Chances are that, as a designer, developer, or consultant, you’ve already dealt with clients inquiring about “app integration”, or “deep linking” with other business apps they use. Your clients need all of the apps to work together and, as their partner, they look to you for advice. Even if you already have a pretty good grasp of what it does, it’s never a bad idea to go over its benefits once more. So what exactly is “app integration” and why is everybody talking about it?
As more and more business apps become available, you will inevitably come across cases when your clients’ companies rely on more than one app at a time. Though they use Shopify for all their ecommerce needs, they may use a myriad of other apps for different functions such as MailChimp for email marketing, Salesforce for all CRM related tools, or QBO (QuickBooks Online) for accounting.
The growing number of standalone solutions is undoubtedly a game changer. Since all the apps are cloud-ready, they are not only easy to sync across multiple devices, but also portable, cost-effective and intelligently designed. However, the problems begin to pop up when it comes to making these apps communicate with one another.
App integration is simply the process of bringing data from one app to the other. In short, you want your cloud business apps to play nice and be able to understand each other without the need for your client to be the man in the middle. So what are the concrete benefits of app integration?
You might also like: 5 Things You Should Look For in an Ecommerce Platform as an App Developer
1. It saves a ton of time (and money)
The number one thing we hear from our clients is how much time app integration saves them. From marketing agencies to other SaaS vendors, all of them have found themselves in a situation where they needed to manually update data from one app into another. This process is not only tedious, but also a serious drain on your resources, especially if you have limited staff at your disposal.
One Shopify user in particular, a non-profit church ministry, uses the app with Salesforce, their main CRM tool. The Shopify experience is great for their customers: they can browse the website and find different items, choose their shipping method and payment method easily and without hassle. The problem is that the church needed to collect all that valuable data and then manually input it into the Salesforce platform.
With a simple, but powerful, integration, they managed to automate the whole process. Now, whenever a sale goes through in Shopify, a new opportunity is created in Salesforce. This simple fix saves the company several hours of work each week, estimated to be approximately $200k in annual labor costs, surely a non-negligible amount when you are a non-profit (or any kind of company for that matter).
2. App integration reduces error and eliminates data duplicates
Manual data entry is naturally prone to human error. Unfortunately, it is just one of the problems that come with this mundane, yet incredibly important task: when staff members need to enter information repeatedly in multiple forms and fields, there are bound to be mistakes at some point or another.
Errors can also occur when details aren’t tracked properly. The American Kennel Club (AKC), a registry of purebred dog pedigrees involved with most major dog shows in the U.S., is integrating Shopify and Marketo to prevent this issue. The AKC provides Pedigree, Breeder, and Competitor reports and uses Shopify to track purchase history of their leads and customers, while Marketo stores the data from their email marketing campaigns.
This integration allows the AKC to reduce errors that are not only time consuming to fix, but most likely would have annoyed their customers. For example, customer satisfaction will fall if the customer keeps getting emails for a product they already purchased, but now the AKC can automatically unsubscribe someone who purchased an item from an email campaign. They can also drive smarter campaigns now that the purchase history has been transferred from Shopify to Marketo, thus making up-sell/cross-sell targeting possible.
You might also like: Getting Your App in the Shopify App Store
3. Integration makes your apps smarter and gives you better insights
With real time, up-to-date information about leads, customers, sales, and payments being transferred from one app to your ecommerce and marketing apps, they can work together to drive much better results. Sales information from Shopify can help marketing apps like Marketo, Mailchimp, and RegOnline send more targeted and relevant information to your leads.
The American Kennel club not only reduces errors by integrating Shopify with their other business apps, but have also unlocked truly valuable data in the process. Using Workato to integrate Shopify and Marketo lets the AKC evaluate campaigns based on the actual revenue they have driven. A standard marketing app only provides data on opens, clicks, and unsubscribes for any given campaign — talk about an insight upgrade! The ability to evaluate the success of a campaign based on the revenue driven from the email gives the AKC a completely new way to assess their email marketing strategy and become more effective.
4. The best app integrations are customizable
One of the biggest benefits of an app integration platform is its ability to offer developers and business owners more control over their integrations. We found that numerous integration solutions existed, but they were often inflexible and hard to customize, making life harder for clients when they ought to make it easier instead.
RedPath Consulting, a company that helps several nonprofit organizations with CRM implementation, customization and integration, wanted to find a way to create comprehensive revenue reports that were easy to understand and maintain for their clients. The solution was a customized integration on Workato to automatically bring Shopify revenues into Salesforce along with additional revenue data from other sources. This was key for their non-profit clients as Salesforce also stores information about donations, fundraising event attendees, and more. Now, all revenue reporting across multiple revenue channels can be centralized in one place: Salesforce.
With no additional manual work, RedPath’s clients can enjoy centralized multi-channel revenue reporting — an indispensible resource only possible with integrations that are customized to the company’s various revenue channels. With a virtually unlimited number of potential combinations between cloud-based business apps, and the ability to combine them into a powerful all-in-one solution through fast, fun, and DIY integrations, customized integrations mean that the sky's the limit for you clients and their organizations.
5. App integration doesn't have to be complicated or expensive
App integrations are going to become more and more of a challenge in an interconnected and chaotic app world, and designers need a solution that is not only easy to use, but also affordable.
For instance, one of our clients, an Australian marketing agency, was quoted $10K to build a custom integration between the apps Infusionsoft and Xero. And that’s even before you pile on maintenance, setup fees, and ongoing modification costs. That seemed like a prohibitive amount to them, especially considering they are a small company.
So we offered an integration solution that was not only economical, but also one that anybody could learn in seconds. Moreover, we also wanted to create a strong open-source community around these integrations, one where everybody could share integration recipes, workflow techniques, and app ideas for free while learning how to get the most value from the apps companies are already using.
Integration doesn’t need to be as complex, confusing, and costly as it has traditionally been. The point is that there are numerous solutions available for designers, developers, and consultants that should make app integration as easy as the apps themselves! It needn’t be overly technical or expensive. It needn’t be one of those things you are afraid to offer to your clients as it would bring the quote up too much or become too much of an engineering headache. A simple, yet powerful, integration solution that allows for real-time customization makes your role to Shopify users even more valuable because you’re eliminating the worst part about running a business: mundane work.
In short, you shouldn’t have to be scared of integrations anymore. You should be able to approach clients safe in the knowledge that you can offer them excellent solutions to turn their business apps into the most versatile, powerful and efficient customizable all-in-one solution.
You might also like: 8 Merchant-Driven Ideas For Your Next Shopify App