Being Prepared

Beyond the Rack’s CTO, Ted Guglielmi, shares what’s innovative and in the works for the all-star online retailer

“Be prepared to invest so that customer levels are not static but superior.” —Ted Guglielmi, CTO
“Be prepared to invest so that customer levels are not static but superior.” —Ted Guglielmi, CTO

A sale is already an exciting experience for shoppers, but add in the elements of time and exclusivity, and the bargain hunt becomes a feeding frenzy. That’s the idea behind Montréal-based Beyond the Rack, an e-commerce club that hosts 48-hour sales, during which members can save up to 80 percent on designer brands. Consistent traffic growth of 70 percent per year suggests the founders had the right idea from the beginning, but it’s CTO Ted Guglielmi’s job to continuously improve the buyer experience for the booming site. Below, he takes time out of his busy schedule to chat with us.

Advantage: What are some of the improvements you’ve made to Beyond the Rack?
Ted Guglielmi: We’ve done a lot of work to make our operations fail-safe. Many of our partners use cloud services, and if one of them should go down—as we experienced last year with our partners on the Amazon.com cloud—historically, we would go down with them until solutions were implemented. We’ve addressed this by distributing our load across multiple locations so that in the event of a system failure in one location, we can fall back on another. While we are taking action to resolve the problem, our site never loses availability, and the whole process is seamless to the customer. I’m really proud of the homegrown solutions we’ve developed, but we also implemented some off-the-shelf technology that’s allowing us to continue to grow and maintain a high-quality customer experience.

What solutions did you choose, and how have they benefited the site?
One of the differentiating factors of e-commerce is performance. As people click from page to page, the site has to be ultra fast and secure. The Akamai products we chose, Aqua Web and Kona Security solutions, are what I’d call “tier-one solutions”—proven industry standards that, once you implement [them], you don’t have to give a second thought.

We have grown to such a volume that the time was right to put in these tools to help with performance and security. Since implementation, our page-rendering speeds have increased 50 percent, and there have been no breaches in security.

Career Milestones

1996–1999
Gains experience as the director of technology at Hartco Inc., managing a large staff with multiple divisions in a public company

1999–2000
Works primarily with customer interfacing as the VP of professional services at Essentus

2001–2005
Taps into his entrepreneurial skills as an independent consultant serving 30 clients with business needs such as ERP selection, operations, and technology systems

2005–2009
Gets his first experience managing systems at a high-volume e-tailer as CTO of Ice.com

2012
Lands his current position as CTO of Beyond the Rack

How is Beyond the Rack differentiating itself among e-tailers?
We’re a very nimble business that can react to what customers are telling us. We measure users’ interaction with the site on a daily basis and take action to improve the experience.

For example, we’ve enhanced our photography on the site to provide multiple images and perspectives of our products where previously we only had one. We’re about to launch video as well, which we think will really enhance the shopping experience. I’m also very proud to offer our members a 24-hour shipping window that they won’t get on other sites. If a member buys shoes during a morning sale and comes back in the afternoon to buy a dress, we only charge shipping once.

What’s the next improvement members can expect from the site?
Everyone knows the frustration an out-of-stock item brings. Obviously, we can’t have unlimited inventory, but we’re taking steps to address that frustration. We’ve been more aggressive in bringing in the quantities we need, but we’re also planning to launch a wish-list feature, so if someone misses out on a product, they can add it to their wish list, and should someone cancel an order or make a return, we can offer it to someone on that wish list.

What’s your golden rule for customer service?
Do it well. There will always be customer problems you have to address; an order will be late or incorrect. If you respond to a customer-service issue in a satisfactory and timely manner, you’ll get the customer back, hand over fist. But if you can’t, you’ll lose them forever. Be prepared to invest so that customer levels are not static but superior.