What Are Product Integrations? Here’s What You Should Know

As organizations look to differentiate their product in a crowded market, they have a variety of levers to pull from.

They can, among other things, build unique AI-powered features, design a visually intuitive interface, deliver personalized user experiences, and provide integrations with the applications their clients and prospects use (i.e., offer relevant product integrations).

We’ll explain why our last option — offering product integrations — is particularly impactful by breaking down the use cases these integrations can support and by explicitly highlighting the benefits that come with providing them.

And, assuming you decide to invest in product integrations, we’ll cover all your options for building and managing them. 

But first, let’s define what product integrations are.

What are product integrations?

They are integrations that are built between your product and the third-party applications your clients or prospects use. These integrations are typically built via application programming interfaces (APIs) to ensure that data syncs quickly and reliably.

For example, you can, hypothetically, offer product integrations with popular CRM systems, such as Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pipedrive.

Product integrations with popular CRM systems

Source: Merge

Examples of product integrations

To help bring our definition of product integrations to life, let’s cover a few examples.

1. Allow clients to add warm leads to your product automatically

Say you offer a CRM and want to help your clients respond to leads faster through your platform.

After all, research shows that the faster an organization responds to a lead, the more likely the organization is to qualify and convert them. For instance, if a company’s response time drops from 5 minutes to 10, your chances of qualifying them decrease by a whopping 400%. 

To help clients minimize their response time, you can integrate your CRM with clients’ marketing automation platforms. 

Through the integrations, clients can build a flow where once a lead reaches a certain score in their marketing automation platform, the lead is automatically added to your product, along with specific, predetermined fields —such as the lead’s first and last names, job title, employer, the content they’ve downloaded from your company, etc. — and then assigned to the appropriate rep.

2. Help clients create tickets once your product identifies an issue

Let’s imagine that you offer a security solution that can identify vulnerabilities in a client’s codebase.

To help your clients discover and act on any of the issues your product finds over time, you can integrate your solution with clients’ ticketing applications and build a sync where, once an issue is identified, a ticket is automatically created. 

Certain fields can also be included as part of the sync, such as a description of the issue so that your clients’ security and engineering teams have all of the context they need to resolve the issue.

3.  Enable clients to deliver the right gifts to their employees

For our last example, let’s assume you offer a gift-delivery solution that HR teams can use for employees.

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To ensure your clients’ HR teams deliver the right gifts to the right employees across various milestone events — birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, etc. — you can connect your solution with clients’ human resources information systems (HRISs) and sync employees along with associated fields that can help your product detect key milestone events. 

Once your product detects a milestone event, it can automatically trigger the gift-delivery process on the HR team’s behalf.

Benefits of product integrations

Before deciding how you build product integrations and the use cases you want to support, you’ll need to determine if they’re worth implementing in the first place. 

We’ll cover some benefits of product integrations that can ultimately convince you to invest in them.

Increases sales

As clients evaluate your product against your competitors’, they’re likely making comparisons along a variety of dimensions, such as pricing, support, and platform features. Integrations are also likely to fall into this list. 

In other words, if you can offer a higher volume of relevant integrations and/or deeper integrations that better meet your clients’ needs, you’ll — all else equal — be better positioned to win more competitive deals.

Improves customer retention

As our examples above showed, product integrations can help clients use your product more easily and effectively. This not only translates to improved experiences that make customers happier, but it also makes them more likely to renew and even spend more with you.

Enables market expansion

The clients you serve in different markets, whether that’s defined by region, size, and/or industry, likely use a unique set of applications. For instance, a small or medium-sized business may be more likely to use accounting software like Quickbooks, while a larger company may be more likely to use NetSuite

You can, therefore, appeal to prospects in target markets that you’re looking to gain a foothold in more easily by offering integrations with the specific applications they’re using.

Enhances your marketing efforts

The third-party providers you offer integrations with may be willing to engage in co-marketing activities that raise awareness of their integration. 

For instance, they may be willing to make their own social posts or articles about the integration or even participate in webinars with your team around the benefits of integrating your product with their solution. 

All of these activities can help you reach a larger audience, build credibility for your product, and, of course, get more clients to adopt your integrations.

How to implement product integrations

There are, generally speaking, three approaches to building product integrations. 

Approaches to building product integrations

Source: Merge

Let’s take a close look at each.

Native integrations

Native integrations are simply any integrations that your engineers build, manage, and maintain themselves. 

Let’s take a look at native integrations’ strengths and weaknesses.

The cons of native integrations

1. They are extremely complex and resource-intensive to build, let alone maintain.

Your organization will likely have to have several engineers, if not a whole team of engineers, fully-dedicated to building, maintaining, and managing the integrations.

This, in turn, can prevent many of your most talented engineers from focusing on your core product, which carries long-term risks for your business.

2. Your organization is vulnerable when the engineers who work on an integration leave.

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Integrations aren’t a“set-it-and-forget-it type of project. They often break and need to be improved over time. 

If the engineers who know how to complete this work for a given integration leave your company, the remaining engineers may be poorly positioned to take over and complete these tasks, jeopardizing the future health of the integration.

