This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as Salesforce.com celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch. The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.
Tango Card is another clever idea enabled for the AppExchange. Like some other ideas, this one helps to reduce business friction and enables vendors and customers to work better together.
At its simplest, Tango Card is a small gift distribution system but on a deeper level it is a customer service and support system that addresses problems long left untreated because the solution was once more expensive than the original problem. Tango Card provides users with a simple method of making small gifts of, say, five or ten dollars. This approach to gifting is being adopted by technology vendors to thank webinar participants for attending, to acknowledge a service shortfall and make amends with customers and by healthcare organizations to help tie incentives to healthy decisions, for example.
Making such a small gift once required going to a retail store and buying a gift card. The whole process could eat up valuable time that few people in business wanted to invest. But these small gifts are ideal for acknowledging someone’s value, for instance as an appreciation for something well done, which means there’s a need going unfilled.
Today, many companies use Starbucks cards as small spiffs for employees or partners. But what if the recipient is not a fan or doesn’t drink coffee? Tango Card solves this problem in a clever and unique way.
Each Tango Card is convertible into a range of gift cards so that the receiver can get something meaningful without a huge investment in time and effort by the donor. Currently Tango Cards are convertible into gift cards for Amazon, Nike, REI and Facebook as well as Starbucks — 20 different suppliers in all. And recipients also have the choice of donating the value of the card to charities — nine of the top non-profits so far and more are in the works. So now, when a company as small as a local real estate agency wants to thank someone for a lead, for example, it can simply give a Tango Card.
The Salesforce system provides the online backbone that enables subscribers to make purchases and direct them to recipients. Billing is tied to the user’s Tango Card account so what used to be a time consuming process can be handled in a few seconds from a desktop. Equally important, the Tango Card system uses the Salesforce reporting engine to help users track their spending and analyze its effectiveness.
In the near term CEO and founder, David Leeds, expects to begin involving neighborhood retailers in Tango Card offers to make them even more relevant to recipients.
The possibilities for this kind of gifting are very big and while it might be hard to say how it will unfold, it is nearly certain that without the ingenuity of Tango Card and the flexibility of the AppExchange, this solution would still be only a concept.
The AppExchange is undoubtedly a significant portion of what makes salesforce.com unique. Pre-integrated solutions dramatically reduce the cost to the customer to extend the capabilities of Salesforce and the fact that it has already gone through growing pains means it will take other providers years to mimic its capability and impact.
~Narinder Singh, co-founder and CSO, Appirio
Nine Years ago I wrote The New Garage. It was a thought piece that tried to peer into the future of Software as a Service (SaaS) and make some predictions from a business and economics perspective. Salesforce had recently started promoting its platform in the making (then called S-Force) and encouraging third parties to develop applications that complemented and extended the basic Salesforce CRM solution so there was reason to speculate about the impact this new approach would have.
But also, the history of business and industry is a long story of better, faster and cheaper and at that moment all three were all in the driver’s seat. Back office software had already demonstrated many business process improvements leveraging automation and the Internet, and I thought it was time to turn some of these techniques on software. SaaS was a good start but it had further to go, I thought.
Early impacts lead to tipping point
I saw S-Force as a tool and an economic system that could revolutionize software, making it possible to create and deploy it in a just in time fashion. At that time you almost had to be nuts to think that. After all, even after the initial success of SaaS, software was still something you installed and slaved over for a long time before you got it right, not something you could just plug in like an appliance. And integration? Don’t ask! What was I thinking?
“We’re at a tipping point,” that’s what I was thinking.
The cold, hard truth of the matter was that you couldn’t expect to sell software subscriptions for a few bucks a month and encumber yourself with all the overhead of a traditional software company because you’d go broke. Something had to give. Either software would forever be something you sculpted from a block of marble or you had to figure out how to stamp out perfect copies that plugged in and just ran — no excuses.
My bet was that we could do the stamping but it wasn’t based on any hard economic data. It was based only the conviction that commoditization would have to continue and that something like what’s now the AppExchange would be the result. In truth, there were predecessors to the AppExchange. Steve Jobs opened an online store at NeXT in 1997 and six years later in 2003 Apple set iTunes in motion and today you can buy tens of thousands of apps at the AppStore for all your Apple devices.
All in a name
It’s hardly remembered today but the AppStore (name and domain) were originally Salesforce properties and that CEO, Marc Benioff, gave them to Apple. According to a 2008 Benioff interview with Bloomberg, Jobs had met with Benioff and his team in 2003 to offer advice on the Salesforce online store and the gift was a gesture of gratitude by Benioff to Jobs.
A store for enterprises
But those were consumer sites; there had never been an online application store for enterprise grade software until salesforce.com launched the AppExchange in January 2006. This year marks the seventh anniversary for AppExchange an odd anniversary to celebrate perhaps, but a good chance to look at the AppExchange to see how well it is living up to the original vision. Here are some of my observations.
- The partners have built a long list of useful solutions including HR systems, field service, accounting systems, sales tools and marketing automation products. These are systems that enrich the Salesforce experience but at the same time represent application areas where Salesforce has decided not to concentrate its resources. Where Salesforce has stepped aside, the partners have stepped in.
- The AppExchange created the opportunity for a very long tail of credible business solutions. In the more than 1,700 applications you can find on the AppExchange, there is a host of small applications that just make life easier for the Salesforce customer; some are strategic and many are exceptional. They are applications that integrate with other applications, distribute incredibly fine-grained information and automate processes in unlikely ways that just happen to work well for populations of users who need those exact solutions.
- The AppExchange is a good place to do business for companies of any size, especially for SMB’s. Many AppExchange vendors tell me that they make their living building and servicing their apps to the point that the permutations of Salesforce CRM with partner applications is, if not infinite, then at least very large (roughly 1700! or 1700 factorial). I had predicted this in The New Garage but I had envisioned problems with revenue splits and single sign-on. Both challenges have been dealt with.
- Perhaps most importantly, enterprises go to the AppExchange to find and buy solutions. One of the constant refrains I hear from AppExchange CEOs is that enterprise buyers find them on the AppExchange and buy solutions through it.
So here we are after seven years and the AppExchange is by all measures a big success. This blog is the first in a short series of posts that report on the AppExchange’s growth and the success of some of its many partners from small boutiques to large businesses. This series pays particular attention to ten AppExchange partners that distinguished themselves last year including in no particular order: TaskRay, TOA Technologies, Contactually, The TAS Group, Tango Card, Zapier, Apttus, KnowWho, nCino and KXEN.