Integration connectors: Everything you need to know

Integration connectors - something that links one application to another - help your customers sync data between these applications and automate their repetitive tasks, all in one easy-to-use environment. What role do they play in your integration strategy, and why are they crucial for modern SaaS companies?


As a SaaS provider, you’re probably used to your customers asking for ways to integrate your offering with the other apps they know, love and rely on every day. Enabling them to do that not only makes their lives easier but also does wonders for customer loyalty and satisfaction in the long run.

This is especially true for the current state of the SaaS industry. More and more tools are launched every day for customers to tackle their specific business challenges, which results in a sea of apps, each performing its own tasks. To stay on top of these tools, it’s crucial for customers to be able to see and use them as individual pieces in their wider business strategy, letting data flow from one tool to another in order to improve processes and save resources.

To achieve that, more and more businesses are waking up to the power of integration and automation: 67% are already using automation solutions to improve end-to-end visibility across their systems, 24% are in the process of implementing No-Code automation solutions, and a further 29% are planning to in the immediate future.

What are integration connectors, and why are they important to my customers?

A connector is exactly what you think it is; something that connects one thing to another. In this case, those two things are SaaS apps. So, if a customer relies heavily on Hubspot and you want to allow them to create automated workflows between it and your product, you can do so with integration connectors that link the two together, allowing for data synchronization and real-time modification.

In action, this could mean that every time a new person subscribes to a WordPress web page (App A), they receive a triggered welcome email series via Hubspot (App B), or every time a user submits a query via an online form, their information is automatically updated in Salesforce. If X happens, Y happens, and so on.

You can see why customers are crying out for these automated, time and resource-saving capabilities, but the truth is that the connector integrations they need don’t always come wrapped up in a neat little box, ready to be unleashed.

This is because the connectors that integrate App A and App B typically need to sit within one of the two apps. So, while you may find a SaaS-owned connector in rare instances, the reality is that 99% of the time they simply aren’t available, as the provider doesn’t have the time or resources to build one from scratch. After all, these companies are SaaS providers first and foremost, and building integrators just isn’t their sole focus.

And that’s why companies like Zapier came along, promising a quick and easy way to integrate App A and App B. Solutions such as these may sound great in theory, but they’re lacking true integration features, are costly and complex to manage, and at the end of the day, they’re built to accommodate the end user, not the SaaS providers themselves. But there is another way, and the next evolutional step is truly embedded integrations.

Embedded integration platforms solve these issues by offering pre or custom-built connectors that SaaS companies can embed directly into their product. In this case, a solution like Appmixer will be embedded in a SaaS and offers a number of ready-made connectors to third-party applications and easy ways to create new ones. The end customers (the ones using the SaaS product) freely integrate the tools they use from the SaaS product without realizing they are interacting with an embedded iPaaS solution (in this case Appmixer). As a result, the SaaS company saves time because it doesn't have to create connectors itself, and the end customers are happy for the wide range of integrations they can use.

Put simply, a connector is a bridge that allows you to connect multiple apps. From there, your customers can create countless bespoke workflow automations between those connected apps, all in one easy-to-navigate environment.

Be careful – not all connectors are built the same

A challenge many SaaS businesses looking to create better integrations and automated workflows face is the often-overlooked shortcomings of the integration connectors available on the market today.

That's because, as we touched on earlier, creating an integration connector is time consuming, requiring the technical team to study the API documentation of the third-party application, handling the authentication, testing the connector and conducting a continuous mantainance. For the mainstream integrations, SaaS companies therefore turn to middleware from the likes of Zapier and others, which typically aren’t the complete offerings you would expect (we explore this in even more detail in our latest e-book, where we explain the shortcoming of Zapier and advatntages of embedded integration platforms).

Furthemore, these middleware providers can be extremely costly, in some cases charging on a consumption-based model as well as on individual excess charges for things like data transmitting. Unsurprisingly, these charges add up – fast.

Besides that, they simply aren’t as helpful or easy as they market themselves to be; with Zapier, for example, while you can build your own connectors, getting them up and running can be a headache. Once you’ve set up authentication and decided on what your connector should do and the triggers and actions that it’s associated with, you then have to publish it. At this stage, it’s in Zapier’s hands – they will let you know when it’s ready and will take some time to come back to you with their response and launch timeline. At best, this slows down your roadmap. At worst, Zapier refuses to publish your integration, and you’re back to square one.

It’s no wonder that creating effective, cost-efficient integrations have historically been seen as a pain, and modern middleware solutions aren’t doing much to change that perception. Thankfully there are solutions out there that make it easier than ever to satisfy the integration needs of your customers.

With the right integration platform, it’s possible to build connectors quickly and easily, allowing you to create the integration capabilities your customers need whilst saving on precious dev resources. Ideally, you should be able to do this in three simple steps:

  1. Embed: Insert a solution like Appmixer into your SaaS, adjust the look and feel and start with a set of ready-made connectors.
  2. Create a connector: Define and implement what you want your custom connector to do.
  3. Test: Test your custom connector locally to make sure it’s doing what you want it to, then hit publish.
  4. Play: Once it’s live, your customers can use your custom connector in their own workflows.

It really is that easy. From there, you can be confident that whatever your customers need, you’ll be able to build it in a matter of hours. In turn, you’ll be positioning yourself as a true value-add partner for new and existing customers alike, as you give them the keys to integrate apps, automate workflows and let their data flow – without having to write a single line of code!

If you’re ready to embrace connector integrations but haven’t found the right connector or have more questions about your integration needs, we’ve got you covered. Appmixer has plenty of existing connection options, but if you can’t find the one you’re looking for, our developers are on hand to help. With Appmixer, you can build custom connectors to any third-party app; either build it yourself following the four steps above or request a new connector that we’ll build for you.