The Bilingual Store

In this age of eCommerce, social media and big data-powered offers, how can established businesses compete against Internet moguls like Amazon.com?

The answer might rest in the language you use to talk to your customers! Increasingly, Latinos have caught the attention of eCommerce operators and traditional store managers as the new key growth market. Several dynamics make Latinos a seductive target market, namely attachment, larger homes and a tendency to refer local businesses that cater to their needs.

Best Buy became a pioneer in this area when it started offering free Spanish Rosetta Stone courses to its employees in every Dallas, TX store. The move has proven very successful, with employees reporting even 100% increase in sales.

A case study co-written by yours truly analyses this phenomenon and presents a framework that helps managers assess the potential profits of implementing a multilingual store via eLearning. This academic case study titled “Best Buy: Investing in Language Learning” saw huge demand in 2013 and became a best-selling business case study and one of the most influential pieces of academic business content written at North American business schools (see the source at Bloomberg Businessweek).

A bilingual (or even multilingual) store is an important differentiator in the fight against eCommerce giants such as Amazon and eBay. And Best Buy is a prime example of how to engage in such a fight while capturing a new market segment.

You can discover more about this trend by visiting the Customer Stories section at Rosetta Stone’s website.

Bodybuilders and Supermodels

Gabriela Markus, Olivia Culpo, Renae Ayris, Janine Tugonon, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero

I can assure you, with complete certainty: those beauty queens were not born like that.

They were born covered in nasty mucus, crying and completely naked (yes they were born naked!). Furthermore, their dresses are not sold by Sears, Kmart or Target. Quite possibly, you might have to scrape 50K for one of those babies (and the shoes run in the thousands as well).

Yes, even beauty queens and supermodels have their tricks. Heels, dental work, expensive make up, expensive trainers, weird diets and unreasonably priced dresses are all part of the game here. But men are different right!? Right?

DorianYates

Sure! He was born that way! Look at those genes! A baby born in high definition!! He didn’t have to lift a single weight! He didn’t have to put in the years and years of work and, of course: no steroids or supplements.

You now what, that is some major B.S. right there. Dorian Yates (the body builder) has a book full of tricks and has put a life worth of effort into his body building career. I don’t know about steroids but supplementation and specialized nutrition are a big part of this game.

Bodybuilders and supermodels read Hacker News daily, they follow key people on Twitter. Their code invokes a dozen ninja libraries that you don’t yet know about. They use cheap cloud services and summon a cluster with 2TB of RAM just to make their SQL queries run faster.

Wake up and smell the toast! Your best bet to beat the best (what a mouthful) is to find their tools and tricks of world class performers and then improve on them!

Did you like that site? Then head to builtwith.com and break it apart. Surf quora.com to find which stack they are using and do so for each competitor. Discover as many of their key tools, processes and people and then, improve on the state of the art.

Pretty soon you’ll look like this…

Gisele-Bundchen-Launches-Her-Own-Lingerie-Line-Victoria-Secret-Like-Runway-Show

Well, maybe not, but you get the point. Discipline, tools and processes make up a bigger part of the end result than we take for granted.

Common Mistakes in Website Performance Optimization

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Enterprises make a lot of mistakes when testing the performance of their websites. High-speed Internet access and ever more powerful servers, have given a good excuse to many IT managers and web producers to become a little bit lazy when testing and optimizing their websites.

Nevertheless, the benefits of performance testing are unparalleled: speedier website loads, lower hosting costs, more sales, increased equipment durability, happier customers and faster backups are but a few of the many advantages. Even when presented with these attractive gains, most project managers skim on testing to deliver projects on time or to avoid further delays. In this scenario, managers forget to fit performance testing in their projects timelines and then run into all sorts of problems. Here are five mistakes that enterprises make when testing the performance of their websites.

#1: Unrealistic Traffic Estimates
The first mistake is not emulating the real stress their websites will endure by failing to adequately estimate traffic. Adequate capacity planning involves estimating regular traffic conditions as well as predicting traffic spikes during busy days and geographic distribution of traffic and service loads. Some countries and regions will place higher demand on particular sections of your website and thus, contracting CDN services in those regions might make a lot of sense for your organization. However, none of this is possible without an adequate traffic estimation that takes into account seasonalities, regions, online services and timezone differences.

Traffic can be estimated by adding up the expected search engine traffic with the social media referrals and email lists traffic. Several free tools are available online and, along with historic server logs, they should be sufficient to estimate your web traffic adequately.

#2: Not Isolating Database Testing
A big no-no is failing to test your databases separately. Isolation of database components makes for easier and more accurate testing. This is even more important today, because of an ever increasing avalanche of data. You should pay especial attention to batch processes and remote web services because, believe it or not, there are the most expensive processes of most major data stores and are often overlooked by performance tuners.

Sadly, on the quest for the fastest launch possible, most companies skim on database testing and optimization and make their sites slower to read and index. This translates into decreasing traffic charts and slower search engine indexing.

In order to avoid this problem remember to comprehensively test and optimize every query, stored procedure and remote service but do so in isolation using the specialized tools provided by your database vendor.

#3: Uneven Unit Testing
In many companies, unit testing is not part of the daily routine. This is a major blunder, units should be tested and stress tested before making it to production or else! Unit testing makes your team accountable, fosters communication and levels the information technology understanding of your junior programmers.

#4: Neglecting Client-side Testing
Most companies don’t test their websites from a client perspective. They forgo slow Internet connection simulations and the like. But without a realistic idea of how your customers experience your website, little can be done in terms of caching, code optimization and CDN implementation to better customers’ experience.

The swift identification of poor user experience and bottlenecks can save you time and money, as well as improve sales. Furthermore, client-side testing allows to rapidly identify malfunctioning webpages in different browsers, platforms and mobile devices.

#5: Test Environment Differs From Production
Finally, enterprises fall prey to a very basic mistake: forgetting to test on machines comparable to their production servers. While you don’t need to test the on the actual production servers, servers with similar specs and connectivity help to highlight obscure issues related to the OS and hardware of the production environment. Complexity created by operating systems, processors, libraries, connectivity issues and the like make a very strong case to simply replicate your infrastructure for testing purposes. Specially when testing complicated websites, you should be as thorough as possible in simulating real operational conditions to make your tests as accurate as possible. This discipline minimizes surprises and allows making last minute changes to further optimize operations.

Although performance testing requires additional investment, time and discipline, your company will benefit greatly while avoiding many technical pitfalls. Google, Facebook and Amazon created impressive online businesses by “paying attention to the milliseconds” and optimizing their websites as much as they could. If larger scale and increased revenues are on your company’s horizon, give performance testing the attention it deserves. You won’t regret it.