth and profitability.   Unwinding and recasting their long held strategy, from assets to mindsets, from systems to processes, from store operations to digital presence is a massive undertaking -- and nothing short of this can succeed.  I have great respect for the executive team and their focus on addressing the bottom line problem.  However, ignoring the contextual headwinds may turn the admirable and massive set of forthcoming initiatives for naught.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2020

    Is Forever 21 a wise investment for its new mall landlord owners?

    Mall operator or not, the fire sale price creates space and a sufficiently long runway for the prospective owner to relaunch and right-size the stores while adding an efficient operational mindset. It’s simply too good of a deal to bypass with potential for superior financial return for the three participating players. Don’t expect a rash of these deals since they require the right combination of a low entry price tag, strong brand for an important demographic, and strategic soundness with significant operating upside potential.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2020

    Which commercial won the Super Bowl?

    This Super Bowl Sunday, we were the winners! An amazing set of commercials aimed at honoring our personal histories, our memories, and simultaneously seeing how technology can be harnessed for the good. Tops was Google’s Loretta as a gut-punch reminder of the relationships that define us and what we (ought to) value in life. Live life fully and do create and treasure your moments. Jeep’s Groundhog Day was brilliantly creative and fun, while Amazon’s Before Alexa witty one liners had a standup comic character to them; and while funny, they won’t age so well. All-in-all a strong creative night of commercials in tune with their audience.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2020

    Is it ethical for resellers to raise the price of Kobe Bryant merchandise?

    When companies build software to optimize revenue or margin, they apply supply and demand dynamics and include their cost structure and competitor actions. There’s no setting in the logic that states, “forego your legal rights and bypass revenue and margin upside due to ethical issues.” The point is that the entire economic logic with inherent penalties and rewards does not explicitly consider ethics as long as one remains within the legal framework. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t, but that is the reality of the marketplace. Capitalism is about the best legal use of your capital to maximize returns on investment. Yes, there is a move toward conscious capitalism and other similar efforts; the challenge is when the competition operates to maximize the here and now, will you be around by playing the long game while ignoring the exigencies of the day?
  • Posted on: 01/28/2020

    Will investors sleep on Casper’s IPO?

    Casper is a truly innovative company in an industry fraught with aggressive sales people and loud 50 percent-off sales every week. Despite the industry inefficiencies and consumer pain points, Casper needs to and is out to change consumer behavior, and that is very difficult to do. I suspect the initial excitement will recede and the reality of rising operational costs and slower than desired adoption will be unavoidable in the current iteration.
  • Posted on: 01/28/2020

    Will online food and beverage sales be even bigger than imagined?

    It really comes down to how consumers come to value their time in combination with their access and ability to participate in the digital food and beverage trend. This will continue to be distributed unevenly; yet two years from now, we will be surprised once more with a further increase in projected 2025 online food and beverage sales to a heady $200 billion in the U.S. convenience, delivery and supply chain networks, and the adoption of voice assistants will all converge to accelerate these projections beyond current estimates.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Is Amazon more friend or foe for digital start-ups?

    For a consumer-focused digital start-up, Amazon is a given fixture in the business landscape. It cannot be ignored or easily labeled as friend or foe because it’s both at the same time. Amazon is maniacally driven by a desire to be the glue that integrates every consumer purchase, every home, and every life event by connecting the digital and physical in meaningful terms for consumers everywhere. As long as the digital start-up contributes to Amazon’s purpose, then life is good; should it undermine or jeopardize that purpose, or grow too fast or too big so as to challenge Amazon, then the start-up will be in a very one-sided fight for survival.

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