Started in Stockholm almost four years ago, Tictail is a free e-commerce platform that allows individuals and retailers to set up their own virtual store. It has expanded quickly and now features more than 60,000 online shops and 1 million products. The company operates offices in Sweden and New York. Here, co-founder Carl Waldekranz discusses the company’s past, present and future. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the background and history of Tictail?
I founded Tictail in May 2011 with co-founders Kaj Drobin, Birk Nilson, and Siavash Ghorbani. We were all still at our previous jobs but wanted to build a product that could help to empower entrepreneurs and small businesses. My mother had just started her own business and I could see the difficulties she faced. We decided that creating a really simple online shop platform would be a great first step to get small businesses off the ground, so after six months of saving half our salaries as start capital, we quit our jobs and starting building Tictail. It launched in May 2012 with my mother’s store being the first on the platform. In September 2014, we took a big next step in the growth of Tictail and launched our first mobile shopping app along with a Web version of it. This means that not only does Tictail now empower entrepreneurs and small businesses but also shoppers who are looking for fresh, unique products.

The Tictail founders (f. l.): Kaj Drobin, Carl Waldekranz, Siavash Ghorbani, Birk Nilson
The Tictail founders (f. l.): Kaj Drobin, Carl Waldekranz, Siavash Ghorbani, Birk Nilson

How exactly does it work? And what is the cost of being featured on it?
Tictail is a DIY e-commerce platform that allows an individual or retailer to set up an online shop in minutes. We focus on strong community integration, simplicity of use, and attractive, customizable design for the brands and want to create an exciting and seamless discovery experience for shoppers looking for the brands they’re about to fall in love with. There is no cost for being featured on Tictail. Anyone can create an account and the edits we create are always being updated so as to showcase as many of the different brands as possible.

How has it grown and evolved since it launched and what are the long-term plans for it?
Tictail has been growing fast in the last two and half years, after ten months we had 10,000 online shops. Today we have over 60,000 online shops and a whole community of brands and shoppers dedicated to discovery. The long-term plan is to focus on our main goals of empowering entrepreneurs and bringing the next generation of brands and their supporters closer together. We have already seen the community evolving with brands building relationships with each other and also close relationships between brands and shoppers beginning as new customers discover their new favorite brands on Tictail.

How do you discover and curate new brands/shops for the site?
There’s a big organic growth on Tictail, with brands finding Tictail by being inspired by other brands that are already part of the community. We have a lot of amazing brands already that are growing and get a buzz around them. This always motivates other like-minded brands who also want to build their business around brand values and story, with Tictail as their brand destination.
We have the great job of looking through all the brands and creating collections and we constantly update these to make sure as many as possible are showcased. Our goal is to showcase the versatility of brands on Tictail.

Tictail screenshot
Tictail screenshot

What are the various product categories?
There are so many different types of brands on Tictail but the biggest categories are fashion for men and women, interior design, accessories and art/design.

What are the most popular product categories?
The four categories I just named.

In what parts of the world is the site most successful?
We have online shops from all over the world, over 150 countries! Our biggest markets right now are UK, Sweden and France. The US is our fastest growing market.

You just opened a temporary brick-and-mortar holiday pop-up in NYC on Orchard Street. Do you think that online retailers need a physical presence these days? And are there plans to have permanent Tictail stores?
We’ve wanted to try out a physical retail space for a while now, to try out what Tictail would look like as a brick-and-mortar. It’s great to have so many beautiful products in one place and be able to meet Tictail shoppers and see how people browse the store, what questions they ask and how they engage with the brands. We’ve learnt so much by doing this and these are all lessons we will take into our online shopping destination. I don’t think online retailers need a physical presence today; shoppers are becoming savvier online shoppers and there is a lot more trust now than a few years ago. Also there are so many great ways in creating immersive and interesting online shopping experiences today. Having said that though, in our experience it’s always interesting to bring something online into a physical space or doing other things that enable your customers to share a new brand experience.

The Tictail pop-up shop in New York City
The Tictail pop-up shop in New York City

What are some of the most unique (fashion) products that Tictail features/has featured?
Mother Eleganza, Humanscales. Brixtol, Rahnstater, Ten Points, Vintage Flamingo, Moustache Store, Jennie Ellen, Cornelia Webb, Evan Z Crane, By Mutti.

What percentage of the 1 million products featured are fashion/apparel?
Difficult to say as this is always changing.

What does the company name mean?
Tictail comes from a mix of the words “boutique” and “long-tail.”

How important is social media to Tictail?
Social media is a core part of Tictail as it enables us to have a constant dialogue with our community, both brands and shoppers. We always encourage brands on Tictail to think through their social media as well as it really is such a great way to build relationships with customers.

Where do you see Tictail being in five years?
I think I have three main focuses when thinking of Tictail in five years. First we want to take empowering entrepreneurs to the next level, this could be everything from helping them with shipping their products, to small business loans, creating ads and other challenges small businesses meet. The second goal is Tictail as a shopping destination that in five years we are top of mind for a shopping destination to discover new brands and where the new big brands in five years started off–much like Nike started off being sold from the trunk of a car, we want to see the successful brands of the future starting off on Tictail. Thirdly, I think being seamless globally is where we’ll be in five years. This means we will be localized for each market and also each device. Mobile as mentioned is taking over e-commerce and I think this will develop our business in ways we can’t foresee yet.

How would you describe the overall state of e-commerce today? And what are the biggest challenges it still needs to overcome?
E-commerce today is in such an exciting phase I think. There’s the enormous move to mobile shopping that’s only just started; we saw lately that the split between desktop and mobile purchases on Tictail are now split 50/50. This will continue to develop and will really change e-commerce as we know it today. Then just looking at online shoppers–they continue to become smarter and more demanding of online experiences and brands are delivering this raising the bar all the time. So personally I think there hasn’t been a better time for e-commerce. It’s finally taking the step from e-commerce as it was perceived in the ’90s to what it will be in the consumer tech era–with Tictail hopefully playing a big part in this–much like blogs that went through this transformation a few years ago when Tumblr stepped into the scene.