If you have a solution that you are selling to customers, the marketplace is definitely something you would have come across. Essentially, a marketplace is a digital store where you can showcase and sell your solution to a diverse set of audience. However, unlike physical products that are commonly sold on e-commerce marketplace, selling requires marketplace integration.
In simple words, marketplace integration is all about connecting your software with any marketplace like Amazon, eBay, etc. to not only showcase your product and sell it, but also to leverage other services like marketing automation, shipping and inventory management, etc.
Rise of marketplaces
In recent years, with the rise of digital selling and engagement, marketplaces have seen a sharp increase in their adoption both by customers as well as businesses providing different services and solutions. Here are some points which indicate that marketplace rise is likely to continue in the years to come:
- B2C marketplaces are estimated to reach $3.5 trillion in sales by 2024
- Global B2B ecommerce market size expands at a rate of 18.7%
- The Indian ecommerce market is one of the top 5 fastest growing countries in the world, sitting at 25.5% growth in sales in 2022
With immense potential in marketplaces, businesses are driving marketplace integration to build smooth connections with multiple marketplaces via their APIs to gain access to customer related information and use other services, to boost business growth with a personalized and effective customer and seller experience.
Benefits of marketplace integration
Integrating with marketplaces not only allows you to sell your product on their platform, but also comes with several benefits that you cannot ignore, such as:
1. Data insights
A marketplace is not only a place to sell, but is a powerhouse of unparalleled data and information about your customers. With marketplace integration, you can easily get access to your customer data about orders, as well as other information about invoices, inventory, order management, and anything else that might be important for your business. At the same time, you can compliment this information with information from other services like marketing that you might be running for your marketplace listing, etc. Together, these data insights can help you monitor customer journeys and other details to make better business decisions.
2. Better demand mapping
In uncertain market conditions, like the ones we are facing which are likely to continue, marketplace integration and data insights can help you forecast demand for your solution. This will help you optimize your business resources and prevent unnecessary expenses. Marketplace integration can help you understand customer demands and trends to create customer-centric sales and market plans, along with product enhancements.
3. Real time updates
A marketplace provides real time updates on inventory and other factors. With marketplace integration, you can stay on top of your stocks, inventory in real time to adapt to the changes in sentiment.
4. Deeper market penetration
If you are only operating through conventional channels, chances are you will be servicing very limited customers. However, with marketplace integration, you can significantly increase the pool of your target audience. You can enter into new markets and even new geographies. Marketplace integrations help you reach more people, build greater brand awareness and overall increase your market share.
5. Marketing automation and other services
Marketplace integration is not only about connecting and facilitating data exchange with an e-commerce platform, it also ensures that you integrate other software that you use as a part of your marketplace selling.
For instance, you can integrate it with your accounting software or your CRM or marketing automation software to take care of other parts of your business as well. Data from customer orders can directly be captured into your preferred CRM. Similarly, different customer triggers can lead to different marketing actions of sending personalized campaigns. Overall, marketplace integration ensures that you are able to connect all or most of the moving parts for marketplace selling to ensure everything works in tandem.
6. Zero context switching
One of the biggest advantages which takes cue from the above benefit is zero context switching. With marketplace integration, you can get access to all the information you need and actions you need to take within a single centralized dashboard. This ensures that you don’t have to toggle between different software to run your business. You can access all information together, saving hours of toggling and making sense of information.
How does marketplace integration work?
Now that you have a fair idea of the benefits that marketplace integration brings along, it is important to understand how marketplace integration works or the process that goes into achieving those benefits.
Step I: Understand marketplace API and documentation requirement
Like any other software or platform out there, each marketplace has a unique API with comprehensive documentation that you need to gauge and understand.
Therefore, the first step in the process of marketplace integration is to understand the APIs for different marketplaces, differences in their endpoints, schemas, syntax and data models.
It is equally important to gather the documentation that goes along with it. An understanding of the API and documentation will help you decipher your major requirements or what you need to actually build the integration.
Step II: Get your team in place
Once you have an idea of what it will take to build the integration, you need to make a choice of how you wish to achieve marketplace integration.
You can choose one out of two options – either build marketplace integration or buy it. Here’s a detailed guide on how to decide whether you should Build or Buy integrations
Essentially, in the first option, you need to assemble an engineering team which will work on normalizing each API from different marketplaces to integrate with your platform and other ancillary software you might be using. In the second option, you can buy the integration or outsource the process in different ways like a unified API and shift the heavy lifting to an external source.
Step IV: Undertake maintenance and support
Finally, once the marketplace integration is working smoothly with seamless data connectivity, you still need to take care of the maintenance and support. This is the ongoing integration management to ensure that your API doesn’t fail, troubleshooting happens on time, there is no unauthorized access, etc.
If you outsource marketplace integration, the onus of maintenance falls on the third party provider, saving you millions of dollars and unnecessary tension.
Challenges to marketplace integration
While there are several benefits of marketplace integration, the entire process comes with challenges that need to be addressed. Here is a list of challenges that you are likely to face if you are planning marketplace integration.
