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February 11, 2015

Can Non-Giants Dominate Digital Retailing?

Posted by Amitabh Mudaliar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:06 AM

Carl Walderkranz talks about Tictail [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG9gftpfHV4]

You've all read the articles about companies like Amazon.com and Alibaba becoming so large and vast that their retailing tentacles will encircle the earth. No other retailer will be able to challenge their market supremacy because websites like these will grow ever larger. And you remember what your economics professor told you about economies of scale.

Well, I think that one of the advantages of the Internet has been its ability to level the playing field as well as serve as a global platform for enormous retailers. That means smaller retailers with innovative ideas can get those innovations out to the public digitally. What I find particularly interesting is that mobile apps are now the tool of choice for retail innovators who want to grow on a national or global scale and even strike alliances with the huge players like Amazon.

I say this because retailing is more than just selling. It involves marketing, which is a huge hurdle when you're dealing with the Internet. Large retailers can dominate search engines and have the advertising strength to pull consumers in whatever directions they want. There's an ingenious new web-based retailer coming out of Sweden, Tictail.com, which aims to challenge that status quo. The innovation here isn't so much that it's an e-retailing platform but an e-marketing platform as well.

And that's where the magic of crowdsourcing comes in. It's terribly ironic that the same forces that give Amazon.com and Alibaba such global retailing reach are the same ones that give digital entrepreneurs the ability to reach that same kind of audience. The man who created Tictail, a native-born Swede named Carl Waldekranz, created the app to give local vendors their own websites and presence yet harness them all collectively into a one-stop shopping site. He launched Tictail just two years ago and it already boasts 70,000 vendors representing 140 countries.

What the Tictail app does is to enable vendors to monitor their own websites, run their own marketing campaigns, and interact with consumers as though they were independent. But because of crowdsourcing, they're essentially a part of one enterprise that provides them with the digital marketing and retail tools they need to survive in today's marketplace.

We've conducted many surveys at Infosys that have shown time and again that digital consumers 1.) prefer to think they've 'discovered' a web retailer and 2.) enjoy supporting mom-n-pop operations. They prefer supporting their local businesses over some faceless global retailer. Little do they know that with an app like Tictail, hundreds of vendors are working together and in sync with each other to mimic the global online retail sites.

A venture capital firm that has backed such innovative enterprises such as Instagram and Kickstarter has provided Tictail a significant cash infusion to do what it needs to advertise on social media sites and offer live chats with consumers. They're also concentrating on another 'must-do' for any digital, consumer-facing business: driving online product reviews. The company seems to have all the bases covered.

The fact that Tictail is such a success proves that software, if leveraged appropriately, can power any business and help even the smallest company take on larger rivals. So before the experts conclude that the retail world will soon by split between Amazon.com and Alibaba, they should consider all the enterprises that are utilizing software to create intelligent apps and seamless customer experiences. The next decade might just see the collective rise of the mom-n-pop store.

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