When Helcim, Inc. launched more than a decade ago, it began as many other B2B FinTechs do, by developing a single solution to which the company is dedicated. In Helcim’s case, it was payments processing. Meanwhile, other FinTechs have debuted troves of other services, from eInvoicing to foreign exchange (FX) to accounting, and so on.
This Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) boom means businesses have more options than ever before to integrate an array of apps into their platforms, but it’s given rise to app fatigue, which has come to plague so many companies today.
Last September, researchers at Harmon.ie highlighted this problem with the publication of its report, “The False Promise of the App Economy.” On average, researchers found, business professionals use 9.4 different apps at work.
This phenomenon led Helcim to realize that it can no longer provide an isolated solution in a sea of enterprise apps.
“The days are ending where you have just a payment provider 0r just an app maker that addresses a very specific niche,” explained Nicolas Beique, founder and CEO of Helcim, Inc. and the lead developer of Helcim’s newest solution, Helcim Commerce, which incorporates multiple functions like payments and invoicing onto a single portal.
Beique pointed to Apple as a prime example of companies that are now not only developing solutions for the enterprise, but are working to “control the entire ecosystem” — that is, develop an array of B2B solutions that all integrate and communicate with each other.
App developers that create independent solutions for specific purposes have led to app fatigue, in part, because many of these apps don’t communicate with each other, Beique said.
“The general feedback and frustration from businesses is that data is spread across so many apps,” the executive noted. “Small businesses will look at online sellers like Amazon and say, ‘I want to replicate that experience for my own customers.’ But they’re not necessarily developers, and you need a bunch of different apps to replicate that experience, and they’re not talking to each other.”
What that’s led to is forcing businesses that sell online, especially small businesses (SMBs), to choose between integrating an array of apps to improve the customer experience or only choosing a few to streamline back-office functions.
“They end up sticking with multiple apps because they want a certain experience for their customer, but it takes up all of their time running them in the back end,” said Beique. “Or they say, ‘This is getting ridiculous,’ and they end up cutting back, but it puts them in a situation where they’re not as innovate or easy to do business with compared to their competitors.”
“You get torn between doing it the way your customers want you to do it, but it being a mess in the back end, or streamlining back-end operations but cutting features and convenience to customers,” he added.
This isn’t just for online B2C retailers, either. According to Beique, as more B2B sellers work to provide their business customers with that “Amazon experience,” more app developers are similarly providing wholesale and other B2B online vendors with solutions that can certainly boost their clients’ experience of buying online, but can also overburden the back office, as apps to accept payments, send invoices, handle accounting, manage inventory and more all remain siloed.
That realization has led many app developers to begin focusing on integrations, enabling their solutions, via APIs or other means, to communicate with other apps. But there are drawbacks to this strategy too, said Beique, who noted that app integrations still require professionals to log into various platforms and accounts. Plus, he added, the deeper App A integrates into App B, the less of a need there is for App A in the first place, which could cause friction between app developers that begin to collaborate and cooperate to make sure their solutions function together properly.
Instead, Beique said, enterprise app developers are now forced to rethink their positions in the market and their roles within the enterprise altogether. Today, he said, a payments processor or any enterprise app developer can no longer develop a solution independently.
“You must say, ‘How does this fit into the context of everything?’” said Beique.