Third-party Services: What You Need to Know

John Suder
Apr 24, 2020

eCommerce merchants frequently use third-party services to add features to their sites.

These services can add much-needed features to your site – but there are a few things you should know.

Pat Maguire, Director of Technology for SUMO Heavy is here to break it all down for us.

Define what a third party service is – what does that mean to an eCommerce merchant?

Using a third-party service to integrate a new feature means that you're relying on an outside company's technology to power some portion of your site. eCommerce companies do this every day in lots of ways.

What are the different types of third party services and what are the categories that would fall into a third party service? How do they help the eCommerce merchant? 

There are all different types of third-party services. One of the most common third-party integrations we encounter are basic integrations with a shipping carrier where the merchant will send package weight, origin, and destination zip codes, and then they'll receive a shipping rate back, which is charged to the customer at checkout. Some of the other common areas where we'll see merchants integrate with a third-party service would be rewards, loyalty programs, search improvements. There's plenty of marketing services as well.

What are the most popular types of integrations?

We’ve always done a lot of work with clients who use Mailchimp for their email marketing. SearchSpring is a pretty common integration when it comes to improving your Search analytics, And another one that has become more common lately is Yotpo. They have options for both rewards & loyalty programs, as well as customer reviews.

Would you say these are things that a merchant couldn't (and shouldn't) build on their own?

I wouldn’t say that’s a hard and fast rule, but oftentimes yes. The largest benefit of using a third-party service is the ability to add complex functionality pretty quickly. Relying on another company to do so also gives you a level of support when things go wrong.

However, they do tend to come with upfront costs and ongoing maintenance, usually in the form of module upgrades and recurring subscription fees. You have to weigh the cost benefits of building it yourself versus getting something off the shelf.

What should a merchant look for in a third-party provider? 

There are a few things that we always strongly suggest that a merchant considers when evaluating a potential partner. The first is to look for a company with a proven record. There are always going to be a ton of potential partners to evaluate when a merchant is looking to add a new feature to their site.

While testimonials can be wonderful, and look nice on a sales-focused site, we always advise that merchants reach out to existing partners that are working with the service. We’ve found that a lot of organizations will be pretty open about how their integration went and can shed some light on whether or not a partner will, or won't, be a good fit for them.

The second thing we’d recommend is to request as much documentation from the potential partner as you can get, or at least try to find it on your own. Many of these services will be more than welcome to provide you with most of their integration documentation, or client roadmaps before you sign on.

If a service isn't willing to provide you that documentation, or it seems inadequate to you or to your eCommerce developer, we'd really recommend staying away. That’s a huge red flag for us.

Finally, we always recommend working with a provider that has experience working with your specific eCommerce platform. A lot of these services will slap just about every eCommerce platform logo that they can find on their site, but a working knowledge of your specific platform really can be invaluable when you're trying to work through third-party integration.

Any final advice?

If you take anything away from this article, it should be to properly vet your third party vendors when it comes to integrating with an outside service. Trust me, it will save your organization a ton of headaches down the line, and probably a lot of money too.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash