Earlier this year, Xero announced a key milestone – a redesigned marketplace for business software that connects to the accounting platform. It’s a clear sign that Xero is dedicating more resources to its software partners and the growth of its ecosystem. But other than a fancy new design, why is this important and how does it impact you?
Let’s start with a recap of the old marketplace. The previous marketplace categorised software by region with user ratings. However, it had its flaws. The most glaring was that the search didn’t work properly, even if you spelled the name of the app correctly. It also didn’t tell you what information each app was sharing with Xero.
Xero consulted Xero users and partners to see why they selected one app versus another. Out of this came a number of things.
1. Industry Verticals & Updated Categories
One of the largest challenges facing businesses as the ecosystem grew was finding the right app partner. Let’s say that you were looking for a timesheet app that integrates to Xero. You would find tonnes of apps within the same category.
Xero has added industries to help you find the right app. Industries and app niches make it much easier for businesses and partners to identify which apps could work for specific use cases.
Xero also wants to show its app partners that leads from Xero are likely to be hot leads that fit their model better. This in turn ensures that you get the right attention from the app partner.
Xero also took the opportunity to use this refresh to tweak their categories and make them easier to find via the side menu.
2. Better Visibility of up & coming Apps
In the previous platform, apps were always ordered by the number of customers and reviews, as well as how much they invest in collaborating and working with Xero.
There’s nothing wrong with this. However, in the lower level of this tier it was really difficult to identify the stale apps from the great, new apps. Which apps are getting traction but are not yet a full partner?
Similarly, you couldn’t find which apps had won awards or other highlights unless you read it somewhere or attended the awards session at Xerocon.
3. Detailed App Partner Pages
In the old app marketplace, the only way an app partner could update their page was to send updates to Xero. Xero would review, approve and update those changes.
This process was a big blocker for ensuring that all apps had suitable pages. In the new marketplace, content has been moved out of Xero’s systems and into Contentful, a content management system. App partners can now update their content without having to go through this laborious process.
Once an app partner updates their integration to Xero, it can be reflected right away within the marketplace.
Allowing apps to edit their own pages also makes it easier to find them. More content per page means that searching both on the Xero Marketplace and on Google will give you results that are a better match with your searches. Xero clearly wants app partners to receive traffic from its marketplace pages through its brand authority on Google.
4. The Xero App Integration Widget
The Xero app integration widget is part of the app partner page but it should really be heralded on its own. Previously, one would wonder what data flowed between Xero and an app. Now it’s a mystery no more.
The new widget has three separate states. The arrows and position of the text demystify how the app works. When the name of an item is on the left-hand side, it means that the item is being pushed from the app to Xero.
When the name is on the right, the app pulls this data from Xero.
When the word is in the middle it is a two-way integration (updating the item details in either Xero or the app will update it in the other). This is great because it helps you understand in a very simple manner what information is going to sync, and where you can edit the data.
Say you are looking for a CRM and you want your salespeople to create clients in the CRM. You also want your accountant to update details from within Xero and sync back to the CRM. An app that has two-way sync will show “Contacts” in the middle of the integration widget.
5. Signup / Sign in direct from the App Marketplace (Coming Soon)
You will soon be able to sign up to apps from the marketplace using your Xero login. One click-registration and shared credentials with the new Xero app marketplace will make it easier than ever to hop in and trial an app, and take advantage of the integration immediately.
The new marketplace is a big step up on the previous version. Now Xero is on Contentful it’s going to be a lot easier to add more categories and collections, and improve user experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see minor tweaks on the number of industries and categorisation in the coming months.
Jonathan Mifsud is the CEO of Maze Digital, a Xero developer partner that builds and integrates third-party apps into Xero. Maze Digital’s custom applications have saved accounting partners and businesses hundreds of hours in administration and generated thousands of bills and invoices within Xero.
Image Credit: Maze.Digital