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Exploring the Third-Party Customer Experience App Ecosystem's Growth

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Digital customer experience software providers reported significant growth in their third-party application ecosystems in 2020. Where is that growth happening?

Digital customer experience software providers reported to CMSWire significant growth in their third-party application ecosystems in 2020.

No shock there. COVID-19 sent digital adoption into high gear. McKinsey reported in October their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years.

The bigger questions: where these providers saw most growth and why? Providers reported third-party application gains in the areas of SEO, Account-Based Marketing (ABM), sales technology apps, open source data visualization, partner relationship management and apps that support a MACH architecture (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless) among others.

“The evolution of the digital landscape from opportunistic to mission-critical meant an acceleration of demand and collaboration across the board,” said Matthew Baier, COO/CMO of Contentstack, a headless CMS provider. “The urgency to accelerate digital experience practices in a digital-only year significantly increased demand for agile, cloud-native solutions by both enterprise customers and digital agencies alike.”

App Ecosystem Growth by the Numbers

Before we look into the numbers shared with us by digital CX vendors, the reality here is these are just numbers. Putting third-party marketing and digital customer experience apps into use with larger software suites still remains a challenge. Marketers reported to the CDP Institute last year in its State of Customer Data Management 2020 from September that integration with external systems (53%) tops things like ease of learning and use (51%), breadth of features (40%), operating costs for fees and staffing (36%) and initial costs of acquisition and deployment (32%) for most important marketing technology selection factors.

Nonetheless, it's worth a peek to see how 2020 affected the third-party app ecosystem for providers who offer digital customer experience software:

  • 64%: Episerver’s growth in 2020 for its app ecosystem to more than 105 apps.
  • 3: Average number of apps installed perJahia customer.
  • 25%: Percentage of customers using at least one app in Jahia app ecosystem.
  • 35: Number of apps in Contentstack app ecosystem.
  • 5: Number of video apps in Contentstack ecosystem.
  • 4: Number of digital asset management (DAM) and number of search apps in Contentstack ecosystem.
  • 60%: Expansion of HubSpot’s app ecosystem in 2020 to now more than 600 apps.
  • 7: Average number of apps installed per HubSpot customer.
  • 95%: Percentage of HubSpot customers using at least one app.
  • 55%: Percentage of HubSpot customers using more than five apps.

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SEO, Solution Partner App Gains for Episerver

One of the most downloaded apps for Digital Experience Platform (DXP) provider Episerver in 2020 was Siteimprove, which lives in the provider’s “SEO, Reliability & Accessibility” category on its app marketplace, according to Nicholas Rohr, global alliances manager for Episerver. Search is also among the leading apps in the Contentstack category.

“Our joint customers rely on Siteimprove to boost their SEO efforts and ensure they are complying with web accessibility best practices,” Rohr said. “As companies embrace experimentation and move from guesswork to data-driven outcomes, finding technologies that can add value to that effort is critical.”

Rohr also noted a gaining interest in Episerver’s Solution Partner apps focused on developer needs, especially during implementation. These apps often provide advanced capabilities that work within Episerver. He cited Griddy by Arlanet, which allows marketers to make more flexible page layouts and enables users to add more variants (sizes, placements, etc.) of content blocks on a page. Adaptive Images by Ted & Gustaf allows for responsive images and editing capabilities in the Episerver Content Management System.

Partner Relationship Management Sees Spike

The need to provide insights into the vast amount of partnerships brands have in the digital world has also led to a growth in a specific app category for HubSpot, according to Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot. He noted a growth in the partner relationship management application ecosystem within HubSpot, citing apps such as Channeltivity, Crossbeam, Allbound and PartnerTap. These apps provide capabilities including account mapping between partners, tracking leads and allowing for reporting back to partners.

“It’s been really interesting to see the growth in partner relationship management apps,” said Brinker. “Apps like Crossbeam, which is particularly well suited for the SaaS use cases where basically you've got two SaaS companies that want to partner together for a lot of very good reasons, and they can't just share customer data with each other. Crossbeam essentially acts as a secure and trusted middle party to allow them encrypt the data, anonymize it if they want, and then start to be able to do these comparisons like total customer base to figure out how much overlap there is and … identify segments of overlap. … Being able to see the alignment between two partners is pretty cool, so they’ve been a bit on fire this past year.”

