Updated on by Mike Fahey
In the 1980s, mobile phones were huge, reasonably rare, heavy devices. If you walked around with one you would have attracted a few curious onlookers who were impressed with the technology.
If you took that same huge, heavy phone and walked around today, you’d still have curious onlookers, but the best you can hope for is that they’d be impressed with your upper body strength.
The original mobile phone, once cutting edge, is now not fit for purpose.
In the world of technology, yesterday’s surprises are today’s expectations. Just as we now expect our mobiles to be light and multifunctional compared to the ’80s. Society’s needs and wants for all technology categories have significantly changed.
The SaaS industry is no exception. In the late 2000s, there were certain expectations about a SaaS product that had to be met to avoid disappointing customers. SaaS products were expected to receive regular updates via a roadmap, work in the cloud, and so on.
Then there were the bonuses, the features that delighted or amazed. Perhaps it worked on mobile, perhaps it had SSO, or perhaps it integrated with other systems.
The Shift in Customer Expectations:
Before SaaS became the de facto way software is delivered, the benefits were touted as scalability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility.
These benefits have somewhat been lost in the mix of thousands of SaaS apps, and now customers are looking for solutions that are more specific and niche. However, the original benefits still factor into decisions. They’ve just become hygiene factors.
Meanwhile, businesses now rely on a multitude of tools and systems to effectively manage their operations. It’s not unusual to find tens, sometimes hundreds, of different SaaS applications. In fact, the average number of SaaS applications per company is around 130, according to the 2023 State of SaaSOps report.
That’s a lot for a company to manage, and a lot of potential sales barriers for new products hoping to become the 131st in the tech stack.
“I love your product… but we use AWS with JIRA. Does your product work with that?”
If your system doesn’t integrate with others, then you are directly going against those founding benefits of SaaS products. Worse yet, there will definitely be an alternative product that does integrate with your prospects’ systems, waiting to take your place.
Integrations are now just an expectation of a product.
As a result, the need for seamless integration between these various software applications has become paramount. Customers expect their SaaS solutions to not only provide a robust set of features but also integrate with the existing tools they use daily.
Competing Priorities – The SaaS Roadmap:
If you’re reading this and working in SaaS, you know the challenges of a good roadmap. Balancing the needs of the customer, the forward-thinking innovation you want to do, not to mention the technical debt and general security updates or bug fixes that must happen. It’s a tough job in any organization.
Let’s be honest – you have enough on your plate without integrations, which is an exhaustive and resource-hungry endeavour. You know that each API you link to, brings with it a weight of technical debt, as APIs change and you now need to stay on top of those changes.
And yet it’s a challenge that must be met for success.
“Everything we do runs via SalesForce. Do you integrate?”
Inadequate integrations often lead to frustration, decreased productivity, and dissatisfaction among users. Customers who find it difficult to integrate their SaaS solution with their existing systems are more likely to churn, seeking alternatives that offer a more integrated experience.
Moreover, without integrations, customers may feel tied to a particular vendor, inhibiting their ability to explore new tools and technologies that could potentially benefit their business.
SaaS providers that prioritise integrations, and actively work towards expanding their integration ecosystem, foster customer loyalty and long-term partnerships. By understanding their customers’ needs and integrating with popular tools and platforms, these providers become indispensable to their customers’ workflows.
“We’re using a mix of Trello with Pipedrive and OneDrive
with Google Docs – where would you fit?”
A robust integration offering demonstrates a commitment to customer success and a willingness to adapt to evolving needs. And of course, ironically, good integrations do tie a customer to a vendor – but in a positive way.
So, what to do?
Making SaaS Integrations Easier:
If integrations are important to your product, which is highly likely, you need to give them a focused stream of activity within your organisation. Let’s take a look at a few starter activities…
- Prioritise Customer Feedback: Actively seek customer feedback regarding integration requirements and pain points.
- Develop a Robust Integration Framework: Build a scalable and flexible integration framework that allows for seamless connections with multiple third-party applications.
- Maintain Integration Roadmaps: Create and communicate integration roadmaps to keep customers informed about upcoming integrations and enhancements.
- Offer Custom Integration Support: Recognise that every customer has unique integration requirements. Be prepared to extend and support new apps and scenarios.
- Monitor and Optimise Integrations: Continuously monitor the performance of integrations and address any issues promptly.
- Stay Ahead of the Curve: Keep a pulse on industry trends and emerging technologies. Anticipate integration needs that may arise as new tools and platforms gain popularity, and proactively work towards incorporating them into the integration ecosystem.
The above all takes time, effort, and resources, which can divert your attention from the even more important core roadmap activity of your product.
That’s where embedded iPaaS comes into play, removing a lot of pain around integrations by providing easier access to many hundreds of applications, without the technical debt mounting up or burden of watching third-party APIs for updates.
SaaS providers that fail to meet these now-standard integration expectations can expect a slower sales rate, a higher risk of churn, and lower customer loyalty.
It’s, therefore, key that you prioritise integrations, actively seek customer feedback, and invest in a robust integration ecosystem. This will help you foster long-term partnerships with your customers.
And of course, with integrations not demanding so much resource, you can focus on product innovation to ensure that, alongside today’s expectations, you’ve got tomorrow’s surprises lined up and ready to go to impress the onlookers.
That, or focus more on the upper body strength, either is a good win!