How In-App Marketplaces Create a Competitive Advantage for B2B SaaS

Create a seamless user experience by building an in-app marketplace for your B2B SaaS app, eliminating manual data transfers and third-party hassles.
Written by
Elizabeth Garcia
Published on
August 7, 2023

Organizations are using more applications than ever and with tens of thousands of applications to choose from, the average tech company is using 155 apps.

While this software explosion has been a boon of functionality, it has also caused problems. Business users have to spend more time moving from one app to another, downloading and uploading data, and patching together their applications. This process is frustrating and costly.

No matter what industry or vertical you operate in, your customers need to use your SaaS application with their other software - and they want to be able to do this without having to manually transfer their data, or persuade their IT department to build custom integrations.

The solution?

Build an in-app marketplace with embedded integrations. In-app marketplaces empower your customers to seamlessly connect to their other software without ever leaving your app. This integrated ecosystem around your core product significantly enhances the power and functionality of your app without requiring you to build more features.

Public and In-app marketplaces also create many marketing opportunities for SaaS companies, as they are a way to build brand equity, get discovered, and educate potential customers on the solutions they provide.

In the rest of this article we'll go into further detail on why SaaS companies should invest in building an in-app marketplace and the benefits.

Recent Data on Public and In-App Marketplaces

In a 2022 study of APIs, integrations and app marketplaces at 400 SaaS Companies, at least 73% of the 100 largest SaaS companies offer an in-app marketplace to customers where they can discover and install apps. 

Source: Pandium's State of Integrations and APIs at 400 SaaS Companies Report

86% of those companies offer a public marketplace to showcase and educate users and prospects on their integration offerings. These companies also offer an average of 621 integrations and a median of 94 integrations. From the data it's clear that it is not only large or top 100 companies who see the value and are making the choice to invest in app marketplaces. Even 31% of seed stage companies in this data set have a public marketplace despite only having a median of 5 integrations. 

This can demonstrate that even early stage businesses see the value of integrations to customers - even if they can’t yet deliver many yet.

Related content: Marketing Integrations and Tech Partnerships: Everything You Need to Know

Public vs In-App Marketplaces

Integration marketplaces are also known as app stores, app centers or app directories. 

Almost all app centers have a similar style of rectangular tiles for each integration. Sometimes service partners or extensions will also have tiles in the center, though most companies put service partners in a separate directory.

Public Integration Marketplaces

Public app marketplaces are mostly to demonstrate to users and potential customers how integrated a solution is. It also serves to educate them on what data can be moved between a solution and other apps, and how they can use integrations to execute tasks and solve business problems. The most basic public app center will just display the name of the software the integration connects to, and perhaps link to their website or explain what the company does. 

Salesforce AppExchange Public Marketplace

As a public app center becomes more sophisticated, there will be additional features, including:

  • An integration page describing the integration itself, as well as offering pricing and other relevant information, like how to install it
  • Search
  • Filtering by product category, vertical, review scores, language and/or pricing
  • Integrations flagged as partner built, native vs through an iPaaS, certified or premier
  • Showcase area for featured or popular apps
  • Customer reviews of the integration itself
  • Information on number of installs for individual apps
  • Different sorting mechanisms, such as by popularity, rating, and release date

Related content: App Marketplace Benefits With Stripe, Wix, Aircall, and LeagueApps

In-App Integration Marketplaces

In-app marketplaces are different than public marketplaces in that only logged in customers can view them. In-app marketplaces are technically more complicated because they require recognizing the individual user and then surfacing information relevant to them, and enabling them to install integrations on their account.

Sometimes the marketing content on a public and in-app marketplace is the same, but other times, the in-app marketplace is more focused on integration functionality and installation instructions, while the public marketplace focuses on higher level value propositions. 

An Example of a Pandium Powered, White-Labeled In-App Marketplace

Functionality that is added to an in-app marketplace includes:

  • Allows customer to click to install when possible; otherwise, the ability to click to install through a flow that occurs elsewhere
  • Displays integrations the customers have already installed.
  • Displays integrations based on who the customer is, which may include being on a plan level, admin or user status, or fitting a particular user profile that makes some integrations more relevant to the user than others.
  • Displays integration activity and errors.
  • If transactional, enables customer to purchase the integration and/or the app the integration connects to.
  • Specifies how to get support for each integration. 

