“To integrate, or not to integrate?” That’s the question often facing product managers.
In any given development team, a small contingency of programmers are assigned to grow app integrations and plugin compatibility. The more apps that work with your software, the more problems you can solve for your customers. The issue is that keeping up with all the integrations available is nearly impossible. One company, Zapier, realized this and decided to precode API integrations with thousands of apps. They’ve simplified the process for many popular apps, but most integrations need to be hardcoded the old-fashioned way — via API documentation. Some APIs are straightforward and easy to navigate, while others are not so much (think full stack python APIs). With development time and costs involved, how can you prioritize which integrations to make? How will they increase revenue? Will enough customers use it? These are the pressing questions of a product manager’s heart. Let’s look at how you can prioritize and measure the impact of the API project you assign to the development team.
Impact on Existing Customers
First, remember to give the people what they want. If you delight your customers and make their lives easier, they’ll stay because they feel they can trust that you’ll grow with them. Focus on the easiest way for you to get customer feedback on the integrations they want. Assumptions can point you in the right direction, but they alone cannot justify the investment and time. You need to ask your customers, and not just a few of them. Having a Facebook group where customers can vote on upcoming app integrations is a great way to find out what your customers want. Sending out an email blast is also an easy way to get the word out, or even including a notification within the software interface itself. Find out which third-party app integrations will solve the most painful problems your customers are facing. With every customer having an opinion, democracy must take place. Use a voting system and proceed with what will make the largest number of people happy.
Impact on Revenue
A rockstar product manager will be smart to go to for the home run — an API project that immediately increases the bottom line. While customer impact affects existing customers, revenue impact focuses on acquiring new customers. The CMO, or other business leaders, will want to know what the development costs will be so as to measure ROI. API integrations are a great way to add more value to your customers, but measuring their direct effect on retention can be difficult. Integrating with a popular app and leveraging its existing reach with your target audience is a great way to acquire new customers. Just like you, other app developers want as many of their customers as possible to know about new app functionality. Some examples of applications with major-league “shopper” reach in the ecommerce space include Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce.
These shopping cart platforms have huge customer bases, and their app marketplaces generate a lot of web traffic for their merchants. They regularly showcase the latest extensions and app integrations via their website, email blasts, and social media. Your app will get a lot of exposure by joining ecosystems and communities like these.
Impact on Market Position
This refers to the unique value proposition (UVP) your app offers in the market. What makes you better than your competitors? What can you do that they can’t? Choosing an API integration on this basis can have a significant positive long-term effect on growing your business. Take Fishbowl as an example. In the early 2000s, several inventory management solutions were on the market. However, none of them integrated directly with QuickBooks, the most widely used accounting software in North America. Here at Fishbowl, we had a small development team at the time, but assigned all of our programmers to the task of integrating with QuickBooks. In our view, this move would set us apart from our competitors. While we established a first mover advantage, it wasn’t long before our competitors followed suit (essentially validating the strategy).
As you can see, a product manager has a lot to consider when adding a new integration to the development project list. The API integration you roll out can have a significant impact on customers, revenue, and your company’s position within the market. Development costs aren’t cheap, so you always want to get the most bang for your buck. Make sure you proceed with the extension that most of your customers will want, have the largest impact on revenue, and distinguishes yourself from competitors in a positive way.