Tictail (now part of Shopify) provides an ecommerce platform and marketplace for emerging brands that’s simple to use, attractive, and customizable.

The company was founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 2011.

The Challenge: Reducing Merchant Churn and Increasing MRR

Eric Fixler, Tictail’s VP of Product, wanted to reduce merchant churn on its Custom Shop ecommerce platform and increase monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

Support requests and Mixpanel reports showed new merchants were having onboarding problems. Tictail also knew that its shop themes were out of date. And Tictail’s product team, by interviewing several of the first merchants on its platform, had learned about their problems managing a Tictail shop at high volume.

For Eric and his team, the challenge was insufficient data. They needed a more detailed understanding of merchants’ problems with Tictail to scope and prioritize the many enhancements under consideration.


The Solution: Reveal The Merchant Experience

Growth Velocity recommended using a methodology called Problem Discovery Testing to uncover each merchant’s own experiences and goals when using the product.

Merchant interviews began in November. The first topic was the Tictail signup decision and setup, but the interview’s focal point was actual use during October. For example: what tasks were completed on the platform, how many times that month, and a rank ordering of tasks by importance. Each participant was then observed and interviewed as she completed her three most important tasks.

Ten merchants were recruited, split between new shops and established, higher volume shops. Merchants in Tictail’s top categories (eg, Fashion, Accessories, Jewelry) and geographies were recruited, as well as a split between churned shops and current customers.

A Mysterious Finding

Growth Velocity’s analysis was completed in early December.

On the benchmark Single Ease Question (SEQ), merchants rated shop management tasks on Tictail substantially higher than the “industry average” of 5.0 for technology products, and higher than two better-known ecommerce platform competitors.

So why were merchants churning when Tictail’s shop management UI was so easy to use?

By segmenting the research data between newly opened shops and high volume shops, Growth Velocity found that churn was related to tenure on the Tictail platform.

A third opportunity—to better monetize the Custom Shop Ecommerce platform—was also spotted.

Issue 1: Shop Customization For New Shops

All but one new merchant found shop customization difficult on Tictail. To save money, new merchants customized their store’s design themselves or asked a friend to help. By contrast, all but one of the large merchants hired a professional designer/developer to customize their Tictail store. Growth Velocity identified specific usability issues in Tictail’s theme selector/editor, and Tictail made enhancements quickly.

Issue 2: Efficiency For Large Shops

All four large merchants were struggling to operate a high volume shop with Tictail’s UI. For them, it was inefficient to make one-by-one additions and edits to a large product catalog. They also had trouble synchronizing multi-channel orders (eg ecommerce, wholesale, retail storefront) between the ERP, 3PL, and WMS systems they use.

“That’s the kind of insight you don’t get on a day to day basis because when you use the product every day, you forget about these things. You get used to clicking save or cancel and then when you see people in the user studies literally not wanting to do that, I think that’s one of the aha moments.”

— Eric Fixler, VP of Product, Tictail

Issue 3: Monetization

Growth Velocity also spotted an opportunity to better monetize Tictail’s app store when churned merchants proudly described paying competing platforms for support and extended functionality.

Tictail has replaced its legacy app store model containing a mix of free and paid “apps” (eg Google analytics tracking, Facebook pixel tracking) with a new $9/month paid tier offering similar functionality. Early results from Tictail’s new tiered model indicate it will do a better job monetizing the Custom Shop platform. “The paid tier’s yearly plan has been a boon. Forty percent of the people who’ve signed up so far are doing yearly,” Eric says.


“We hit an all-time high in active shops on Tictail in February.”

— Eric Fixler, VP of Product, Tictail

Just two months after the research was completed, Eric reports uptake is high on the first improvements his team has released. “People use them a lot, and they’re reducing our customer support load meaningfully.”