Because in-app marketplaces are more complicated to build, SaaS companies usually offer a public marketplace before they provide an in-app marketplace. 

Related content: Should You Build or Buy Your Integration Infrastructure?

However, in-app marketplaces are important to customers being able to discover and find integrations that they would benefit from at scale. It also can enable easy management of currently installed integration.

Why Should B2B SaaS Build an In-App Marketplace?

Generating Revenue Through B2B Ecosystem Marketing

Ecosystem Marketing via B2B app marketplaces may be one of the biggest opportunities in SaaS today. A public and in-app marketplace is an attractive marketing channel to both organizations and their partners, as solutions can be showcased in front of a targeted customer base presumably in their ICP. 

If you’re a smaller company, being part of a marketplace, or having partners with well known, credible brands integrate through your marketplace, can serve as social proof and allow you to capitalize on their user’s trust. 

As a larger or mid-sized organization, you can showcase how much of a connected experience you can offer to your customer. 

Along with marketing your interoperable capabilities to potential vendors, marketplaces enable organizations to educate their customer base on their ecosystem, it's apps, and how they can utilize them to meet their needs. Some marketplaces even offer marketing analytics that can offer new insights into customer app behavior on the marketplace and with specific integrations. 

Multiple forms of content can be added to marketplaces to enhance, extend, or customize a platform’s functionality, and educate customers on how your product will simplify their tech stack and make their lives easier. 

SEO & Lead Generation

When a marketplace is optimized for SEO and lead capture via forms on the marketplace, can contribute to attracting qualified lead s actively seeking those products and services. This contributes to:

Increased Visibility: A marketplace that showcases integrations with popular and relevant systems attracts more organic traffic to the platform from potential customers searching for those products or services.

Targeted Traffic: Optimizing for specific keywords related to the marketplace's offerings helps attract qualified leads actively seeking those products or services. This targeted traffic is more likely to convert into paying customers.

Collecting Qualified Leads: Strategically placed lead capture forms on the marketplace or integration tiles enable the collection of user information. This data can include contact details, preferences, and specific needs, offering insights into potential customers.

Personalized Marketing: With the information gathered from marketplace analytics or lead capture forms, personalized marketing campaigns become possible, increasing the chances of converting leads into customers.

The SaaS companies that grow the most rapidly are those that allow others to build on their platform (ex. Shopify), or are embeddable into other platforms (ex.Grammarly), or allow for both (ex. Stripe). 

If you’re in B2B tech, you probably offer at least one app or tool or widget in at least one of the app marketplaces out there. If your products can in any way be described as a platform, it's a good idea to run your own marketplace too. 

Control Your Customer UX

B2B loyalty is up for grabs, and customers are more willing than ever to switch suppliers. Whether your customers need to integrate your app with 5 or 5,000 other solutions, building an in-app marketplace allows you to control the UX of your customers’ integration experience.

With some iPaaS tools, customers might have to learn a visual builder interface to connect integrations which, depending on how technical they are, can be time consuming or challenging, resulting in them having to reach out to customer support. 

Additionally, when an iPaaS is not embedded in your app, like in the case of Zapier or Integromat, customers have to leave your app to install, manage, and pay for their integrations – leaving the customer experience entirely out of your control. This leaves the possibility of lackluster support that organizations have limited control over. 

Establish Competitive Advantage 

Whether a product is designed to be embedded in hundreds of other systems (ie.Twilio) or designed for hundreds of systems to run on it (ie.SalesForce), companies who offer their customers a seamless integration experience are able to leverage an entire ecosystem of products to increase adoption, attract new leads, decrease customer churn, and increase upsells. 

In the eCommerce space alone, B2B marketplaces have already become a big growth driver. By 2024 it’s predicted that B2B marketplaces sales could reach an estimated 3.4 trillion USD according to the Digital Commerce 360 report.

Unless features are considered a core competency of your product, providing integrations with existing product would allow you to meet customers needs in less time with fewer resources. Customer tested integrations in addition to an in-app marketplace enables SaaS companies to highlight consumer-ready software solutions, making finding impactful solutions easier and faster for customers.

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