Carl Waldekranz Tictail
Tictail's Carl Waldekranz says compares the future of e-commerce to the democratisation of blogs in recent years (Reuters)

It is a year old, has almost 16,000 customers already, and is at the fore of an ever-mounting revolution in the retail industry. It is called Tictail and has set itself the ambitious target of becoming "the world's most used and loved e-commerce platform".

"Essentially we just want to democratise selling online. We want to make selling online available to those people who don't care about e-commerce," Carl Waldekranz, Tictail's 27-year-old founder and chief executive, tells IBTimes UK.

Online retailing's rise has been rapid. While it has a long distance to go before it overtakes physical store retailing in terms of sales volume and value, the growth so far has been phenomenal. Worldwide, the value of the online retail market, according to researcher IMRG, was a staggering €825bn (£703m, €1.1tn) in 2012.

In the UK - where free-to-use Tictail has just launched - alone, it was worth £78bn last year - with 300% annual growth in retail sales via mobile devices - and is set to grow to £87bn in 2013. As the market evolves with shifting consumer behaviour, Darwinism plays out: adapt or die.

What makes Tictail stand out from the many other e-commerce platforms out there - and there is an awful lot - is its simplicity, lightness and affordability, insists Waldekranz.

Tictail's target market is "indie brands and boutiques" - the small-to-medium sized businesses who are really passionate about their products, brands, and back-stories, but who have not yet made the adaptation from physical to online stores.

By making the user interface clean and easy-to-navigate, it is an attractive way for small retailers who are not uber-tecchies to speedily and seamlessly put their wares in their very own shop window on the internet.

According to Waldekranz, this is future of e-commerce. He compares it to the rise of blogs over the past few years. Once the preserve of media professionals and those at the forefront of new media, the advent of a plethora of platforms, such as Tumblr and Wordpress, has opened blogging up to the masses - "democratisation" as Waldekranz calls it - and this is where e-commerce is heading: mass accessibility.

"It's strange to me how slow the business-to-business pace has developed in comparison to consumer services," he says.

"How business-to-business platforms are still extremely expensive, hard to understand, and angled towards a more enterprise language or tone of voice - whereas Tictail realises that most companies these days are run by human beings."

He attributes its decent growth to user recommendation - 81% of Tictail's stores have recommended the platform to someone else.

Tictail and marketplaces

Waldekranz differentiates Tictail from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, where customers can make their own stores, because users have much more control and can easily set themselves apart from the competition.

"Marketplaces aren't so great for all users. To a lot of small and medium sized companies, their main value proposition is not just the product and the price, but also the brand and the story connected to it," he says.

"In a marketplace you have no choice - you get put next to your biggest competitors. If you search for jeans, everyone that sells jeans will be placed next to each other in that context and design that you can't completely control yourself, whereas in Tictail, you get your own webpage.

"Your own site, which you can control everything in the layout and the user experience in which all of your products are presented. It will only be your products on that page."

However, he says for those whose products it applies to, Tictail encourages its stores to use both platforms to reach as many potential customers as possible.

"Once you start building up long-term relationships, and you build up visitors, then have them come over to your Tictail site. Have them find more of your products and create a longer relationship with them," he says.

Waldekranz also cites the Tictail Feed as a significant difference between his platform and others'.

The Tictail Feed offers a rolling stream of advice and support to storeowners, prompting them on things such as how to sell your first product; not updating social media for some time and suggesting ideas on what to talk about; chasing baskets left at the online till; and contacting customers to make sure they're happy with what you've sold them.

"You get this assistance that helps you to go from just a new online seller to an e-commerce professional," he says.

Apps and add-ons

So how does Tictail actually make its money? It does not charge retailers to use its platform, nor does it slap on extra fees to use payment services.

What it does is charge its users on a monthly basis to use Tictail apps and add-ons that can improve the efficiency, service, and usability of stores using its platform.

Some of these are built in-house and Tictail derives 100% of the income from them. However, in the true spirit of the web, it open-sources its software to allow third party developers to build apps which can then be sold on to Tictail users.

In a similar model to the Apple store, Tictail swipes a tasty 30% commission.

Physical stores will survive

Despite the spike in online retailing, and the purported swansong of physical stores, Waldekranz does not believe this is the death of bricks and mortar.

"It's not about the bricks and mortar disappearing, it's about them changing their format. I still believe that there's a really important relationship in how online retailing drives sales in the physical stores as well," he says.

"I believe that it will eventually happen, but there are still a lot of things that make physical stores much more convenient. When it actually does happen, I don't think it'll be a shift where there's no value in a physical store, it's more about the physical store changing its format to support the online business in a bigger sense. Maybe being more of a shipping destination."