Technology is shaping all of our lives and the retail sector is no different. The rise in e-commerce sales – with the UK being the third-largest market in the world – has proven that even the smallest retail businesses need to embrace the digital age. In order to retain and attract customers, retailers need to offer every sales channel available: in-store, online, mobile and marketplace. This has resulted in many adopting a wide array of low-cost cloud technologies for point of sale, accounting, stock and customer management.
“Synchronising all of this data between different systems, however, takes up valuable time and resources”, says Nic Snape, founder and CEO of Talisman Innovations (who create the TIDEConnects platform). “If these systems are connected and the processes automated, owners can focus their time and attention on running their businesses. However, integration can be expensive (costs start from £20,000, a prohibitively high amount for smaller businesses) and takes time and expertise”.
Nic has over 30 years’ experience in scientific and map data management, including nine years as a Director of 1Spatial (a company he listed on AIM as Managing Director). He initially formed Talisman as a strategic business consultancy and was joined by Steve Brookes in early 2014; they started delivering e-commerce websites and bespoke software development services and the business became successful and profitable. “We found in each project, however, that the integration process was frustrating. Steve, our Technical Director, started to research options for automating data synchronisation and, in 2016, presented my team with an initial prototype, TIDEConnects. We instantly recognised that this could provide the perfect solution and decided to shift our profit into further developing TIDEConnects and to search for early adopters”.
TIDEConnects is essentially a platform that connects common systems used in the retail and wider commercial services sector. “We offer a subscription service that maintains live connections to retail systems; TIDEConnects converts the transaction data from these systems into a common format, ensuring that it can be shared by any system that needs to know about it. This enables businesses to increase accuracy and efficiency – rather than having to manually crosscheck their systems – and instead focus on sales and customer service. TIDEConnects synchronises it all.
As an example: you have a shop that sells children’s wear. You have a payment device, you manage your stock and you also retail online. You’ve spent your money on an eCommerce site, but you now need to spend even more time correlating your stock between these two points of sale: the prices, descriptions, stock control, new products, accounting systems etc in the shop have to be consistent with their online equivalents and so on.
Our so-called ‘Amazon Culture’ has impacted the high street and raised countless challenges for retailers; TIDEConnects enables them to increase efficiency and save time and labour costs. Crucially, customers can subscribe to it themselves – without any training or expertise – and it can be rolled out within an hour”.
The team behind TIDEConnects have identified that the small business market for integration is substantial and mostly unaddressed; they will initially target the smaller retail businesses – of whom there are 230,000 with less than ten employees but still needing to offer their customers an omnichannel sales opportunity – who spend at least an hour a day manually keeping stock levels consistent across these channels. New regulatory challenges – such as Making Tax Digital – will put yet more pressure on business owners to keep digital records and use software to submit their returns. TIDEConnects will provide an audit trail from all sales channels, efficiently, unobtrusively and without the risk of human error.
TIDEConnects will be marketed by partnering with Point of Sales and e-commerce technology companies as a white-labelled integration service, thus enabling these partners to extend their product capabilities with connectivity to other systems. The team are already engaged in five partnerships and TIDEConnects has sold to – among others – Trotters, The British Film Institute and The National Army Museum.
Technology at its finest: simple, unobtrusive and making the retailer’s life just that little bit easier.