An In-App Marketplace is the Next Crucial Step in Your Ecosystem Strategy

August 10, 2023
An In-App Marketplace is the Next Crucial Step in Your Ecosystem Strategy

It’s time to offer partner experiences directly to your customers. Give them a way to find partners/integrations in your platform.

It's time to launch your in-app marketplace.


Anyone who has worked to create partnerships and integrations knows that adoption is one of the biggest challenges. As we've all learned, the old adage “if you build [a partnership or integration] they will come” simply isn't true.

A partner marketplace on your website goes a long way towards attracting new business by showcasing your partners and integrations. (Plus, it decreases sales cycles, boosts SEO, educates prospects, and enables your sales team.)

But what about your current customers? Let's be honest, they rarely (if ever) visit your site anymore.

Your customers live in your platform, and expect to find everything you do there. Expecting your customers to find your partner marketplace on your website is akin to putting up a billboard for surfboards in Kansas… it's the wrong audience. 

Instead, offer your customers an in-app partner marketplace, embedded directly in your platform. Here's what it could look like:

From this embedded marketplace, your customers can:

  • Browse your partnerships and integrations by category and other filters
  • Get information about the way each partnership/integration works
  • Install integrations or connect directly with service partners
  • See which integrations they have already installed, or reconfigure them when needed

An in-app marketplace surfaces integrations and promotes them, growing adoption rates – and partner / customer happiness.

Plus, with the prevalence of partner marketplaces like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zoom, most software users are familiar with using a marketplace, and even seek them out.

What’s the result of all this? Product adoption & customer stickiness. 

Integration users are 58% less likely to churn on average, with the churn rate reducing as more integrations are added. And a similar notion holds true for solutions partners.

It’s worth your company’s time to prioritize building and promoting partners – if partner adoption reduces churn by just 1-2%, you could see significant improvements in ARR over time.

If this sounds like a big project, it is. In our experience, it takes at least 6 months to build just the first version of an in-app marketplace, before you add in the bells and whistles that you’ll ultimately want and need.

Even if you have the luxury of repurposing your developer’s time to successfully build an in-app marketplace, it’ll usually still be disconnected from your website marketplace, and keeping these two resources in sync and up to date can be a huge burden, especially when updates for the in-app version need to be executed by your engineers, and prioritized against their roadmaps. 

That’s why Partner Fleet now offers an In-App Marketplace alongside our public marketplace software. With all the same features and content, you can embed a marketplace in your platform with just two lines of code.

Learn why our CEO and founder Kenny Browne built the In-App Marketplace, and why he wishes he had this option at previous companies.

Jump ahead to any section:

Public versus in-app marketplace

First let's talk about when you need a public partner marketplace versus an in-app marketplace?

Public marketplace

Graphic of a public marketplace with cards for Google, HubSpot, etc.

Your public marketplace is mainly a discovery and education tool. Prospective customers who come to your website can search to confirm the integrations and partner solutions you offer, before deciding to make a purchase. And see how they work.

Partner pages and integration pages on your public marketplace also rank in search engines. So when a prospect searches for your integration in Google or Bing, they'll see your website first.

For smaller companies, a public marketplace can be a way to show off which big players you work with. A prospective customer who uses Salesforce is far more likely to purchase a smaller tool when it integrates with Salesforce, for example. If you're working to establish yourself in your space, showing that you have a partnership with a bigger player lends credibility to your businesses. 

Mid-market and enterprise companies can use a public marketplace to highlight the extent of their ecosystem, and show that they prioritize working with other tools for the convenience of customers. It’s a way to show you are ecosystem-first in your business.

If you’re prioritizing partnerships, a public marketplace is necessary to educate, promote, drive leads, and even enable your sales team.

In-app marketplace

Graphic of a public marketplace.

If your public marketplace is a promise to prospective buyers that an integration exists, your in-app marketplace is the follow-through.

Don’t forget, the users and ops teams in charge of installing integrations aren’t on your website. They’re in your platform.

With an in-app marketplace, customers can click into your list of partners and integrations, search for solutions or filter by category, learn more about specific partners, and go through the installation process.

This will drive up adoption.

Installing one integration is just the starting point. Once customers see how easy the process is, they'll likely browse your other integrations and solutions. Maybe they sign up for something new — a partner of yours — just because of your marketplace.

Driving new business to your partners generates stronger relationships and reciprocity - “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” 

In fact, some Partner Fleet customers report for every lead sent to a partner, they receive 2 in return.

