Intercom integrates with Twilio, jumps on the developer ecosystem bandwagon

Just providing a really valuable product isn't nearly enough -- you need to convince developers to build tools on top of your platform as well.

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There has been a massive move in recent years with companies looking to build broad ecosystems around their products.

In the old days, a software vendor would create a product and, somewhat grudgingly, let developers integrate with it for the super-niche opportunities that the core platform itself couldn't cover. Times have changed since then, however, and the rise of the long tail of specialist organizations has meant a growing recognition: that vendors cannot hope to cover the majority of use cases themselves, and need to look to third-party partners to create tools to augment their own products.

In every sector -- CRM, ERP, PSA -- there has been a huge move to create broad ecosystem of interdependent third-party vendors that leverage each other's tools to deliver customer needs. This has been especially so in the developer space with the growth of componentized, modular developer tools that people can use as virtual Legos when building their own software products.

Companies like Twilio are a great example of this: delivering a communications platform as a service that many other vendors use to quickly and easily build comms into their own products.

And so it is with the announcement of messaging vendor Intercom's developer program. The program, which is being led by Hugh Durkin, himself the former head of Facebook's global API partner program, is aimed at supporting a growing community of developers that build tools on top of Intercom's core product.

In terms of what it actually does, Intercom delivers a range of messaging products that are used by sales, marketing and customer services teams to engage in conversations with their various stakeholders. Using the Intercom platform, organizations can have conversations within a number of contexts -- in their apps, on their websites, across social medial and via email. The company claims 13,000 business customers globally.

In terms of what the developer program actually means for third-party developers and the ecosystem more generally, Intercom is rolling out five new integrations to whet the appetite of people:

  • Aircall: Record and access your customer phone calls in Intercom
  • ChargeDesk: Manage Stripe, PayPal, Braintree and Recurly customer payments inside Intercom
  • FullStory: Get pixel-perfect playback of a user's session on your website so you can provide better support
  • Productboard: Distill insights from Intercom to decide what to build next
  • Statbot: One-click, zero-setup analytics and insights for Intercom

Additionally, the company is announcing that it is launching SMS notifications powered by Twilio's SMS API into its Acquire messaging product -- one of the most popular products that helps drive more than half of the company's revenue. The cool thing about this integration -- at least for those who think continuity across platforms within a single conversation is cool -- is the fact that, using this integration, consumers can use SMS to continue website conversations with consumers.

A seemingly simply idea, this will avoid the drop-off where customers start conversations with businesses on their website but don't wait for a response, or worse, waste time waiting for a response. While many live chat tools offer email notifications for responses, the reality is that emails can get lost in overloaded inboxes. SMS continuation of conversation resolved that issue.

With the addition of SMS notifications, businesses can offer consumers the option to be notified by SMS or email when the company responds. When the business replies, consumers receive an SMS message that includes a link to continue the conversation within Intercom on the business's website.   

In terms of the developer ecosystem part of this news, Intercom states pretty clearly that this is not an optional business move, but rather, critical to its future.

"It's naive to believe that every customer will use your product in exactly the same way -- each will have their own workflows and processes and (as much as you might wish otherwise) will be using other products alongside yours," said Des Traynor, Intercom's chief strategy officer and co-founder. "We strongly believe that the growing ecosystem around the Intercom platform is an essential part of building the most valuable product possible for our customers."


Developers are an integral part of organizations across the spectrum delivering innovation and agility. Intercom is one of a plethora of organizations leveraging this fact, and its own developer ecosystem will help it execute its own business opportunity.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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