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Blog Posts

Episode 1: The Landscape of Embedded Integration Platforms

This is the first of a series of blog posts where we talk to leaders at e-commerce SaaS companies, and get their insights into how they've tapped into the e-commerce app ecosystem, and hear their opinions on why embedded integrations are so important to business success.

Why do e-commerce SaaS Companies Need to Integrate with Other Apps at all?

SaaS companies are increasingly focused on being best-in-class at a specific function or task. This means each player is operating in an interconnected web of specialized solutions that the merchant has chosen to best meet their needs. As a result, as SaaS companies expand, they need to start catering to more and more diverse customers with a wide selection of different software tools, all which need to be seamlessly integrated for the customer's business to operate efficiently.

What is ShipHero?

Recently, we had the opportunity to meet Nicholas Daniel-Richards, the co-founder of ShipHero, to figure out his needs regarding integration and automation for his Shopify business. ShipHero is a best-in-class warehouse management system (WMS) and order management system (OMS) for e-commerce brands and 3PL providers, and also provides an in-house full-stack logistics solution within the US. Nicholas started the company in 2013 when he and his partner Aaron were frustrated by their own difficulties as a merchant trying to ship products online, and set out to create a shipping solution specifically for e-commerce that didn't suck.

As ShipHero expands, they are looking for a strategy to increase their integrations breadth with other e-commerce apps, while keeping overhead costs low.

Why are Integrations Important to ShipHero?

ShipHero has been growing rapidly, and as a result, was having trouble maintaining multiple integrations. These integrations include e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, logistics providers, such as FedEx, and value-add solutions such as Shippo.

Having a comprehensive and robust set of integrations is important to ShipHero because it helps their existing customers realize more value, and also opens up ShipHero to more potential customers. For example, many e-commerce merchants use Quickbooks for financial reporting and want seamless integration between the shipping and order data generated by ShipHero, and Quickbooks, so they do not need to manually import that data. These merchants sometimes end up not choosing ShipHero because they cannot directly connect to their Quickbooks, which means potential lost revenue. Fortunately, Quickbooks is rolling out a native integration with ShipHero in the comingmonths, so stay tuned.

Why doesn't ShipHero simply create new integrations for each adjacent app a merchant might have? There are two main issues:

1.      The need to constantly launch new integrations as new apps gain traction

2.      The overhead cost of maintaining existing integrations

Thus far, ShipHero has mostly built and maintained integrations in-house, however, they discovered that recently almost 50% of the integration engineering team's time is spent simply maintaining existing integrations, rather than being able to build new ones.

As we noted previously, ShipHero already has a robust set of native integrations with the most popular e-commerce platforms and adjacent apps. Going forward, the team plans to introduce a new app and integrations marketplace, where 3rd party app developers can market their e-commerce apps that integrate natively with ShipHero. For many of these 3rdparty app developers (ie: Returnly), part of their value proposition to the merchant is the integration with their WMS or OMS. Thus, the ShipHero app marketplace provides additional visibility and distribution to these up and coming app developers and helps them monetize as well. Finally, the transparency of the app marketplace also provides insight into which established platform app developers need to integrate into in order to continue to grow.

What is an Embedded Integration Platform and How Can it Help App Developers?

As an app developer, if I want to add a native integration to a new platform, I need to research and understand all their APIs. In addition, when the integration APIs change, I need to update my integration, and I need to constantly stay vigilant if the integration fails for whatever reason. By using an embedded integration platform, I can quickly and easily connect my app to thousands of relevant e-commerce platforms with only a few clicks. Because the embedded integration platform already has a plethora of e-commerce apps and platforms managed within it, I also do not need to worry about API changes, retrying requests, connection security, or monitoring.

In addition, if I need to customize my API connection, the integration platform provides a convenient and easy to use interface to add business logic and test your custom integration.

Nicholas provided great insight into the importance of building and maintaining integrations, and the pain points such as cost, maintainability and scalability considerations, all gaps that can be address with an embedded integration platform.

In conclusion, such a platform could dramatically reduce the time and effort required to integrate your app with 3rd party apps, reduce the maintenance required, and eliminate any headaches from scaling, all while allowing ultimate customization and flexibility.

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