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Buy, then build, for a richer branded chat experience

Sarang Paramhans Product Marketer
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Every industry has gone digital, and every company requires software to survive. Some go as far as to say it’s no longer build vs. buy. It’s build vs. die.

But this doesn’t mean you have to build everything yourself. Instead, the smart play is to plug into the new modern software supply chain enabled by APIs – including Sendbird’s chat API.

In the conversations we’re having with developers daily, we’ve discovered that today’s digital environment requires a new approach to deliver on customer expectations more efficiently: buying, then building.

The time for APIs is now.

The API economy is here. In 2016, APIs were funded at around $200 million. In 2020, the figure jumped to more than $2 billion. According to a recent survey nearly 40% of large organizations use over 250 APIs, and 71% of developers plan to use even more in the coming year. There’s a reason for this. APIs just make sense.

APIs do two things:

  • Connect you with needed services and information
  • Eliminate the complexity of building and maintaining those services on your own

APIs are like building blocks. The benefit of an API is that you don’t get a packaged product like a SaaS tool that locks you into their in-the-box user interface and user experience.

Brands can use APIs as starting blocks and then continue to build to create their desired customer experience. In other words, companies can build a unique branded experience, but they don’t have to start from scratch.

APIs like Sendbird’s chat API allow you to create rich, customized experiences quickly and gain efficiency and development velocity, delivering a faster time to market.

More importantly, they free up your developers’ time to focus on building differentiation.

It’s time to focus on your core tech.

Like Marc Andreessen, co-founder of A16-Z, said, “It’s time to build.” Every company must build, but developers should be able to stay laser-focused on creating experiences that will differentiate your brand in the market.

You see, there’s a better question than build vs. buy. We should be asking: how can we build better? How can we build faster?

Today, every company is a tech company, and engineers are the gold resources. Your developers’ time is directly correlated with ROI, and how you allocate their time is critical.

There’s no need to roll around in the dirt on the processes that aren’t fundamental to your core offering – especially when they’re all available through easy-to-consume APIs developed by experts in that area.

So yes, you have to build – but you don’t have to build the basics. Unless your core offering is chat, using a chat API just makes sense.

Here are some examples:

  • The dating app, Hinge. Their specialty is their matching algorithm, and their core offering is based on how well they pair people together. They wanted to find a way to avoid having their developers spend time building chat when their skills are better used to “build the gold standard for dating.”
  • Food delivery apps. Every developer at a food delivery company who is stuck building chat is one less developer working on the routing algorithms or onboarding experiments to help differentiate them in the market. Learn why DoorDash chose to build on Sendbird to deliver in-app chat to their customers.

You wouldn’t make your developers build a finance system or a CRM, so why spend their time on things like in-app chat?

As programmers at heart ourselves, we do get the appeal: the challenge of coding software can be fun. But in today’s market, building from scratch doesn’t make you a better developer, it makes you a slower one.

The way to thrive in the age of the API economy is to invest your resources in the things that differentiate you in the market, and save time on the basics. 

Benefits to buying, then building.

There are many benefits to using APIs and then building on top of them. We’ll look more specifically at the advantages of going with Sendbird’s chat API over building it all on your own, but this overview is generally applicable to the API-verse at large. 

  • Efficiency: APIs increase development velocity. You don’t have to create every single component from scratch. At Sendbird, our engineering team is on your side. Our ready-to-build platform makes it easier for you to plug in and go.
  • Time to market: When companies are building similar software, it’s all about who gets there first. Sure, your engineers can probably build chat in-house. Engineers are great at solving complex problems. But the time it takes to create something as seemingly innocuous as chat can be the difference-maker in speed to market. Development teams often spend months building out something that could be ready to go in a couple of days with API.  
  • Focus on core: How you allocate your development team’s time is precious. You’re not in the business of building in-app chat, and it takes away your precious development resources for refining or developing features that are core to your offering.
  • Scope and cost: Modern messaging apps have set the bar high. Maybe your developers can quickly stand up a basic service for sending and receiving messages, but today’s users expect more. They want rich media sharing, delivery receipts, offline messaging, @mentions, and more. Then, you have to ensure all those functions work across multiple platforms at a high scale and integrate with third-party systems – not to mention concerns with privacy, security and moderation. Before you know it, a simple feature for developers can turn into a giant project with growing scope and costs.
  • Risk: Slow and buggy chat reflects poorly on your brand, resulting in reduced engagement and increased churn. Why take the risk when chat isn’t your core competency?

The complexities of building chat.

Like Jake Rottersman said in his blog post, Buy Don’t Build: Avoiding Ops For Fun and Profit, “Building stuff is fun, but being paged at two in the morning about a Rube Goldberg contraption of a system to handle customer analytics isn’t.”

Take it from us: building chat is much more complicated than you’d think at the outset. There are several complexities to consider, like:

  • Maintenance. With chat, there’s no finish line. There are always new features, bugs, components that need to be updated, customer requests and more.
  • Scaling. Who doesn’t want to grow, right? But scaling chat isn’t a straightforward process. You have to figure out peak load times and develop an architecture that can scale up and down to meet your user base’s unique and varying loads. It can be challenging to figure out how much server and infrastructural resources to allocate without overprovisioning.
  • Reliability. If your chat goes down, you will lose users. The reliability of your in-app chat undeniably affects your reputation.
  • Users’ expectations are high. The big players like Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp have already set the standard. Even if you’re an on-demand food delivery or dating app, your users will want the same look, feel, and features that they’re used to, and getting all those things to work takes a lot of bandwidth.
  • Edge cases are messy. With chat, 80% of your cases are totally normal and behave exactly how you think they will, but 20% of them are outliers. What happens when someone hits send while they’re in a subway? What about moderation? The simple task of blocking a user sets off so many different scenarios, many of which you’d never think about. When you build chat systems, you have to sit down and enumerate, document, and figure out these edge cases.

You don’t have to choose anymore. Buy, then build with our Chat API.

In today’s tech-forward world, you do have to build, but you don’t have to build it all.

Take advantage of the API economy with resources like Sendbird’s chat API, and then build your way to a rich, branded customer experience that lives up to today’s high standards. That way, you get to focus on your core differentiators while still getting the flexibility that comes with an API.

With Sendbird, you get a “ready-to-build” platform and the speed, agility and efficiency of a modern software supply chain at a time when engineering velocity and speed to market matter more than ever.

Plus, you get 100+ engineers working exclusively to improve the chat building blocks, services and infrastructure every day. Let us handle the basics of in-app chat, and you can take that foundation and make it yours.

Categories: Insights