At the very basic level, lot of startups out there only seem to move text and pictures from one screen to another. It's what the internet is good at, so startups will naturally take advantage of this sort of basic functionality. Essentially this is just facilitation of communication, which is what the internet is good at, but I've noticed a couple e-commerce startups are attempting to really increase the intelligence of their platforms to add real value to users.
Tictail is the first of such startups that have come to my mind. The Swedish e-commerce platform has built a service designed to help hobbyists, craftspeople, or just anyone sell things online, even if they really know nothing about online commerce. When building the service, co-founder Kaj Drobin was really into the Getting Things Done philosophies. So to get a seller's store online, they had the idea of breaking down the store setup tasks to a simple to-do list wizard to get your shop up and running.
Seeing the tasks get checked off with new ones appearing, they then realized how cool it would be if the tasks would just keep continuing. This led them to ask the question: how intelligent could a system like this become?
Now Tictail suggests all sorts of simple but needed tasks to help with the marketing and selling side of e-commerce. For example, after you have uploaded you goods, Tictail will plug into you webshop's social networks and suggest that you do some task that will help your business.
This can be anything from Google Adwords that would be good to buy, it can notice you haven't uploaded a new product to your Facebook page, so it will suggest that you do that. Or it can see that your webshop's twitter account hasn't tweeted in a couple days, so it will suggest for you to do so, so then your account will not look deaad. Mixed into this to-do list feed are your main tasks that you need to complete, such as orders to ship out and so on.
Music Kickup, a Finnish company that is trying to put a "record label in the cloud," has also tells us they've put in some features similar to Tictail's to-do list. Music Kickup helps artists commercially publish music, both physically and digitally, while also helping artists manage their own PR.
Antti Silventoinen, CEO and co-founder of Music Kickup explains, "We build a smart layer that constantly works for the artists. Say you send me a track. What the cloud starts doing is it looks for the appropriate points of transactions, for example whether it needs to be sent to print press, if PR needs to be notified. Do we need to alert our fans. Do we put it on Facebook."
E-commerce has been targeted because it's still hard. There are a lot of things to keep your eye on at once, and for beginners it can be discouraging not seeing any orders come in from a lack of assistance on the selling side of things.
For anyone looking for a startup idea, this concept of an automated and smart to-do list of tasks is likely a low-hanging fruit in several B2B and B2C industries. To get there, entrepreneurs should talk to people and dig into an industry, learn the intricate details and what's at stake, and build from there.
Know any other startups that solve intelligently manage problems for their users? Let us know in the comments.