Article

How to use app integration effectively

By Cindy Riquier

Published February 3, 2022
Last updated February 28, 2022

Applications always grow out of a need, whether that’s a very specific tool that does a single task (such as a calculator), or a suite that serves the needs of a particular sector (such as an accountancy package). Sometimes they are commissioned by a firm to use internally; other times they are built by developers to sell to the industry. However, there are is no one app that can do absolutely everything. And that is a good thing. Let’s look at why we use apps and how to get them working for you and your business.

Why do we need app integration?

Business solutions tend to offer a generic set of functions that may or may not apply to all the different organisations that use them. Sometimes, that means a bloated solution that only gets partially used, but other times it means an overly nimble one that needs augmenting – which is where apps can help. Apps can also facilitate data sharing between partners, clients and suppliers. There are many other advantages for integrations, however.

Advantages of app integration for business

The benefits of easy app integration speak for themselves, in terms of quality, capability, workflow, and efficiency:

  • Because apps grow out of specialist needs, it’s usually better for the developer or client to concentrate on doing that one thing very well rather than doing lots of things moderately well.
  • Integrating apps makes your core applications more powerful, but the whole will always be greater than the sum of the parts. The power of the integrated apps lies in creating a seamless relationship between the applications, rather than constantly switching between them and manually copying data.
  • Businesses and individuals get used to working with certain applications and don’t appreciate being forced to learn a completely new one at the whim of a solutions developer.
  • Paying for a huge solution but only using a small part of it is never going to be a good value for money or good use of digital resources like storage, memory, and processing. It’s best to have a core app that can have useful apps bolted on.
  • It’s also more efficient as there is less duplication and redundancy of data, and every department can be assured they’re using the latest data – all by centralising the database and granting access to those who need it.

That’s why the best solutions for any task are those that make it easy for third-party apps to easily integrate with them and to share relevant data that lubricates the work.

Example: why do you need a mobile app for your eCommerce portal?

Let’s take an example of a simple application that satisfies all the advantages listed above: a mobile app for an eCommerce portal. We’ll assume you are using one of the major eCommerce platforms, with the customer-facing element being a responsive website that works equally well on desktop, tablet, and phone. Customers can place their orders easily and their computer and phone browsers remember their payment details, addresses, and favourites. That’s a pretty good position to be in, is it not?

Yes and no. All eCommerce businesses know why mobile is central to omnichannel customers – it’s that ever-presence, the way they can seamlessly swap between the website and the real-world when making purchase decisions in the home, on the train, or in the store. A dedicated mobile app simply gives your business the flexibility to play with capabilities that browsers don’t handle too well. Examples include:

  • Keeping data flow and interactivity on the device when there’s a weak signal
  • Security elements, such as fingerprint or facial recognition
  • Using GPS for locating the nearest store
  • Taking advantage of the built-in cameras and microphone
  • Setting up chats or integrating with SMS
  • Simply having the experience branded as your own, rather than always having an address bar visible (not to mention that pesky Home button)

This might sound like a standalone product rather than an integration, but remember that the core of the eCommerce experience isn’t the front end, but the back. The main product database, fulfilment, security, marketing, website, and mobile app systems are separate applications that are talking to each other, sharing data and making the process simple for customers, and profitable for the retailer. The app adds value to the business by giving extra services to the customer.

App integration in customer service

It’s a given that any modern customer service operation will already use some sort of CRM to ensure it is fully on board with individual customers’ needs and potential for upselling and cross-selling. But different industries have their own unique needs, and that can influence the types of apps they use.

A simple example would be returns. An online retailer will expect to need a means for customers to return damaged or unwanted goods, and this needs to be done easily. However, an insurance company has the same need for good customer service, but no need for returns, as there are no physical products. Enter an app such as Returnly – a dedicated platform for handling customer returns and replacements that are sent out before the company gets its products back, thus speeding the process and helping with customer satisfaction. The vanilla CRM might have a simple system for returns, but the app adds value.

Apps don’t have to be directly linked to customer service or satisfaction, either. For example, Ximble is an app that plugs into a range of solutions and lets managers keep an eye on staff productivity, to make it easier to identify potential savings. Meanwhile, Digiteam Mobile Workforce Management allows companies to manage mobile workforces more transparently and efficiently, linking individual people to their skills, so it’s easier to allocate resources to a task.

These are just a few examples of the types of apps that can help in one particular sector. In the rest of the business world, there are thousands of apps integrating with hundreds of top software solutions.
Choose well and the benefits will come

Whenever your work solution is lacking something digital, the chances are you’ll find a standalone application that can complete the task. It’s usually a decent stopgap solution, but if your team spends 90% of its time on a core application, it’s almost always better to take the integration route. That’s why all good quality solutions grant API access to third-party apps so backend data can be used for even more powerful tasks.

If you’re emailing database selections to the sales department so they can run your product data on their software, it could be time to ask yourself – is there an app for that?