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Salesforce AppExchange And How to Get There

Last night I dreamt I went to a fancy restaurant. I was surrounded by tens of super chefs, who served me the most delicious meals I could imagine. At some point, feelings took over me - and (damn it) I woke up. 

When I woke up I could hardly remember anything - my lips only whispered something like Salesforce Apps Exchange. Hmm, should I see a psychoanalyst? No, I’m alright: fine apps and great vendors = Salesforce AppExchange.

What is Salesforce AppExchange?

AppExchange is an online Salesforce marketplace with thousands of handy apps and extensions designed to make your experience within the Salesforce environment smooth and efficient. To put it bluntly, AppExchange for Salesforce is what App Store for Apple. (Actually, AppExchange was originally named App Store. Legend says Benioff gave the name to Jobs in exchange for a new iPhone. Who knows.)

How many apps are on the Salesforce AppExchange?In 2022 the number of apps and add-ons there has reached 4600. The number of installs has exceed 10 million.

You probably wouldn’t spend hours on your iPhone if it weren’t for some special apps you literally can’t live without. These apps can do significant metamorphosis into a thing, which is basically made for calling. You install an app – and you have a piano, a slot machine, a TV set, a map with a compass, anything – you can turn your device into myriads of things. 

What is Salesforce AppExchange

If we project this on the Salesforce Apps Exchange, you probably won’t change default Salesforce functionality so dramatically, but you will definitely make the end-user’s experience way more convenient and manageable.

How to Get Your App on AppExchange

Every year Salesforce platform generates billions of revenue and it’s still growing. The SF ecosystem (Salesforce economy) is even bigger: it is actually 6 times larger than Salesforce itself. Besides, the Salesforce economy is expected to create 3.8 million new direct jobs plus 5.5 million indirect jobs (for instance, first group spending on local products and services). Impressive, ain’t it?

If you feel like being a part of this Salesforce empire – one of the ways to get into the Salesforce economy environment is to become an ISV (Independent Software Vendor). Establishing ISV is not only about brand awareness – many Salesforce ISVs are actually raising millions

The extension (either it is an app or solution) is an additional capacity and functionality to Salesforce’s native mechanism.

There may be a solution that will work not only for you but also for the entire community. Software needs the extensions because, at some point in using the software, there is always a need for more. 

Once you have the ideation of your app in your mind, you shout Eureka in the middle of the crowded place, scaring people around you to death. It’s ok, let them know beforehand so that they can be properly prepared to welcome the new Archimedes of the SF universe! 

Your Success AppExchange Journey in four steps:

How to access Salesforce partner community

Business Plan

Times are hectic and everything’s changing every second, but good old planning is not something to be skipped. Do your benchmarking – find out how your future rivals are doing. 

Before creating a Salesforce app, define the specifications, which are rooted in your business plan. Set some reachable goals for the app: reflect on the purposes of the app, and does it make customers’ lives any better.

Develop and Assemble

At the stage of development, there is an environment that makes the Salesforce developers’ experience less painful (don’t forget, the developer’s mental health is a fragile thing) – Lightning Platform. “Anyone can build a Salesforce app!” At least Lightning Platform takes it for granted – it provides a new generation of app builders with a friendly no-hassle environment to make their high-reaching ideas come true.

However, Salesforce app development may require among other things good expertise in Salesforce architecture. At some point you may want to hire salesforce developers – professionals who are familiar with Salesforce languages, frameworks, etc – i.e. Apex, Visualforce, Lightning, and LWC. At Grinteq, we’ve practiced Salesforce applications development (as well as maintaining and upgrading already existing ones) for almost half a decade and will be happy to lend you a hand.

AppExchange Package

SFDC AppExchange app development has a concept of a Package. Basically, it means apps are assembled or “packed” as a bundle of components (App, Component, Data Set, Flow, Bolt). Such an assembly of all the components that the app consists of can be managed or unmanaged. 

Salesforce partners typically use Managed packages to distribute their applications. Managed Packaging has some benefits: Salesforce allows you to do push upgrades, provides you with IP protection, and more. 

Unmanaged packages are used mostly for open source projects, but also as a basic tool set of building blocks and elements for apps. Components of Unmanaged Packages can be edited by the community.

To gather all the components of your app, you can use a Package Manager. Package Manager Interface has a dropdown option, where you can pick Components, adding them to your package. (e.g.: Action, Apex Class, Apex Trigger, Button or Link, Communication Channel, Layout, Custom Field, Custom Object, Dashboard, Document, Email Template, Folder, Lightning Page, Field Set).