3. You’ll likely struggle to keep pace with demand.

Your clients and prospects will likely ask for more than a few integrations. In many cases, we’ve seen a variety of companies, from startups to enterprise organizations, feeling pressured to build out dozens of integrations across software categories.

Since native integrations force you to build one integration at a time, and each integration build comes with unique challenges, your engineers will likely struggle to keep pace with demand and build up an integration backlog, which ultimately frustrates your clients, prospects, and your go-to-market team.

The pros of native integrations

1. They can work effectively when clients and prospects request just a few integrations.

Native integrations are also effective when the integration requirements are relatively shallow in scope.

Assuming you also have the necessary engineering resources in-house, it can make sense to build the integrations natively.

2. You don’t have to depend on the third-party integration solution’s security features and capabilities.

Your product integrations will naturally handle sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) on your clients’ employees.

Some integration vendors may not do enough to protect sensitive data, leading your clients to potentially violate data privacy laws and regulations.

3. Gives your team control over integration performance.

An integration vendor’s platform may change in ways that harm your integrations. 

For instance, they may decide to stop offering a certain integration you’ve been using, or they may decide to deprecate specific integration management functionality your team depends on to detect errors. Native integrations allow you to avoid these risks entirely.

Embedded iPaaS

Embedded integration platform as a service (embedded iPaaS) is an integration solution that allows clients to embed the vendor’s platform directly into their product.

There’s also flexibility in how the solution is embedded. For example, you can adopt a white-label approach, where the solution fits in aesthetically with the rest of your product. And you can simply embed the solution with the vendor’s branding.

Let’s take a closer look at the solution’s pros and cons:

The cons of an embedded iPaaS

1. They force you to build one integration at a time.

Like native integrations, this incremental approach can prevent you from scaling your integrations quickly and meeting customer demand.

2. They require technical expertise to use.

Despite branding themselves as low-code or even no-code, embedded iPaaS solutions are often highly technical and require weeks, if not months, of onboarding.

Moreover, since the platform still requires custom code, your engineers will likely be the only employees who can use the platform.

3. Most embedded iPaaS solutions fail to provide adequate integration management capabilities.

They may, for example, tell you that there’s an issue, but they don’t provide the context you need to diagnose and address it, forcing your engineers to perform this work themselves. 

The pros of an embedded iPaaS

1. They often provide enterprise-grade security features.

Several vendors in the space are GDPR-compliant, have passed the SOC 2 Type 2 Audit, and have taken other measures to keep your clients’ data safe. 

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2. Several vendors are well-established in the integration space.

You’ll likely come across embedded iPaaS providers that have been in the market for more than 10 years and work with well-known brands across industries.

This should give you confidence that they won’t go out of business in the near future.

3. Provide highly customizable deployment options.

Aside from our example mentioned earlier, you can also choose who’s able to build and modify integrations.

Namely, you can decide whether the responsibility should only be reserved for your team or if your clients can build and change integrations as well. This level of flexibility can help you bring integrations to market in the way your team wants.

Unified API 

A unified API is a single, aggregated API that lets you offer hundreds of integrations across software categories (e.g., HRIS).

Here are some of the pros and cons of a unified API solution:

The cons of unified API 

1. Some platforms only cover one or two categories.

Since you likely need to build integrations across several categories over time, this limitation could be a deal breaker for your team.

2. A few vendors offer manual integrations.

You may come across a “180 integration” and think the vendor is referring to a bidirectional sync. They might actually be referring to an approach to integration that involves a third party manually using your clients’ login credentials to access applications and retrieve data.

This approach presents a significant security liability for your clients, and it leads to poor integration performance, as sync frequencies are naturally delayed.

3. Several unified API providers have gone out of business.

We’ve seen a few vendors cease operations, leaving their clients in the unfortunate situation of having to stop offering integrations. This, in turn, naturally hurts their clients’ ability to sell their products and retain their own clients.

The pros of unified API 

1. Unified API allows you to offer all the integrations you care about through a single integration build.

This makes a unified API far more scalable than the other options.

2. They can provide the integration management features you need to deliver reliable and performant integrations.

In addition, these features can be accessible for your customer success managers, allowing them — and not your engineers — to manage clients’ integrations successfully.

3. Like embedded iPaaS, many unified API solutions offer strong security capabilities and controls.

This is reflected in the fact that many vendors comply with GDPR, have HIPAA certifications, etc.

Final thoughts

The best approach to building product integrations at your organization ultimately depends on your integration needs.

If you need to build relatively few integrations over time and you have ample engineering resources to support these builds (and the maintenance that follows), native integrations or an embedded iPaaS might suffice. If, however, you want to scale your integration offerings quickly, a unified API solution is likely your best bet.

You’ll also need to look at individual solutions with a close eye, whether that’s sitting through comprehensive product demos, undertaking a proof of concept, trying a free version of the product, etc.

Any vendor can say what you want to hear, but it’s not until you see and use the solution yourself that you can discover whether it meets your integration requirements.

Discover how unified APIs are revolutionizing the connectivity between SaaS applications.

Edited by Sinchana Mistry

منبع: https://learn.g2.com/product-integrations