Using an Integration Marketplace for Your B2B SaaS
Learn how adding an integration marketplace to your B2B SaaS improves your user experience and the benefits of embedding one instead of building in-house.
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The number of SaaS companies has exploded these last few years, with more than 15,000 now based in the United States alone. As a result, businesses use more SaaS apps than ever before. Blissfully, now Vendr, noted in a 2020 report that 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.
As companies increasingly rely on SaaS apps, they also expect those apps to exchange data with each other. As a result, SaaS companies invest much time and effort into building and supporting an ever-growing number of integrations.
Despite these large investments, many B2B SaaS integrations don't work well for customers. Here are a few ways integrations often provide a poor user experience:
- They often feel "bolted on" to the app, without the planning and thought that goes into the core app.
- They are frequently invisible to customers. There is often no central listing of them, so customers often don't know which ones are available or if the ones they need are on that list.
- Even when integrations are visible, customers often have no direct access to self-activate or configure them. Instead, a back-and-forth process with support or onboarding keeps customers from using integrations immediately.
- When integration issues arise, customers have little ability to do anything themselves. They must contact the SaaS company to resolve any problems. Due to the nature of integration support, simple issues often drag on for many days or weeks.
- Integrations, often built as "one-offs" to meet a single customer's needs, can be expensive when compared with the core app. Customers may not want to pay these costs, but with their investment in the core app, they may feel they don't have much choice.
SaaS companies spend much time and money optimizing the user experience for their core apps. Why? They know that the user experience is vital to keeping their customers happy and essential to keeping them long-term.
For integrations, customers should have the same excellent user experience as with the core app. How do they get that? One way is with an integration marketplace.
An integration marketplace is the part of a SaaS app where customers can explore its integration offerings, activate the ones they need, and use self-serve support tools.
An integration marketplace allows a B2B SaaS company to:
- Provide a high-quality integration experience to its customers that, when embedded, appears to be a native part of the app
- Increase awareness and adoption of its integration offerings
- Increase product value, improve product stickiness, and increase customer retention
- Reduce the integration effort for its teams by allowing users to enable native integrations for themselves
- Reduce integration-related support calls
Within the integration marketplace, B2B SaaS customers can:
- Explore all integration offerings
- Self-activate native integrations that connect third-party apps and services
- Monitor their active integrations using powerful logging and alerting tools
Given the need for integrations in the SaaS space and the value an integration marketplace provides, 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. With core product features competing for scarce dev resources, it's difficult for most SaaS companies to carve out the time and resources it takes to do it right.
But that's where the embedded integration marketplace can help.
An embedded integration marketplace is ideal for companies that cannot afford to build and manage their own in-house integration marketplace. It allows developers to focus on the core product while leveraging the marketplace to provide an outstanding customer experience.
An embedded integration marketplace is an integration marketplace procured from a third party. A SaaS company can provide its customers with marketplace functionality without investing in marketplace development and infrastructure. It looks and feels like a feature of your SaaS app but costs far less than building everything from scratch.
Customers can quickly locate the available native integrations, configure them to their specific needs, and activate them. 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. The customer controls each integration and can access important status information.
The embedded integration marketplace uses SSO and is white-labeled and themeable to ensure that you can customize colors and design elements to match your app, giving your customers a native integration deployment experience. If you want complete control, you can design your own UX for the integration marketplace using a fully-exposed API.
You can deploy an embedded integration marketplace for a fraction of the cost 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 provides the embedded integration marketplace to many SaaS companies, the per company cost is far less than it would be if a single company were to set up its own integration marketplace.
The embedded integration marketplace is usually provided as part of an embedded iPaaS. Embedded iPaaS solutions are end-to-end platforms that provide everything a software company needs to build productized native integrations, deploy them to customers or enable self-activation, run them in production, and provide high-quality integration support.
Besides the embedded integration marketplace (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 and standard 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 handles scalability, security, and compliance concerns.
The embedded integration marketplace helps your customers by greatly improving their interaction with your integrations as well as streamlining process and reducing costs.
Let's look at those benefits in more detail:
Customers will overlook your app's native integrations if you don't make them easy to find. Making them visible in an embedded integration marketplace means your customers don't need to call support or dig through your docs. Instead, your integrations are listed in plain sight, allowing your customers to view, filter, and search them.
"It's a game changer in the market. Business users see tiles available in an embedded marketplace and their eyes light up."
