How AWS Marketplace is pushing faster product innovation

AWS has created a model in which its own products and competitors compete on a level playing field for customer loyalty and sales.
Written by Zeus Kerravala, Contributor on

AWS held its re:Invent event last week in Las Vegas, one of the first big in-person IT conferences since the pandemic started in March 2020. One piece of news from the show that didn't get much fanfare was that contact-center-as-a-service vendor Talkdesk is now available in AWS Marketplace.

While another vendor being in Marketplace may seem like a regular day's business, given there are more than 1,600 software partners currently listed, what is interesting is how companies such as Talkdesk, AWS and other vendors all exist in one playing field. 

Talkdesk, one of the CCaaS Gartner Magic Quadrant Leaders, is directly available, along with another CCaaS Marketplace offering, Genesys, who is also a Magic Quadrant Leader, and Amazon's own Connect product as well. To be clear, being in AWS Marketplace means AWS and its customers see benefits from purchasing the products, including simplified procurement and billing processes. One might look at this as being awkward because there might be a tendency to sell the AWS product first and ignore the partners. However, vendors would not work so hard to qualify to list if this was the case. 

To understand how all these vendors can co-exist in one place, I met with Nicolas Pujol, ISV Partner Management Leader for AWS, to better understand how AWS created a model in which everyone can win. The first question I asked Pujol was how AWS manages the competition between partners and AWS. He responded: "What we have is a community of partners. If you look at AWS Marketplace, these software solutions complement the 200 AWS native services across a number of categories, including compute, infrastructure, and applications. We see the contact center market being very broad and supporting lots of vendors."

I then asked Pujol how sellers of AWS determine which products to recommend, and he told me it's up to the customer and their needs. Sales will look at what the customer wants and weigh it against factors such as certain features or pricing models, etc. One of the big factors is the AWS Marketplace reviews where customers score the product they use. This is very similar to the retail side of Amazon, where user reviews heavily influence sales. This model generally leads to the best product winning and ensures that vendors keep their foot on the innovation gas. 

It's clear the Talkdesk, and AWS partnership is an indicator of this mindset and commitment to innovation marketwide. As the only CCaaS vendor exhibiting at re:Invent, Talkdesk has found a niche for itself in the AWS Partner Network by sharing this same simple mindset -- putting customers first. After a conversation with Talkdesk CRO Tony Barbone, he shared that the collaboration with AWS has been a win-win on all sides. "Since the inception of the partnership only a year ago, our teams have come together beautifully, prioritizing working together to better the contact center market as a whole," Barbone said.

In many ways, the competitive yet cooperative nature of AWS Marketplace is a natural fuel for rapid innovation. As a vendor, because you know there might be several similar solutions listed, you'll want to make sure your product is as good as it can be. If vendor A has a certain feature that is getting great reviews in AWS Marketplace, you'll likely adjust your product strategy to add that feature and then one-up the vendor, which might cause them to push a little harder to try and leap-frog you back. This innovation cycle winds up pushing the industry faster because everyone can keep an eye on each other.

One of the other keys to the success of AWS Marketplace is that AWS sales and resellers must be incentivized to do what's best for the customer rather than a mandated focus on native products. If customer satisfaction is the measuring stick, then the best product that meets the customer needs is the one that will get sold, regardless of whether it's AWS or another solution. In this case, the customer is the big winner because they can be assured that they are getting the right solution and not just one that a salesperson is making the most money. 

Industry competition is a funny thing; some vendors may avoid doing what might be best for them long term because they don't want to appear to be helping or even aligned with a competitor. The reality is, if you're always doing things that are in the best interest of the customer, that will always have the biggest payback.

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