A guide to embedded integration platforms

As you look to build product integrations, you’ll have a few different options for implementing them.

There’s native integrations, which involves leveraging your in-house engineers to build and maintain them; universal APIs, which allow you to offer a whole category of integrations (e.g. HRIS) by building to a single API; and an embedded integration solution, otherwise known as an embedded iPaaS, that lets you build one product integration at a time.

To help you suss out whether an embedded integration solution is right for your business, we’ll break down how the platform generally works, common tools in the market, their advantages and disadvantages, and more.

What is an embedded integration?

It’s an integration that sits between your product and a client’s 3rd-party application. Through these integrations, your clients can easily keep data in sync as well as automate workflows within your product—all but ensuring clients get more value from your solution.

What is an embedded integration platform?

It’s a 3rd-party tool that lets you build integrations between your product and clients’ 3rd-party applications. You may be able to white label these integrations to make it seem as if they’re built natively; and you can let your clients’ users build and maintain the integrations or limit this responsibility to clients.

A visualization of an embedded iPaaS

Related: Common cloud-to-cloud integration tools

Embedded integration platform vs integration platform

An embedded integration platform is often used synonymously with an integration platform, but the two aren’t one and the same. 

An embedded integration platform falls under the category of integration platforms, but it differs from most of the other integration solutions in that it only offers customer-facing integrations; integration platforms largely focus on internal integrations (i.e. integrations between the applications your teams use).

Why your organization might need an embedded integration platform

It comes down to being able to close more sales, retain more clients, and expand to new markets. 

Let’s break down each of these factors.

Increase your close rate

According to Gartner, more than 4 in 5 buyers look for vendors that offer “seamless integrations” with 3rd-party tools. 

Since an embedded integration solution can help you build these integrations faster than you could in-house, you’ll likely be able to not only offer the integrations your prospects want but also provide more integrations than your rivals. This, in turn, can help your product stand out and lead you to close more deals. 

Retain more clients

Embedded integrations, and any product integrations for that matter, allow your clients to realize more value from your solution. 

While it depends on the integrations you offer, your clients can potentially auto-provision users in your product, upload files automatically, analyze specific types of data (e.g. employee compensation) more effectively, and so on. Each of these items translates to improved customer experiences that increases clients’ likelihood of renewing and even spending more with you.

Expand to new markets

As you look to break into specific markets, you’ll likely notice that many of the organizations that operate within it use a certain set of applications. 

For instance, a small and midsize business (SMB) may use a tool like Gusto as their HRIS, Insightly as their CRM, and Quickbooks Online as their accounting tool; all the while, a larger company might use ADP as their HRIS, Salesforce as their CRM, and NetSuite as their accounting system.

If you can build embedded integrations with the applications your target market uses, you’re effectively eliminating a hurdle to earning their business.

Embedded integration benefits

So, why are embedded integration solutions worth investing in?

  • Have a stable and solid reputation: Several vendors have been in business for 10+ years and have positive customer reviews on 3rd-party sites like G2. Both of these facts should provide at least some reassurance that these providers won’t go out of business (at least in the short-term) and will provide a decent customer experience.
  • Offer strong security and governance controls: Many embedded integration solutions comply with stringent data protection regulations, like GDPR, and regularly undergo and pass audits, like SOC 2 Type 2. In addition, they often provide features like role-based access control and two-factor authentication to ensure data is only visible to the right stakeholders.
  • May address your clients’ integration requirements: If you only need to build and maintain a handful of integrations over time, embedded integration solutions can prove to be a suitable solution. Especially if the embedded integration vendors you're considering offer pre-built connectors for these applications.
  • Provide some respite for your engineers: As we’ll cover in the following section, embedded integration solutions aren't easy for anyone to use—your developers included. That said, their pre-built connectors can help you develop integrations faster.

Embedded integration drawbacks

Unfortunately, embedded integration solutions aren’t without their flaws. 

  • Require technical expertise to use: While these platforms brand themselves as low-code/no-code solutions, they often do require coding. In addition, the platforms themselves aren’t necessarily intuitive. As a result, your technical personnel are not only forced to build and maintain the integrations but also become comfortable with using the platform—which can take them several weeks.
  • Force you to build integrations in an incremental fashion: If and when you need to build several integrations within a short period of time, the embedded integration approach of individual builds can become a true liability. 
  • Provide underwhelming maintenance and management capabilities: Your product integrations will inevitably break for a wide range of reasons. And while many embedded integration tools may detect these failures, few, if any, can diagnose why they failed and how these failures can be addressed. This puts the onus on your engineers, which can become unsustainable for them as you scale your integrations. 
  • Lack innovation and constant improvement: Many embedded integration solutions are provided by large companies that offer additional integration and automation products. These large companies often allocate a relatively small share of their engineering and product teams’ resources toward embedded integration tools, leading these products to stagnate and even degrade over time.

Related: The top benefits of using an embedded integration platform

Examples of embedded integration tools

As you navigate the embedded integration market, you’ll likely come across two sets of vendors. There’s the larger iPaaS solutions that also offer “direct” (i.e. internal) integrations, along with other features and capabilities, like API management or UI-based integrations. These vendors include Workato, Boomi, and Tray.io. 

A list of relatively large embedded integration vendors

You also have smaller vendors that solely provide embedded iPaaS solutions. In a few cases, these vendors even specialize in specific industries (e.g. Alloy Automation was, until recently, focused on the e-commerce space). Some of the vendors that fit into this category today include Cyclr, Prismatic, and Paragon.

A list of relatively small embedded integration vendors

While there can be some differences between these vendors, such as the applications they provide pre-built connectors with or the maintenance and management tooling they offer out-of-the-box, they're, by and large, the same.

Related: What you need to know about embedded workflow solutions

How you’d work with an embedded integration platform

Understanding what you’d do and what the embedded integration platform would provide can be confusing, but it’s critical to grasp as you decide whether to invest in this type of integration tool

Here’s a brief look at each group’s areas of responsibility.

Your responsibilities

  • You’d embed the vendor’s iframes and maintain this implementation
  • You’d pick and choose the pre-built application connectors you want to use and go on to build the integrations
  • You’d provision users (i.e. your employees) and assign them with certain permissions
  • You’d manage and maintain the integrations over time (which can involve using the embedded integration solution, along with other tools that collect the API logs)

The embedded integration platform’s responsibilities 

  • They’d provide the pre-built connectors (which they maintain and enhance over time)
  • They’d offer an out-of-the-box dashboard to help you monitor your clients’ integration health
  • They’d deliver security features to keep your clients’ data secure and private, such as encrypting data at rest and in transit

An alternative approach to product integrations: unified APIs

Building to a unified API lets you access a whole category of integrations, whether that’s HRIS, ATS, CRM, marketing automation, etc. This naturally makes the approach of building integrations more scalable. 

Illustration of a unified API

In addition, using Merge, the leading product integration platform, you get:

To learn more about Merge, you can schedule a demo with one of our integration experts.