The number of SaaS companies has absolutely exploded these last few years, with more than 15,000 now based in the United States alone. As a result, businesses are using more SaaS applications than ever before. According to Blissfully in its 2020 report, small businesses use an average of 102 different apps, mid-market businesses use an average of 137 apps, and enterprises use an average of 288 different apps.
As companies increasingly rely on SaaS applications, they also expect those applications to exchange data with each other. As a result, SaaS vendors are investing enormous amounts of time and effort into building and supporting a rapidly expanding number of integrations.
Despite this huge investment in building integrations, many B2B SaaS products provide an extremely poor customer experience surrounding those integrations. Here are a few ways in which integrations are frequently a subpar experience for customers:
- Integrations are often built and deployed in a way that makes them feel like they are “bolted on” to the product, without the planning and thought that goes into the core application.
- Integrations are often largely invisible to customers. There is frequently no central listing of integration offerings, so customers often don’t know which integrations are available or if the ones they need are on that list.
- Even when needed integrations are available, customers often have no direct access to self-activate or configure them. Instead, there’s often a back-and-forth process with the vendor that delays the customer from being up and running on their new SaaS.
- When integration issues arise, customers typically have no visibility into their integrations or ability to do anything themselves. They must contact the vendor, and due to the challenging nature of integration support (reliance on infrastructure, third parties, etc.), simple issues often drag on for many days or even weeks.
- Integrations, often built as “one-offs” to meet a single customer’s needs, can be quite expensive when compared with the core application. Customers may not want to pay these additional costs, but because of their current investment in the core application, they may feel as though they don’t have much choice.
SaaS companies spend considerable time and money optimizing the user experience within their core applications. Why? They understand that the user experience is important to keep their customers happy – and essential to keeping customers for the long term. When it comes to integrations, customers should have the same excellent user experience as they have with the core application.
An integration marketplace gives companies the ability to provide customers with a first-class user experience, including the ability to explore and activate integrations as well as to configure and support them. In short, an integration marketplace moves much of the day-to-day control of integrations directly into the customer’s hands.
An integration marketplace is the part of a SaaS application where customers can explore the application’s integration offerings, activate the ones they need, and use self-serve integration support tools like monitoring and alerting.
An integration marketplace includes the following:
- An easily accessible catalog showcasing the product’s integration offerings
- A self-activation experience for customers to select and configure their integrations
- Self-serve support tools enabling customers to monitor and troubleshoot their own integrations
An integration marketplace is similar to an application marketplace. Application marketplaces (such as Salesforce’s AppExchange) list all sorts of apps, add-ons, plugins, modules, extensions, and integrations that work with the core application. However, an integration marketplace is focused purely on integrations: the software functionality which allows data to pass successfully from one application to another.
An increasing number of B2B SaaS companies are implementing integration marketplaces. Shortcut, a SaaS leader in the software project management space, provides a marketplace displaying integrations to source code repositories, bug reporting tools, and collaboration apps:
G2, the world’s largest tech review site, provides an integration hub with dozens of integrations enabling companies to connect their G2 seller accounts to CRMs, review automation tools, and more:
Given the sheer scope of the need for integrations in the SaaS space and the value which can be provided by an integration marketplace in addressing this need, why don’t more companies have an integration marketplace?
The answer is simple: building an integration marketplace in-house is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. Standing up everything necessary for an integration marketplace to work effectively takes a considerable investment, both for initial development as well as ongoing support. With innumerable core product features competing for scarce engineering resources, it’s difficult for most SaaS companies to carve out the significant time and resources it would take to do it right.
For companies that don’t currently have an optimal solution for building and managing integrations, an embedded integration marketplace is ideal. Using an embedded integration marketplace allows developers to continue to focus on the core product, while leveraging the marketplace for its customers. Since the embedded integration marketplace is provided by a third party, there is no need for the company to invest in the development, tools, infrastructure and more that make the marketplace work.
An embedded integration marketplace is an integration marketplace procured from a third party that allows a SaaS vendor to provide its customers with the integration marketplace functionality without needing to invest in the development and infrastructure of the marketplace. It provides complete marketplace functionality in a seamless way that looks and feels to users like a native part of the application.
Customers are able to easily locate the integrations which are available (including documentation about those integrations), configure the integrations to their specific needs, and activate the integrations. Once the integrations are up and running, the customer may use built-in tools to monitor the integrations, troubleshoot issues that arise, and re-configure integrations as necessary. In short, the customer has direct control over each integration and access to important status information.
The embedded integration marketplace uses SSO and is white-labeled and themeable to ensure that you are able to customize colors and design elements to match your app, giving your customers a native integration deployment experience. If you want more complete control, you can also design your own UX for the integration marketplace using a fully-exposed API.
A company can deploy an embedded integration marketplace at a fraction of the cost that it would have taken to build it in-house, and it can often do so in a matter of days using just a few lines of code. Because the vendor is providing the embedded integration marketplace value to many companies, the per company cost is much less than it would be if a single company were to set up its own integration marketplace.
The embedded integration marketplace is typically provided as part of an embedded iPaaS. An embedded iPaaS (or embedded integration platform) is a set of tools that enables software companies to build reusable, configurable integrations quickly and deliver them to their customers as a seamless part of their application.
