Updated on August 6, 2020
There are over 3,000 apps on the Salesforce AppExchange. How do you know which are best suited for your organization? How do you effectively search for them? What are some key factors in evaluating apps? This article will explore all the nuances of installing AppExchange apps, and how to avoid some pitfalls in the process.
What is the AppExchange?
AppExchange is the Salesforce marketplace where Salesforce users can find apps, Components, Bolt Solutions, Lightning Data enrichment tools, and Salesforce AppExchange partners.
AppExchange was created back in 2006 to help Salesforce users customize their Salesforce environments faster, easier and without significant investment.
There are free and paid apps.
Quite often, only Salesforce Administrators can install apps in their Salesforce orgs.
Check out the infographic at the end of this post to learn more about the AppExchange history.
Without a further ado here are our tips on how to search and select AppExchange apps.
Start by asking yourself the following questions.
1. Why do you need the Salesforce app?
Is there a business process or challenge you face, that you believe the app will solve? The more clear you are on the problem, and what the solution would look like, the quicker you’ll be able to evaluate the app in its features and capabilities (and shortcomings too!) Some common business cases for needing an app are:
- Data cleansing – too many duplicates, need a quick way to merge or delete or even editing records in mass fashion.
- Marketing – need a more affordable option for small business to create templates and mass email.
- Mapping – need a way to see data on a map for any object.
- Mass Actions – example, need a way to “log a call” once, but have it apply to many records.
- Document generation – need a way to take the data in Salesforce, and have a contract, invoice or flyer generated.
2. Are you the Salesforce admin?
Only admins can install apps, and while it may seem appealing for a user to visit the AppExchange and get excited about some of the apps, it will ultimately depend on your admin and how willing they are to explore some apps on your behalf.
3. How to Search for meaningful apps in the Salesforce AppExchange
As an admin, you’ll want to leverage some of the best ways you can find apps in the AppExchange.
Go to AppExchange.com and browse all available apps for your Salesforce Org.
The Home tab will display Apps that are suggested for you. This is all Einstein’s work. Based on your Salesforce user profile, Einstein brings to you apps that you might be interested in. This is a blend of other apps you might have installed, reviewed or your industry. The Home tab will also feature apps that have paid to sponsor their app on the ‘front page’.
Listing by Type
Although it’s called the AppExchange, this area will allow you to also search for non-apps, such as Components, Bolt Solutions and Lightning Data enrichment tools. If you’re just searching for apps, you’re likely better off using the other two filters (Product Collections & Industry Collections).
Product and Industry Collections
Product Collections will ask you to pick the type of Salesforce platform you’re on. Sales Cloud apps an solutions will different from Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud.
If you have multiple platforms in your org, you might also want to try searching for Industry Collections. Here you can select your industry (such as Education or Non-Profit), and see what apps align themselves with your vertical. This browsing will allow you to get a sense for the apps that exist, that you may not have even realized you needed!
While using categories and industries is a good way to start, know that AppExchange allows only one category and two industries for each app.
e.g., our Ascendix Search app for advanced Salesforce search, filtering and bulk actions is in a Productivity category. While we’d love to locate our app in other categories like Data Cleansing, Admin & Developer Tools, Analytics, we can’t do it.
That’s why you might limit yourself and might overlook the decent app for your Org when using the search by categories. The good news is that there is a keyword search on AppExchange.
Intelligent Keyword Search
Salesforce has improved its searching algorithm in 2017 and now uses a machine-learning algorithm that influences the sorting of results over time. Now it is easier to find the relevant apps as relevancy is the main driver behind the search results.
AppExchange search is a keyword search looking for matches on the many different text portions of a listing with a specific focus on title, tagline and short description.
Putting in a few keywords will likely give you results that fall under all categories (apps, components, bolt solutions, etc…). From there you can see the relevance of the results to your search word.
Here are some easy tips to search for Salesforce AppExchange apps:
- Try several keywords. The AppExchange should contain the keyword you are looking for to appear in your search results.
- By default, you will see only the first ten apps that match your keyword search. Make sure to click on the button ‘View All’ to see all the apps.
- AppExchange takes into account the popularity of the app which is based on the last 30 days activity to determine rankings. While it is a great help to see the most popular apps, you might overlook the new apps that are not backed by huge marketing budgets but can help you a lot. So make sure to check at least a few scrolls of the apps not to miss the app you need.
4. You found the app, how can you quickly asses it before installing it?
There are some interesting ways to quickly judge an app by its cover.
Is it Lightning ready?
Lightning is here and now, and Salesforce encourages the migration to Lightning for those still in Classic. You want an app that’s Lightning ready and can still support Classic. It shows that the company is investing its resources on being on a more modern design and UI (User Interface).
Where to check: To check if the App is Lightning ready, go to its AppExchange listing and scroll down the page to Overview > the Highlights section. You should see the Lightning Ready text there if the app is optimized for the Lightning experience.
When was the latest release?