Anonymous G2 Reviewer
Customers can easily choose the integrations they need from the ones listed in the marketplace, and they can also self-activate those same integrations. In most cases, it only requires a few clicks to set up a connection to the integration partner app and complete the config options. The config screen lets you control layouts and labels and see default values and hint text. This allows you to create the perfect activation experience for your customers. They can move ahead with the native integrations they need without waiting on anyone.
"The integrations we build with Prismatic mean customers can now get these third party apps up and running in seconds with a few configuration steps."
Anonymous G2 Reviewer
The embedded marketplace also lets your customers access the logs and alerts for all their integrations, ensuring they can perform first-level support for those integrations themselves. Additionally, if credentials change, your customer can go into the config and make those changes without waiting on your support team.
"Our customers now have an integration marketplace where they can connect and configure their integrations themselves which has reduced time and mistakes for our internal support teams."
Adam Jacox, VP of Engineering at Hatch. Read Hatch's full story here.
Custom one-off development can be quite expensive. But the embedded integration marketplace allows you to build an integration once and then deploy it to each customer that needs it. Since you don't need to develop your own integration marketplace or manage one-off integrations, building, activating, and supporting native integrations becomes simpler and much less expensive, allowing you to pass those savings on to your customers.
"Building integrations with Prismatic in their low-code environment is significantly easier than programming integrations from scratch leading to a significant drop in the time needed to create them and market them to our customer base."
Manav S., Product Manager
While we've focused mainly on the benefits an embedded integration marketplace provides to your customers, incorporating it into your core product comes with benefits for your company as well:
When you implement an embedded integration marketplace, you can build reusable, configurable integrations to deploy to all your customers via the marketplace. These productized native 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 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 do. Besides providing customer self-service for the initial configuration and activation, the marketplace allows customers to perform initial investigation and troubleshooting – solving simple issues themselves while saving support for more complex issues.
As discussed, the expectation is that apps 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 app and, as needed, on the integrations themselves – not the infrastructure and tooling required to make the integrations accessible to your customers.
Making native integrations available on the embedded integration marketplace makes it easy for your customers to discover and activate those integrations. When you add integrations, they are immediately available to all your customers via the marketplace, even if they haven't read the newsletter or release notes that announced the integration.
The best part is that every native integration your customers activate adds more to product stickiness. Customers know it is difficult to switch to a different product while keeping all the benefits they've grown accustomed to. For the customer, leaving a product with multiple native integrations means removing not just a single app but also a hub of their technology ecosystem and all the connected workflows it powers.
We've discussed the benefits of an integration marketplace, but how hard is it to set up everything? It comes down to deploying the marketplace, preparing an integration for it, activating it (or allowing customers to activate it), and keeping an eye on things.
Let's look at each of those steps:
Embedding a marketplace in your app can be as simple as displaying an iframe with a few lines of code and setting UI config so the marketplace blends with the rest of your app. Or your team can build the marketplace UI, allowing you to fine-tune the user experience while still using the marketplace back end. In either case, the embedded marketplace handles all of your customers' interactions with your integrations.
Once you have the marketplace embedded, you are ready for integrations. Within the embedded iPaaS, you'll need to ensure that integration development and testing are done. Then, you publish your integration and set it up to display in the marketplace. As part of this process, you'll specify if this is an integration customers can self-activate. If not, it can appear in the marketplace, but customers must contact you to activate it.
Once the integration displays in the marketplace, either a customer or a member of your team can activate it. Activation requires that someone enter specified config values into the integration for an individual customer. Each customer generally has its own integration config values (though you can activate the same integration for many different customers).
Once the integration is active, your team and the customer (if enabled) can view information about that integration, troubleshoot issues (using the monitoring and logging tools), and deactivate the integration. The key benefit here is that an embedded marketplace allows the customer to perform many support functions that would typically land on your dev or DevOps teams.
Many B2B software companies use the traditional approach for integrations: "one-offs" with costly development, additional infrastructure, extensive timelines, and forever support for the resulting tech stack.
The integration marketplace is often overlooked or bypassed by B2B software companies setting up integrations because it seems tangential to the immediate issue they are solving. However, an integration marketplace allows you to define your integrations as features of your app and provide your customers with a better user experience.
Taking the marketplace idea one step further and using an embedded integration marketplace benefits you and your customers as you:
- Focus your development efforts on your core app
- While giving your customers the first-class integration user experience they deserve
- With functionality that ties in so closely to your app 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 from scratch.
Contact us to learn how we can help you set up an embedded integration marketplace for your native integrations.