1. Diverse APIs across marketplaces
The first major challenge is that each marketplace has a different API with a unique architecture and rules. This suggests that basic data about order name or invoice number will have different models and nuances for each. Invariably, addressing such unique architecture for each marketplace where the APIs are not uniform can be extremely challenging.
2. Limited technical expertise
Taking cue from the point above, chances are high that each marketplace integration API will require specialist knowledge and expertise. Such technical expertise will be difficult to get in house among resources that you would hire, unless the tech domain is similar to what the marketplace integrations use.
This gives you two routes to follow, either you compromise on the quality of the marketplace integration, or hire specialists for building and maintaining the integrations. (More on Build vs Buy approach, here)
3. Drain on engineering resources
Whichever way you choose to go, additional hiring or reallocation of existing engineering resources, marketplace integration will deviate energy from your core product strategy.
- On one hand, if you hire additional tech talent, you will end up stretching your team budget on resources that don’t directly contribute to your bottom line in a tangible manner.
- On the other hand, if you repurpose existing resources, you will delay your GTM speed. Since each marketplace integration can take up to a few months to be executed, chances are you will delay your product/ core business by several months and drain thousands, if not millions, of dollars on building integrations with all marketplaces.
4. Heavy maintenance and support
Finally, marketplace integration is maintenance and support heavy. As marketplaces change and upgrade their platform, terms, etc. there is a subsequent change in their APIs. If you are managing marketplace integration in-house, you need to take care of all these changes to ensure connectivity. What is more challenging is that these API changes are sporadic and not uniform across marketplaces. This means that chances are you will be in a constant flux of addressing API upgrades and troubleshooting for different marketplaces your product is connected with.
Difference between marketplace integration and integration marketplace?
A common term that might confuse you when you are working on marketplace integration is integration marketplace. While these might seem as synonymous and wordplay on the first look, a deeper dive makes it clear how they are different.
While marketplace integration is connecting your software with marketplaces, integration marketplace is embedded within your product or solution which highlights the integrations your platform supports.
For instance, your product might support integrations across CRM, communication applications, accounting platforms etc. Your integration marketplace will feature all these available integrations that your products support.
Here, your end users can easily access these integrations and connect all the other applications they are using with minimal intervention from your side or even additional tech knowledge from a developer. Primarily, an integration marketplace seeks to help you provide integration self-service for your customers. It is a marketplace that showcases the integrations you have and direct your customers to connect their data and make full use of your application without context switching.
How to achieve marketplace integration with a unified API?
As mentioned above, there are several challenges that you might come across while building marketplace integrations in-house. However, many fast growing companies and their CTOs are adopting a unified API to achieve marketplace integration in a seamless and results driven manner. Let’s look at some of the ways a unified API can help you with marketplace integration:
Single API for all marketplaces
A unified API adds an additional abstraction layer which allows you to connect with all marketplaces with a single API. you can seamlessly leverage real time data synchronization and normalization with a unification layer, without needing to work on a different API for each marketplace or each category of apps within a single marketplace.
Smooth learning curve
Stemming from the benefit above, the learning curve for your engineering team becomes very smooth. Your developers no longer have to learn about architecture and schemas for different APIs for each marketplace. At the same time, they don’t have to normalize data based on different formats for each API. Simply put, the learning and knowledge transfer that is required for marketplace integration with a unified API is considerably lower than what you would expect in case you build it in-house.
No need to engage with API providers
Next, a unified API takes care of all interactions and updates with the API provider, essentially the marketplace in this case. Whenever there is an upgrade or change in the native API, you don’t have to worry about troubleshooting or engaging with the API provider. That is taken care of by the unified API player.
Your developers only need to focus on integrating with the unified API once, post which the burden and heavy lifting is off your shoulders.
Reduced cost of integration and maintenance
Finally, a natural result of the above three advantages is the reduced cost of integration and maintenance. As mentioned, each marketplace integration can take up to months to build, accounting for the developer and product manager cost involved. Multiply this with the number of marketplace integrations you will need to build.
Furthermore, additional engineering bandwidth and associated costs will also be saved that might go towards maintenance and upkeep of the integration to keep pace with marketplace API changes. Not to mention the accelerated go-to-pace and saved costs from preventing delays. Overall, using a unified API will be a cost effective solution for marketplace integration to connect your application with marketplace and other ancillary software.
Looking to simplify your marketplace integration processes? Get started with the Knit Unified API
Wrapping Up: TL:DR
From a macro view, marketplace integration is a no brainer for today’s day and age. It is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant and address changing customer preferences and demands, while making the entire customer journey exemplary. Overall, you need to keep a few points in mind:
- Marketplace integration can help you manage all data insights from a single dashboard
- It can help you penetrate into new markets and gain a competitive edge quickly
- Remember, marketplace integration is not the same as integration marketplace
- However, marketplace integrations can be full of technical challenges with different API for each marketplace and other obstacles
- With a unified API, you can bridge these challenges where developers only have to learn about one API which will integrate and manage all others
Therefore, it is a boon for businesses that the rise of marketplaces and marketplace integrations has been accompanied by the rise of unified APIs which make the experience seamless and results driven, leading to significant business impact.