If the latest release was 2 years ago, this is a good indicator that the app has not been updated in some time. It might have bugs that are persistent or unresolved. It also shows the app is not evolving much. You’ll want a release that’s fairly up to date (within 6 months or so).
Where to check: AppExchange listing > Overview > Additional Information > Latest Release
Are there images or screenshots?
It’s nice to be able to get a preview of the app without having to go through the trouble of installing it. Getting a solid sense of what you can expect is helpful, and again it shows the company has gone through the effort to educate its prospects and clients.
Note that some apps on the AppExchange offer a recorded demo. If the demo is available, you’ll see the button ‘Watch a demo.’ You’ll need to sign in to your Salesforce org to watch it. Be aware that the app will get your contact information.
Some apps offer a Test drive option which will allow you to login to the ready-to-use environment with some data and see the app in action without any additional movements.
Are there any reviews?
This goes without saying, in that reviews a great indicator what others experiences have been with the app. As with most reviews, you can take it with a grain of salt, or you can take it literally. Look at apps that have at least 10 reviews to allow for a diverse opinion. Also look for suspicious reviews that look like they were all left on the same day. This is not to say the reviews are not authentic, but perhaps nudged or promoted by the app vendor.
Customization guides are CRUCIAL when it comes to installing apps. They walk you through step by step into how to implement the app in your org. If an app doesn’t even have one published, then that’s a red flag. Sometimes an app might have one, but it’s outdated as well. Just remember poor documentation, might lead you to increasingly depend on the app’s support team which is not ideal when you want something to plug and play.
How much does it cost?
Some Salesforce apps charge by user license, others are site org apps (one cost for all users). Additionally, some apps require you subscribe to a standalone version (example: Box), and the integration with Salesforce itself is free because you already subscribe to the company independently.
The good news is that now all apps are obliged to share their pricing on the Salesforce AppExchange, so no unexpected surprises.
While each AppExchange app undergoes rigorous security checks by Salesforce team, you might still have questions.
Here are some of the questions you may want to ask:
- Will you be able to change the permission sets?
- Does the app respect object and field permissions?
- Does data leave Salesforce?
- Is data stored outside of Salesforce?
- Is data stored or processed by a third party?
- Is any data stored or processed offshore?
5. Where to Install?
Great. Now you found the app that suits your needs based on your initial review it’s time to take it for a test drive. As a safeguard, it’s best to install an app in a Sandbox org.
Doing it in your Production org may be tempting, but bears too large of a risk if the app has any bugs that might impact other users.
Additionally, Sandboxes don’t expire, so while most apps would provide you with a free trial in Production with a limited time, Sandboxes allow you a longer period of time to asses and test the app.
As a tip, it might help for your Sandbox to have partial data so that the app can be vetted with data and not just on a blank slate.
6. Bang on it
Not literally, but use it and abuse it to see if it meets your needs. You might want to have other users in your org test it out.
And just for good measure, reach out to the sales or support team. Their responsiveness might be a good indicator of what it’s like to ‘do business’ with that app provider.
If you’re in a larger org, you might need to present to a team or a board about the app, the problems it solves, its benefit, cost, etc.. Once you get the green light, it’s time to install the app in Production!
7. But not so fast
We’ve seen many apps fail because users were not trained on how to use them.
Do not assume because you have the technical chops to ‘get it’ – that other users will warm up to it.
This might require group training sessions to show the licensed users how to accomplish basic functions. Over time you will be able to assess the success of the app, and how it’s streamlined your Salesforce experience.
8. Share your journey
As you initially were looking for others’ experiences to mold your opinion of the app, so now do you have the obligation to do the same for others.
Leave a review (favorable or not) on the app, providing detail of your business challenge and how the app helped solve for it (or not).
This is your opportunity to participate in the Salesforce community and help app vendors sharpen their toolbox, if need be.
About Our Salesforce AppExchange Apps
Ascendix Technologies is the author of two apps on the AppExchange: Ascendix Search and AscendixRE. Also, we provide Salesforce AppExchange app development services and help anyone get their own Salesforce apps and get listed on AppExchange.
An AppExchange app for all industries, designed to help you search Salesforce data in a more precise fashion (beyond keyword searching).
- You can search on data from core objects and related lists, custom objects and fields.
- You can search by map.
- When you get your results, they are displayed in various ways. In a map, in a graph/chart, custom list view.
- With the results, you can quickly export to excel, create call lists, email lists, create notes, tasks, events in bulk, edit records in bulk.
- Save your searches for future use. Share your searches with other users when needed.
End game: an increase in your efficiency and productivity
An app designed for Commercial Real Estate brokers, contact management, deal management, track listings, lease & sale comps.
The app adds CRE functionality on top of Salesforce so commercial real estate brokers don’t need to create workarounds to be able to manage their brokerages effectively while using Salesforce CRM.
Bonus: AppExchange History
AppExchange was launched back in 2006 to let Salesforce partners create and sell their own apps built on the Salesforce platform. Learn more about the AppExchange journey on the infographics below that was created to celebrate the tenth Birthday of the Salesforce marketplace.