Package manager - AppExchange Salesforce

Dealing with the AppExchange in Salesforce, we mostly speak of apps however there are also various types of published entities:

  • Lightning Components: Standalone UI components
  • Lightning Bolts: Communities templates
  • Einstein Analytics: Analytics templates
  • Lightning Data: Data enrichment services and apps

In order to seamlessly shift from packaging to a publishing stage, do the following:

  • Create your SF AppExchange Publishing Organization account
  • Create Packaging Organization (Org) 
  • Connect a Packaging Org to the Publishing Console
  • Add a package to the AppExchange solution listing
  • Create your Provider Profile

Provider Profile – I can see you’re brushing away this part. Remember your mother told you that first impressions are the most lasting? Try to establish trustful relations with your customers by manifesting your mission statement, values, and fascinating facts about your company. When users browse AppExchange listings, they see this information.

How to publish a Salesforce app on AppExchange? Inside view

Create and edit your AppExchange Listing

Now is this exciting moment when your app concept is going to be formalized according to AppExchange standards. 

Go to Salesforce Partner Community, open the Publishing console, and find the Listings tab. Click New Listing to create your listing. 

Here is the sacred place where your product will be dissected as a poor laboratory frog  - piece by piece - you’re going to pack up your app in sort of digital parcels, tab by tab. 

Open a Business Plan tab: here you can be specific about the business plan of your offering. This may also contain information on product architecture, compliance information, etc.

Salesforce AppExchange - Business plan tab

Service Offering field: specify your industry focus (domain), and select listing categories.

Text tab. Articulate your bright solution – introduce your brainchild to the world. Add your contact information, specify the channels customers can reach you, messengers, etc – so that customers can call you up in the middle of the night to say how they admire your product!

AppExchange Salesforce - interface

Media tab. For those who won’t get the message without visuals. Add some flavors: promo screenshots, quick instructional videos, fancy colors, good resolution banners, and (friendly advice) no Times New Romans fonts, no awkward stock images.

AppExchange listing - Media tab

Trials tab. Select the test drive or free trial option to show what a kind-hearted vendor you are. See if they get this sugarcane – in the end, everybody’s happy - no strings attached like it or leave it attitude. 

Leads tab allows you to have insights about downloads of your Salesforce app and other activities related to your product, while in the Pricing tab there are multiple options to configure your pricing strategy.

Security Review. Aha, are you already sweating cold? Keep up, we are doing good. Read your mantras and meditate for a while. We are about to – crucial moment !– submit your taking-the-breath-away app to a security review. And your breath can be taken away for a while. 

After your app is approved (fingers crossed), make your AppExchange listing public and available for the community.

Afterward, select the Installation option. Can be tricky, as this is one of the toughest pain points of the customer journey. And your aim (if you know a thing or two about retention) is to provide the best possible installation experience to your customers if you want them to become your paying customers. 

Register your package license settings. Tools like LMA (license management app) allow you to have a better vision, and understanding of customers' behavior.

All set? 

LINK Marketplace / LINK Cartridges

LINK Marketplace is another online Salesforce marketplace not to be confused with AppExchange. With AppExchange’s arsenal alone, your org can upgrade the Salesforce platform into a very powerful digital commerce cyborg ready to head-hunt shoppers. But yet there may be some lacunas concerning compatibility and integration with 3rd parties. 

Perhaps the most critical point is payment integration for SFCC. Natively, by default, Salesforce doesn’t provide the connection with 3rd parties services. This is a very complicated task, which demands strong expertise in Salesforce architecture. The good news is that there are some proxy services - whose mission is to fulfill this gap between Salesforce and various payment methods, etc - payment processors, tax calculation services - these are so-called Link Cartridges or SFCC Cartridges.

Summary

Salesforce is powerful machinery by default, yet with a bit of AppExchange magic, you can fine-tune it to your business use-cases, turning it into something really dynamic. To be precise – about 4000 helping hands – extensions that will take your SF experience to the next level. 

With already more than 9 million installs and 100.000 reviews, AppExchange is foremost about growing a stronger community: a scene where Salesforce partners and trailblazers are showcasing their vision, and sharing their values.

Pavel Ponomarenko

Pavel Ponomarenko

Pavel is a content ninja trained in the ecommerce and tech.