Related Article: Why Integration Is Trumping All Marketing Technology Requirements

AI Integrations with Google, Amazon, Analytics Hot

Jahia introduced Jahia StackConnect that is based on Workato, which gives the DXP provider 400 connectors to cloud platforms and apps, a huge increase from less than a handful before 2020.

In 2020, Jahia also saw gains in AI integrations with Amazon and Google, according to Rami Chahine, chief product officer for Jahia. “Features like auto tagging of images and text have been highly requested because they reduce the manual efforts to do these tasks,” Chahine said.

He noted that analytics integrations like Kibana and Tableau have been also a hot app choice for customers to get a full view of data stored in the Jahia DXP and join it with other sources like Salesforce and Google Analytics to get the full 360 view of a prospect’s lifecycle.

MACH Architecture Surging

Baier of Contentstack said his company saw users embrace apps that focus on a MACH architecture: microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless, composed of modern technology principles that incorporate a best-of-breed approach to constructing enterprise software stacks, CMSWire reported last week. The goal of MACH is to break down legacy applications and instead introduce a modular architecture that enables enterprises to be more agile and adapt faster.

Learning Opportunities

“Enterprises are increasingly leaving monoliths behind and embracing a composable MACH architecture,” Baier said. “Often, the management and delivery of content fuel the transformation: a MACH content platform paves the way and adjacent MACH services follow closely behind. As such, we have seen DAM, personalization, translation and commerce integrations in high demand as composable digital experience ecosystems become more robust. We have also seen an increase in use cases addressing digital service, support and staff enablement with field integrations increasing for support and chat tooling.”

Related Article: MACH Architecture: What It Is, Why You Should Know It

Digital Commerce Uptick

In the Captain Obviously department, digital commerce grew significantly in 2020. Munch on these numbers for proof, if you needed it.

DXP vendors naturally capitalized. Demand for integrations to enable commerce experiences has remained high for Contentstack, and its ecosystem is set to expand by three to four more third-party connectors in this area by the second quarter, according to Baier.

Acquia just released last week a digital commerce solution. Kevin Cochrane, senior vice president of product marketing at Acquia, mentioned the boom in commerce integrations in the Acquia app ecosystem in an interview with CMSWire before the release.

“There's still all this legacy commerce infrastructure that’s around,” Cochrane said. “And it's not agile enough. It's not a next-generation, headless, microservices-based architecture. And we're seeing a massive increase in people re-exploring their choices for digital commerce, or looking for new models to basically employ digital commerce in new kind of touch-based experiences, or voice-based experiences… The biggest demand that we've seen from all of our customers is what is the best-practice way to integrate content and commerce centered around known customer profiles with our CDP (Customer Data Platform).”

Growth in Sales-Related Apps, ABM

HubSpot’s Brinker said sales tech saw the most growth in the HubSpot App Ecosystem. He noted relatively new-to-HubSpot sales tech apps such as:

  • Crayon (competitive intelligence)
  • QuotaPath (sales comp management)
  • ProfitWell (subscription/SaaS revenue management)
  • InsightSquared (sales intelligence)
  • Docket (meeting management)
  • Postal.io (direct mail/gifting)
  • Spinify (sales performance management)
  • Demodesk (online meetings)
  • Paperflite (marketing and sales enablement)

Brinker also noted HubSpot growth in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) apps. It makes sense since ABM software is designed to connect marketing and sales teams by identifying the best accounts within departments that can be converted to customers.

  • Zoominfo
  • Demandbase
  • RollWorks ABM
  • Triblio
  • Madison Logic
  • CaliberMind
  • Metadata

“With sales tech, it’s like a night and day difference from a couple of years ago,” Brinker said. “They are all getting traction. … There is just a really wide variety of category leaders in sales-tech specific solutions.”

Looking Ahead: Companies Still Face Digital Challenges

No matter the app-growth trajectory of a few digital CX vendors, governance around data and content still remain critical, according to Arjen van den Akker, director of product marketing for SDL's digital experience and content management products. The reality is many organizations still rely on copy/paste and export/import. This is true despite the fact it has never been easier to stitch together various systems across due to better abstraction layers, middleware technology and the variety of low-code/no-code tools now available.

Organizations will be better off moving forward conducting thorough audits of their digital ecosystem, he added.

“Data management, cleansing and retention policies remain big issues for companies that have no proper governance in place,” van den Akker said. “In these cases integrations might not deliver optimally, and you’re faced with a garbage in = garbage out scenario. A content supply chain audit can identify such bottlenecks and very quickly and easily provide huge wins for the business.”