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As the SaaS industry is reaching maturity, the app store model is becoming increasingly important. The past couple of years more and more software champions have launched their own SaaS app store (Salesforce, Zendesk, Hubspot…) where their customers can directly consume third-party SaaS. I believe this is an important trend to follow for SaaS founders as they have to adapt their overall strategy (from go-to-market to product decisions) to this “app store dominated” era.
In this post, you’ll find a spreadsheet listing 50 SaaS marketplaces as well as four observations I made while exploring them. Don’t hesitate to add in the comment section the platforms I have missed!
My definition of a B2B software app store is when a SaaS product enables its users to connect external third-party applications to enrich the core experience. The basic unit of an app store is the directory of third-party apps that the users have access to. But many features can be added: user reviews, user ratings, app recommendation, payment integration, co-marketing opportunities, deep product integration, developer portal, etc.
As a consequence, the SaaS app store model comes in many flavors: from very basic ones which are only “app directories” (just a list of connectors) all the way to very sophisticated platforms, like Salesforce’s AppExchange, which offers a ton of features for users to find and integrate the relevant applications, and require strict procedures for a third-party app to be listed (e.g a security audit).
A major trend that I’ve been following the past couple of years is the emergence of B2B software app stores in more and more categories. It started with Salesforce in the sales category, followed by Hubspot for Marketing, Zendesk for customer support, Intuit or Xero for finance, Zuora for payment, Slack for internal communication to the more recent ones like Invision’s app store for design or Intercom for customer communication.
When you look at the SaaS landscape, the trend is clear: an increasing number of software marketplaces emerge to cover the whole spectrum. And I don’t think it will stop. If there’s not an app store in a category, just look at the biggest player and wait that it launches its platform.
As I mentioned above, an increasing number of app stores are emerging, and obviously, they don’t all have the same level of maturity. They generally start as basic app directories to slowly evolve to more sophisticated platforms like AppExchange.
For SaaS founders, this disparity means different types of opportunities. For example, Intercom launched its software marketplace last year. As a consequence, the “audience” might not be huge yet, but the platform is not crowded, so the first apps benefit from a better exposure. On the other end of the spectrum, if you launch an app on AppExchange, it will be much harder to break through the noise, but if you manage to succeed the revenue potential is much higher. There are definitely opportunities to leverage up and coming platforms.
When I listed the major SaaS app stores, I noticed that most of the successful ones are targeting the SMB and mid-market segments. Of course, the enterprise segment also has its marketplaces (like Salesforce), but the model seems to make more sense for SMB and mid-market customers at the moment.
Which makes sense because one of the goals of such software marketplaces is to enable customers to pick and integrate quickly an external application. Enterprise customers need longer decision and sales cycles as well as stronger integration.