Embedded iPaaS solutions are end-to-end platforms that provide everything a software company needs to build productized integrations, deploy them to customers or enable self-activation, run them in production, and provide high-quality integration support.
In addition to the embedded integration marketplace, which is the customer-visible portion of the platform, a comprehensive embedded iPaaS includes:
✓ A low-code integration designer that empowers non-developers to build productized integration workflows that can be configured and deployed to multiple customers.
✓ A library of built-in components that reduces the effort of building integrations by providing connectivity to many common SaaS apps, as well as common integration logic functions, without the need to write code.
✓ Integration deployment and support tools that enable customer-facing teams to configure, deploy, monitor, and troubleshoot customers’ integrations without engineering involvement.
✓ A cloud infrastructure that runs integrations and provides handling for concerns such as scalability, security, and compliance.
The embedded integration marketplace helps your customers by greatly improving their interaction with your integrations as well as streamlining process and reducing costs. Here are those benefits laid out in detail:
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a statement that holds true for many things, including integrations. If you don’t make your integrations obvious within your application, customers are more likely to overlook them.
Chances are that your customers know you have native integrations (or at the very least, they expect that you should have them), but making them visible in an embedded integration marketplace means that your customers don’t need to go looking for them, or call support, or dig through your doc repository to figure out where they are and how to activate them. Instead, your integrations are listed and documented, allowing your customers to view, filter, and search them to find the ones they need. All of this ensures that your customer gets greater value from your product.
Not only can customers easily choose the integrations they need from the ones listed in the integration marketplace, but they can also self-activate those same integrations. In most cases, it only requires a few clicks to set up the connection to the third-party app and complete the config options.
The config screen gives you full control over everything from layouts and labels to default values and hint text. This allows you to create the perfect guided activation experience for your customers. They can move ahead with the integrations they need without waiting for anyone.
In addition, the embedded integration marketplace includes the functionality for you to give your customers access to the logs and alerts for all their integrations, ensuring that they can perform first-level support for those integrations themselves. Additionally, if credentials change for accessing a third-party app, your customer can go into the configuration of the integration and make those changes directly, with no need to wait on your support team.
Custom development (which is traditionally how many integrations have been built) is often quite expensive. However, the embedded integration marketplace allows you to build an integration one time and then deploy it to every single one of your customers who needs it. Since you don’t need to develop your own integration marketplace or manage one-off integrations, the process for building, activating, and supporting integrations becomes simpler and much less expensive – giving you the option of passing those savings on to your customers.
While we’ve largely focused on the benefits an embedded integration marketplace provides to your customers, incorporating an embedded integration marketplace in your core product comes with benefits for your company as well:
When you implement an embedded integration marketplace, you can build reusable, configurable integrations that can be easily deployed via the integration marketplace to all your customers. These productized integrations allow you to sustainably scale integrations for your core product and make those integrations a first-class part of your product.
We’ve gone over in some detail how the embedded integration marketplace lets your customers manage integrations themselves, but this is also a benefit for your teams. Everything that customers can do themselves is something that your customer-facing teams don’t need to be doing. In addition to providing customer self-service for the initial configuration and activation, the embedded integration marketplace allows customers to perform initial investigation and troubleshooting – solving simple issues themselves while saving support for more difficult issues.
As discussed, the expectation is that applications are going to have native integrations. Along with that, customers expect that setting up integrations should be simple. Using an embedded integration marketplace allows your development team to focus on your application and, as needed, on the integrations themselves and not reinventing the wheel by building screens to make integrations accessible to your customers.
By making all your native integrations visible and available on the embedded integration marketplace, you make it easy for your customers to discover those integrations and activate them. When you add new integrations, they are immediately available to all your customers via the embedded integration marketplace even if the customers haven’t read the newsletter or release notes which announced the integration.
The best part is that every native integration which your customers activate adds a little bit more to your product stickiness. Customers recognize that it would be difficult to switch to a different product while retaining all the benefits they've grown accustomed to. For the customer, leaving a product with multiple integrations means removing not just a single application, but also a hub of their technology ecosystem and all the connected workflows it powers.
Many companies use the traditional approach for integrations: ”one-offs” with costly development, additional need for infrastructure, extensive implementation timelines, and the need to support the resulting tech stack forever.
Deploying an embedded integration marketplace as part of an embedded iPaaS gives you the opportunity to realize substantial benefits for your customers and your company as you:
- Focus your development efforts on your core application
- While giving your customers the first-class integration user experience they deserve
- With functionality that ties in so closely to your application that users can’t tell them apart
- And do it all for a fraction of what it would cost if you built an integration marketplace in-house
If you would like to discuss in more detail the value an integration marketplace can provide, please contact us.
Prismatic is the integration platform for B2B software companies. It's the quickest way to build integrations to the other apps your customers use and to add a native integration marketplace to your product.
A complete embedded iPaaS solution that empowers your whole organization, Prismatic encompasses an intuitive integration designer, embedded integration marketplace, integration deployment and support, and a purpose-built cloud infrastructure. Prismatic was built in a way developers love and provides the tools to make it perfectly fit the way you build software.