Why the catalog is the key to success for your SaaS marketplace
Often overlooked by marketplace managers, the catalog is actually one of the key success factors that makes or breaks a marketplace.
If you still believe that the catalog does not have a major impact on a marketplace, you'd better read further.
The law of attraction
It does not matter what you are selling through your marketplace: to be successful, it needs sellers and buyers. If you are selling business applications, you need software vendors and customers (typically, SMEs or professionals.)
To attract software vendors, your marketplace needs to provide a good engine, easy onboarding, flexible price modeling and a relevant catalog of products. But that is not enough: software vendors need to feel that their applications have to be in your catalog. That is why if you are distributing applications of other appreciated SaaS players or competitors they will be more likely to get onboard.
Size matters, but do not forget about quality
A broader array of products means that visitors have more choice, which attracts more customers, which leads to increased revenue and profitability. This rule applies both to horizontal marketplaces where customers can find a wide range of products (ie. Amazon), and vertical marketplaces where customers can find more specialized products (ie. Dell.)
However, this does not mean that you should add any software to your catalog. This is especially true if you are running your own marketplace and your customers trust you: they expect you to select over time the best products on their behalf, and ensure quality and reliability.
Typically, there are three types of product you can add to your catalog:
1- Mainstream softwares: some softwares are already known to your potential customers. They might find your marketplace looking for them and/or they might evaluate your marketplace depending on their presence. If you go to a supermarket and you do not see the products you find in any other supermarket (ie. PepsiCo or Gillette), you might suspect that there is something strange and you will probably take a negative view of it. Moreover, there are SMEs and professionals that are more likely to spend a bit more to purchase premium brands.
2- Niche softwares: softwares from less-known software houses or independent software vendors. These softwares can be extremely vertical and complete, or geo-targeted, or industry-specific - meaning that major brands might probably not cover this niches. These are often the services that SMEs and professionals are more likely to buy because generally they are less expensive, harder to find across the net, and represent a better fit for their specific needs.
3- Own-branded softwares: when you run your marketplace, especially if you already have your own customer base (for example, you are a Service Provider), you market your own applications or white-labelled softwares under your brand. SMEs and professionals tend to like these products because - given your trust - they perceive them as safe and reliable.
Your catalog is your business card
It may sound a little extreme, but your catalog is the way you introduce your marketplace to your visitors.
Like any other marketplace, SaaS marketplaces need to make sure that the process of product discovery is frictionless: visitors need to find and compare products easily, without wasting their time browsing an infinite catalog.
Most SaaS marketplaces offer applications across horizontal categories such as productivity, security, CRM, sales and so on. Anyway, vertical catalogs (consultancy, communication agency, graphic designer, etc.) are getting more and more popular. If you already have a customer base, segmenting the catalog by industry could be a good strategy.
Do not forget to define in advance which kind of products will fall within each category. For example, you could determine the following horizontal categories for your marketplace: marketing, IT support, legislation, financial management, collaboration, customer management and project management. Then, for each category you should identify the appropriate sub-categories: for example the marketing category will include softwares for building websites, social media management and email campaigns management; while the collaboration category will include softwares for web conferencing, webinars, sharing files and streaming.
A well-made catalog will allow potential customers to find the product they need while discovering new softwares they might need or consider. This is why categories should include different softwares, possibly with different pricing points.
Anyway, categories should not be the only way to filter applications on the marketplace: visitors should be able to filter apps by popularity, price or customer ratings.
Considering that some users may look for a specific product, it is crucial that your search engine is efficient and easy to use.
It is fundamental that all the products in your catalog are correlated, so that you can provide recommendations based on similar apps, previous purchases or other apps from the same vendor.
Avoid empty storefronts
Would you enter a shop where storefronts are empty? I would not, and I am not the only one.
In the same way, on your SaaS marketplace you should provide complete information about the softwares in your catalog.
Make sure the applications you distribute have a compelling description: users need to understand why they need that software, its features and benefits, and the pricing model. Pictures and videos should be provided too, so that the customer knows how the application will look like. This is important especially for those softwares that are not mainstream and that most users do not know (yet.)
Let’s take stock
It should now be clear why the catalog is an element that cannot be overlooked in a marketplace.
At Cloudesire, we developed a marketplace platform for the distribution of business application softwares that includes a strong search engine and complete catalog management.
Every marketplace manager can define which categories will be used on the marketplace and which filters users will be able to apply. If you want to learn more about categories, tags and keywords in Cloudesire, take a look at this video.