What Are Third-Party Integrations? (Plus How They Work)

Updated February 3, 2023

During product and system development, you can use a third-party application or tool to improve a product or service. This third-party integration process involves analyzing the features of other products and the guidelines for joining the products together. Learning about this integration process can help you properly use and add third-party systems to improve a product and increase profits.

In this article, we discuss how third-party integrations work, explain the pros and cons of using external applications and provide tips for choosing the best outside systems for a product.

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How do third-party integrations work?

Third-party integration is the attachment of an application programming interface (API) from one application to another. Many developers use this integration to enable the product to perform the same functions as the program it integrated.

For example, to track the number of readers for a blog post, a developer may implement the API of a popular analytics tool on the website, providing access to the useful feature. Here are the steps of the third-party integration process:

  1. Identify an API that complements the performance of a product.

  2. Review the rules for integration to ensure compatibility.

  3. Integrate the external system into the product.

Related: SDK vs. API: What's the Difference? (Plus Examples)

Advantages of third-party integrations

Here are the benefits of implementing third-party integrations into an application:

Attaches familiar applications

Third-party integrations can make the system more familiar to consumers. They may already know how to operate external applications, which can make it easier for them to use the features of the new application. Prioritizing convenience for users can make positive impressions on them, allowing you to sustain their interests and attract new customers who can benefit from the product.

For example, instead of requiring users to make a separate personal account, you can present the option to sign in using popular social media or email platforms. Consider third-party systems with simple functions that users may easily recognize.

Related: What Is User Experience (UX) Design? What You Need To Know

Improves product functioning

Another advantage of third-party integration includes the enhancement of the product's performance. You can integrate external systems to provide features that the original application lacked, which can make the functioning more versatile.

For example, if the initial layout of a music streaming application doesn't have a function to share playlists to social media profiles, you can use an API integration to attach the new feature, enabling users to share their creations and attract new subscribers to the music service. You can use existing systems to make the product more memorable and profitable in the market.

Related: 5-Step Approach to Using Integration Testing

Differentiates from other businesses

A product may compete with similar products that target the same demographics of consumers. This competition makes it important to distinguish the program from others. The third-party integration can represent a unique addition to the application and persuade consumers to choose the product over competitors.

You can prioritize external systems that offer convenient and popular experiences for the users. Introducing the API to the product you designed may provide a competitive edge to increase downloads and revenue. Consider investigating third-party integration efforts of similar businesses to learn how to distinguish your efforts.

Related: Definitive Guide to Brand Competition: Types, Examples and Tips

Boosts customer retention

Exceeding competitors and providing engaging user experiences can boost customer retention and keep them subscribed and engaged with the product and service. Third-party integration can represent that the brand values its users and their interests, and you can capitalize off of trends in the industry.

For example, if a chat application becomes popular among consumers, then pursuing a third-party integration can associate the product with the external program's success. This allows the company to maintain its current customers by continually working to meet their needs as the industry and trends change.

Related: 13 User Engagement Metrics To Measure and Track in 2022

Includes the necessary functions

With third-party integration, you can use beneficial features without designing and installing the features themselves. The process can save the team time and resources throughout the development process. By using an external system, you can have the assurance that the application performs correctly, which means you can reduce the need for lengthy testing procedures.

The application may also engage users and already include parts that can enhance the product. For example, instead of designing payment options for customers to make in-app purchases for products, you can implement bank applications that already exist and include the necessary parts.

Related: A Guide to the 8 Phases of Product Development

Disadvantages of third-party integrations

Here are the disadvantages of third-party integrations:

Relies on the performance of the API

One drawback of third-party integration is relying on the performance of the external system. If the API malfunctions, it can affect the performance of the product that it's integrated with, which can affect the user experience.

For example, when an email application glitches, every program that has the email's integration may also experience issues. When selecting a third-party API, evaluate its stability and performance. Vetting the third-party options extensively can help avoid issues.

Related: Guide to Product Adaptation

Adheres to specific regulations

When assessing your options for third-party regulations, review the regulations for using the APIs. There may be limitations on how you can manipulate the external application to streamline the product you're building.

The regulations can make it challenging for you to secure a cohesive experience for the users and structure to supersede competitors. To avoid challenges, you can review alternative options to ensure that the API you use provides the necessary freedoms and that you can easily comply with its standards.

Related: 16 Types of API Management Platforms (With Definition)

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Tips for selecting third-party integrations

Here are some tips you can use to select a third-party integration application that works best for a product:

  • Consider the purpose of the product. Think about the reasons consumers may use the product and the features they may expect to see on the application. The product's purpose can help you identify applications that can enhance the function of the program and work to achieve the same goal.

  • Channel the perspective of the user. You can also reflect the user's interests and preferences in your selection of third-party integration. Choose applications they may already be familiar with and consider distributing surveys to gain insight into your consumers, which can enable you to pick the right choice.

  • Ensure compatibility with third-party apps and the product. Once you've identified possible third-party applications, make sure they can integrate seamlessly into the system. Review the regulations and technical components from a technological perspective to ensure that the integration can help reach the goals of the product design.

  • Evaluate the beneficial features the integration can provide. Prioritize third-party applications with unique features that can resonate better with consumers. Anticipate how the integration can make the users enjoy navigating the application and save you the option of building those features yourself.

  • Contemplate adding multiple selections. Integrating multiple applications into the product can heighten the possibility that the users recognize products they already enjoy. For example, for the account creation page, you can include options to sign in using multiple social media and email platforms.

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