Category: , ,  /  February 26th 2015
How many apps

The answer, if you’re Apple or Google, is lots. But what if you’re considering deploying a SaaS marketplace for SMBs? The immediate temptation is to agree and offer 50+ apps with multiple options in each category. After all isn’t a marketplace about choice? And doesn’t a market need an abundance of buyers and sellers to work?

In fact we’d say that less is more for now. Let’s consider the question from the point of view of the stakeholders involved.

The end user

SMBs are increasingly moving towards SaaS. But they’re still new to understanding, evaluating and adopting these services. They need trusted third parties to guide them through the process, both of subscribing to SaaS apps and evaluating them.

It’s easy at this stage in a market’s development to make it appear intimidating. Typically when we’re given too much choice we read reviews and ratings, and use recommendations in the form of ‘customers who bought this also bought…’  We’re looking for trusted advice to guide our decision.

Take an SMB customer who’s interested in how SaaS expense management could help them. They want to find someone who can explain how it works, answer their questions, vouch for a provider that’s been tested, makes it easy to subscribe, gets everything up and running and then reassures them they’ll be on the end of a phone if needed.  That experience is not about being presented with multiple options for SaaS expense management.

The marketplace owner

Many providers lean towards offering more apps than less. However, we’d suggest that just 3 to 5 apps are generating around 95% of new SMB subscriptions to most SaaS marketplaces. If we’re right that means SMBs are not basing their decision to sign up on the number of apps on offer. They may not even be comparing marketplaces.

So what’s the point in offering 50 or more apps? Right now people need choice beyond these 3 to 5 core apps, but not a lot. Unsubscribed apps make for extra maintenance, extra servicing costs and troublesome internal performance reporting.  And it’s worth bearing in mind that the quality and choice of apps across categories is constantly improving. Sign up to a SaaS vendor now, and you might wish you’d waited.

The distribution channels

If there’s one group above all for whom less is definitely more, it’s the marketplace distribution channels.

One of the most successful channels to date is telephony. If we consider it in general we’d look for an 8-11% conversion rate on a qualified conversation by a qualified telephony agent. Those agents are staying up to date with continuously changing hardware, tariffs, upgrade options, short-term bundling, accessories, insurance, and so on.

Now ask them how they feel about getting up to speed on the merits of 50 or so SaaS apps, and guiding inexperienced SMBs through the consideration and subscription process (while also explaining the feature differences between multiple options in the same category).

What those agents want is something that helps them hit their targets, explains why the customer should choose them over another provider, easily links to the high-volume conversations they’re already having with SMB customers, has a decent pitch to conversion rate, doesn’t take evenings of study to understand and, finally, has enough of an incentive and success rate to make them want to spend time on it versus a product they’re already comfortable with.

These are the kinds of conversations those agents might start to have:

  • ‘In the event of loss or theft, how are you planning to back up the data on your employees phones?’ If this is important to the customer discuss a SaaS backup option.
  • ‘Did you know it’s now possible for your staff to edit documents on their new phones while out of the office?’ If this is important to the customer discuss Office 365 or Google apps.
  • ‘Would it save you and your staff time if you were able to use your new phones to take pictures of your receipts and expenses, which will be auto scanned and sent to whoever you want for approval?’ If this could help the customer discuss expense management / receipt capture app.

So we’d suggest picking 3-4 SaaS apps that will resonate most strongly with SMB customers, and promoting those through telephony and face-to-face channels for phase 1. You only get one chance at a first impression and you want your channels to embrace offering SaaS services rather than dread it. Again, less is more.


sabbir ahmed

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