Top 4 app marketplace solutions
18 August, 2021

5 mins

Leading App Marketplace Solutions in 2021

While the value of app ecosystems are increasingly recognized by software platforms, users and third-party developers, the path to building a marketplace is still far from clear. There are several options to choose from, including channel and partner management suites, dedicated marketplace solutions, integration platforms and more.

In this guide, we’ll dive into each of these options to help you understand how they can align with your platform’s goals, starting with some of the industry’s most popular vendors.

Leading App Marketplace Solutions in 2021

1. AppDirect

AppDirect is a well known provider of app marketplace solutions. They offer a suite of products for subscription businesses, including everything from app marketplaces, through channel and billing management, to identity and access control.

Their marketplace offering, AppMarket, allows you to sell your own and third-party products through a white label storefront. At launch, you can choose between a turnkey design with various customization options, or build your own interface that ties into AppDirect’s backend through their REST, GraphQL and Webhook APIs.

What We Like

  • Choose between do-it-yourself or turnkey storefront
  • Some customization for turnkey storefronts, including overall branding, app pages, visibility and categorization
  • Native support for various app types, from ‘physical goods to software and services’
  • Built-in checkout and billing flows
  • Reselling functionality (especially with network of resellers) may be valuable for the right company and use case 

What We’re Not Sure About

  • No self-service demo or sandbox to play with
  • Opaque pricing (previously $10,000 per month and up)
  • Extensive suite of products may be unnecessary for some customers

2. CloudBlue

CloudBlue is another name in the app marketplace vertical. Like AppDirect, they offer a variety of solutions, platforms, and products for subscription-based businesses — once again including channel and billing management — but with a slightly more B2B focus.

For marketplaces, they offer CloudBlue Commerce. This is a turnkey marketplace solution which you can deploy to the hosting provider (e.g. AWS or Azure) of your choice.

What We Like

  • Attractive and intuitive turnkey storefront
  • Wide range of payment plugins
  • Reselling functionality may be valuable for the right company and use case 

What We’re Not Sure About

  • No self-service demo or sandbox to play with
  • Storefront customization appears to require CSS and HTML edits
  • Extensive suite of products may be unnecessary for some customers
  • Unclear whether you can build your own storefront using their backend

3. Impartner

Impartner describes itself as a channel and Partner Relationship Management (PRM) solution. Their suite of products seems slightly more focused than that of AppDirect or CloudBlue, since for example, they do not offer billing or subscription management.

The Impartner app marketplace offering is called Solutions Marketplace. It advertises features including a searchable storefront, lead generation forms and partner interfaces with analytics.

What We Like

  • Focused partner management product suite

What We’re Not Sure About

  • No self-service demo or sandbox to play with
  • No mention of marketplace customizability
  • App activation/ integration seems limited (only lead generation forms are shown)

4. OpenChannel

Unlike the other providers on this list, OpenChannel does not offer traditional channel or partner management (also known as PRM). Instead, it provides a focused app marketplace and ecosystem solution.

OpenChannel supports both turnkey and do-it-yourself storefronts — the latter via a dedicated marketplace API. Via the same API, first and third-party apps can be automatically activated for the user when they click ‘Install’.

What We Like

  • Choose between do-it-yourself or turnkey storefront with open-source UIs
  • Powerful API enables flexible integration into existing processes and systems
  • Native support for various app types and programmatic app activation
  • Built-in payment, order and billing flows

What We’re Not Sure About

  • Some customers may miss the reselling ecosystem and some tools offered by other providers

Other Solutions for App Marketplaces

Depending on your circumstances, there might be other directions for you to consider when creating a marketplace. For instance, you may choose to build a custom app marketplace from scratch. And regardless of whether you build or buy, you may want to leverage an Integration Platform as a Service suite to kickstart activity.

Custom Marketplace

Whether it’s in-house developers or third-party agencies that do the coding, there is always the option to build your own app marketplace from scratch. Generally, we’d advise against this approach for reasons outlined in our full comparison of buy versus build, including cost, unreliability and maintenance requirements.

Building a custom marketplace may make sense if you want to package existing parts of your platform’s functionality into ‘apps’ (for example, to prevent feature creep in default interfaces) with a simple storefront. Even then, you will likely want to grow the marketplace to support third-party apps at some point in the future, leading to further complexity.

Integration Platform as a Service

Another thing to consider — whether you are building your own marketplace or using a dedicated solution — is whether to use an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) suite. These tools enable you to connect your platform to features of other popular web software with relative ease.

In the early days of your platform, using an iPaaS suite is a fast and cost-effective way to add support for integrations that end users are likely to expect. Ultimately, this won’t create a true ecosystem (since there are no third-party developers), but it’s still a powerful stepping stone.

iPaaS suites don’t usually feature a consumer-facing interface, so it’s up to you to create flows within your platform that can enable and interact with the integrations. If you want to package them as apps, you can use an app marketplace solution like OpenChannel to do so. As a result, traditional app marketplace solutions and iPaaS suites complement each other brilliantly.

Popular iPaaS solutions include:

Final Thoughts

There are some big choices to make when creating an app marketplace, between choosing the right provider for your organization’s needs (or building your own marketplace from scratch) and how that ties in with an iPaaS suite. We believe there’s a case to be made for every approach and every vendor, depending on the kind of apps you want to distribute and your unique preferences. With that said, we strive to provide the most focused and flexible app marketplace solution here at OpenChannel.

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