If you have a platform where your customers live, an in-app marketplace is crucial alongside your public marketplace. Your customers are the most engaged and likely to use your integrations – it's time to make it easy for them. 

In-app marketplace for solutions partners

In addition to integrations, you need to be promoting solutions partners in your platform, too. Why? 

Customers often try things themselves before employing your solutions partners to help them. They’ll get in, try to configure what they want, and then once they realize a solutions partner is far more likely to help, that’s when they go looking.

Your customers may need help at any point in their lifecycle.

  • Implementation help immediately after purchase
  • Design or asset support several months after purchase
  • Support for a complicated upgrade a year after purchase

Remember, your customers don’t often visit your site – they’re in your platform. So when the time is right for them to look for help from your partners, providing your marketplace in your tool can make their search easier.

Logged-in exclusivity (for partner perks)

Want to feature customer-only perks? You can use an in-app marketplace to showcase exclusive deals to your customers. They will need to log in in order to access the details. 

For a freemium product, this could make the difference between someone creating an account or not.

Three key benefits of an in-app marketplace

1. Product adoption

Getting customer adoption of your integrations requires three main elements:

  • Creating integrations that are useful for your customer base
  • Promoting them properly, so everyone knows about your integrations
  • Having a clear path to install, use, and update your integrations

An in-app marketplace helps with promotion and installation:

  1. It makes your integrations discoverable directly in your dashboard. People can click on your embedded marketplace and search for specific products or browse categories like CRM, email, and sales engagement.
  2. It improves marketing UX by providing deep links that send customers to integration pages in their account. In emails and other marketing campaigns you can send new customers directly to the integration they’re interested in, so they can get it installed faster.
  3. The simple fact that you have an “Integrations” tab in your app’s navigation will grab attention and lead many customers to “window shop” your offerings.
  4. You can set up your in-app marketplace to connect to your install flow. Provide an intuitive path to set up any integrations.

The key to product adoption is having the right information in the right place at the right time. Your in-app marketplace has integrations information and it’s always available for when your customer’s ready.

2. Customer stickiness / reduced churn

Depending on the integration, customers with 1 integration have a 14% — 40% lower churn rate than customers with 0.

And customers who connect 5 or more integrations are even stickier, with a reduction in churn up to 80%!

Let’s say Company A purchased your tool knowing that you have a Salesforce integration. They are already at a reduced risk of churn compared to Company B.

But you have an in-app marketplace. So while they’re installing the Salesforce integration, they come across 2 other apps they want to connect – Slack and Salesloft.

Company A now has 3 integrations installed, making them much stickier than company B. Plus, they know about your embedded marketplace and are likely to go back to search for integrations in the future, and reconfigure integrations when needed to ensure they continuously deliver value over the long haul.

So how do you increase customer stickiness? Make your integrations easily discoverable and adoptable with an in-app marketplace.

3. It’s essential for your ecosystem business model

Think about the big players driving business through ecosystems: HubSpot, Salesforce, Atlassian.

A timeline of the evolution of B2B marketplaces from Salesforce AppExchange in 2006 to Partner Fleet in 2021.06

They were the first adopters of marketplaces – paving the way and showing how valuable it is to prioritize building your ecosystem.

They all have public and in-app marketplaces too. Why?

  • It provides an easy way for customers to engage with partners
  • It’s the best place to widely and constantly promote integrations and partnerships
  • It shows the validity of your claims. If you don’t have an in-app marketplace, your customers are less likely to believe your integrations actually exist (or are going to be useful).

If you’re having a hard time selling in the 2023 B2B SaaS economy, this is the time to focus on creating a loyal and sticky customer base on top of a strong foundation.

And your solutions will truly feel real with an in-app marketplace. You’ll be like a HubSpot.

Let’s be frank: HubSpot, Atlassian, and Salesforce built their marketplaces in-house. They had to. At the time there were no other solutions. But now you can get the same high-quality options with an out-of-the-box solution like Partner Fleet.

Building in-house versus using Partner Fleet

Developing an in-house marketplace is probably a bigger project than you think – and not worth the time your dev team should be spending on core features.

An in-app marketplace is, in essence, a display of rectangular cards featuring an integration on each of them. You click into each for details on what the integration does. 

But you’ll find that as you start to scope out the project, a lot more features are requested. For example, rather than just a wall of text, can we allow our partners to add screenshots and videos? What about reviews and testimonials? Interactive demos?

There are a few essential features your in-app marketplace needs:

In-app page content pulled from the same source as your public marketplace so you only have to make updates once. (Updates sync across marketplace assets.)

