For any online business, a well-designed marketplace is central to driving 360-degree customer experience. For organisations that have invested in setting up and operating a cloud services business, however, it is the nature of the marketplace offerings and their seamless integration into users’ workflows that sets a service provider apart from its competitors.
To give a bit more context, traditional cloud providers have largely focused on selling infrastructure as a service (IaaS), with slight emphases on software that lets enterprises ‘manage’ IT. We call this the first-level of value-added services that include (and usually not limited to) security, backups & recovery and monitoring tools. Typically, traditional marketplaces offer a combined catalogue of various flavours of virtual compute, storage and networking, along with these first-level value-added services. Together, they cater to 70-80% of the typical enterprise IT requirements.
The dynamic, however, changes when enterprises increasingly start exploring these marketplaces for their core engineering operations. This shift could be for various reasons – service provider alignment, cost concerns, agility requirements, data localisation, security – to name a few. The paradigm suddenly changes from an ITSM-driven model to a DevOps-driven model.
A modern cloud marketplace is a unique business problem – in the sense that it has to strike a balance between vertical and horizontal marketplaces. It also needs to find a sweet spot between a listing and a central hub for IT service management. Moreover, since the conception, management and delivery of services all happen online, a cloud marketplace needs to act as a fully contained integration of administrative, billing and technical operations.
This article dives deeper into how cloud service providers should realign their marketplace philosophy to cater to these needs.
Sync with the Technology Landscape
As a regional cloud provider, the competition is directly from the global biggies and it’s only a matter of time before they enter the region. In such cases, just selling IaaS with first-level VAS is not going to be enough. It, therefore, becomes extremely necessary for regional cloud providers to stay completely in sync with the changing technology landscape and market dynamics.
This involves a two-pronged approach. The first is to understand and build a wide range of services, i.e., the horizontal approach. Think dev platforms, containers, data pipelines, machine learning, DevOps, automation – and take what aligns best with the service provider’s positioning in their local market.
The second is to then build a deep catalogue of integrations within each category, i.e., the vertical approach. By giving customers more choices, service providers can lower the barriers to acquiring more customers significantly by giving them an option to bring their own software and pre-existing vendor relationships.
Provide a Unified Experience
A cloud services marketplace is essentially an experiential layer on top of systems that are integrated with each other. In other words, rather than just ‘listing’ services in a catalogue, marketplaces should enable automatic provisioning, day one operations and viewing reports and utilisation for all the available services.
This helps in various ways. First, this allows service providers to put their brand upfront. Second, this ensures that users can perform the most common operations without leaving the cloud console. Third, customers can view how they’re using virtual resources (infrastructure, software etc.) and plan their costs and usage accordingly.
Besides the stickiness that it creates, having a unified experience also provides marketing opportunities for upselling or cross-selling other services and by building a wholesome customer profile.
Integrate with Other Ecoystems
Entering into reseller partnerships with AWS, GCP, Azure etc. can give a huge boost to the cloud marketplace and enable the cloud provider to create a co-opetitive landscape in the region. While this helps the biggies enter the region, it also creates an undeniable business opportunity to the local provider, who can, in addition to their own infrastructure, also resell services from the Amazon, Google and Microsoft marketplaces.
Further, this integration also provides immense ‘improvement’ opportunities and feedback into service excellence by taking cues from the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
Allow a Single Window for Operations
The user experience in a marketplace should not be limited to just the services being offered and should be extended to business operations as well. While account, technical operations and catalogue/inventory management are basic requirements of any online business, cloud marketplaces should also cater to billing, financial and support management.
This essentially means that customers should be able to view complete billing records of the services and resources that they have consumed. The platform should enable making transactions, viewing invoices and, in some cases, even support single-level finance and accounting. Finally, customers should be able to contact support by raising and tracking tickets and driving the support SLA from that end.
At IndiQus, we have created a unique solution for regional service providers to launch and operate an in-country cloud business. We believe that to build a cloud business to profitability, providers need technical, service and market excellence. Our cloud platform, apiculus®, provides the technical capabilities while our experienced team of technical operations experts provide the L2/L3 support. And with our domain knowledge combined with your market knowledge, we can, together, build a world-class public cloud for your region. Drop us a line to get more details.