  • With options to create in-app content, CTAs, or offers targeted to your logged in users

The next step for the customer.

  • A form to send integration request & configuration details to the right person
  • Scheduler integrations so they can book meetings with partners
  • Or the ability for users to go through a self-serve installation process

The ability to recognize the user.

  • To show which integrations are already installed
  • To grant or limit access to specific integrations depending on subscription tier

Plus, your in-app and public marketplaces need:

  • Search, sort, and filters based on categories (like CRM, billing tools, etc.).
  • Rich listing pages – with video, testimonials, ability to leave and read reviews, and a clear call to action.
  • The ability to showcase / highlight partners using visual tags and top-level listings.
  • A back-end where your team can manage listing quality, create templates, analyze traffic, and connect their own integrations.
  • A partner portal where your integration partners can create and update listings with product changes, get access to developer and marketing assets, and submit for approval.

Want to scope the project for your internal team? Get our full marketplace project scope checklist.

Team efficiency

An in-app marketplace isn’t efficient by itself. It comes down to how it’s designed on the back-end. With marketplace software you can give control of listings  to your partnerships or marketing teams, or even your partners.

If you already have a partner directory or integrations listings on your website or app, you probably recognize this process of engaging with your partners:

  1. Partner emails to ask for updates to their listing. You email back and forth a few times to confirm changes and details.
  2. Partner manager creates a ticket for the dev team to update the listing.
  3. Dev team adds the ticket to their next sprint.
  4. 1-3 weeks later, the listing is updated and sent back to the partner manager & partner for review.
  5. There’s often a typo, and the process needs to be repeated.

Now imagine this process for 20 integration pages. 50. Over 100. At some point it becomes a full-time job.

With Partner Fleet, your partner manager can log in and update the listing themselves – no developer needed. 

Furthermore, you can give your partners the option to update their own listings via a partner portal. After the listing is updated by the partner, your partner manager can simply log in and approve the updates. 

No back-and-forth emails. More time for growing the partner program.

Calculating ROI (for your executive team)

Are you interested, but need buy-in from your executive team? We’ve got some calculators that can make the case for you that an in-app marketplace is more than worth the cost. 

Savings in churn reduction

Industry research shows an average 22% reduction in churn with 1 integration. And, depending on your business model, you can reasonably expect a 50% increase in integrations due to your in-app marketplace.

With an sample ARR of $100M, pre-marketplace churn rate of 12%, and 500 customers, we estimate that the in-app marketplace could:

  • Add a year to average customer lifetime
  • Grow average customer LTV by 8%
  • Make an extra $2M from your current customers (due to churn reduction)

This is just from the customers you ALREADY HAVE! Not including new signups.

Implementing an in-app marketplace and prioritizing an ecosystem business model can help you build an extremely strong customer base now, while the market is unsure, and come barreling out of the decade as a powerhouse.

Want to see the math for your business? Book a call and we’ll plug your numbers into our ROI calculator.

Cost to build in-house

Estimated cost to build an in-app marketplace in-house. Conservatively, we’ll show V1, which we estimate to take 6 months with 4 team members (don’t quote us on this… every “v1” is different, so it could be slightly less or a lot more time and headcount).

With 1 developer, 1 designer, 1 product manager, and half of a partnership director’s time, we estimate V1 to cost (conservatively) $245K in internal resources.

Developer time (6m at $120K): $60K
UX designer time (6m at $100K): $50
Product manager time (6m at $120K): $60
Partnerships VP (6m, half time, at $150): $75
Total: $245

Note: This is just an estimate based on average US salaries. Employee compensation, process, and times may vary at your company (but are unlikely to be lower than this).

Don’t believe us? Check out our marketplace design checklist.

Efficiency & productivity

Creating an in-app marketplace is one project, but ongoing updates and management can get costly, too.

Consider the time your web designers have to spend updating categories, search, and even listing updates. Do the math: if your partner team can log in and manage everything themselves, how much is your company saving?

Get an in-app marketplace with Partner Fleet

In-app integrations marketplace, built with Partner Fleet.

Get an in-app marketplace for your business in weeks, rather than months or quarters. Our out-of-the-box platform has everything you need built into the back end with tons of customizability. 

We can work with your team to create seamless design and connect to your integration install workflow.

Plus, if you plan to have a public marketplace, or already have one, you can use the same listing information – so everything is up-to-date and consistent across platforms.

Want to learn more? Book a demo with our team today.

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