AppDirect will start with a select group of tech advisor beta testers and eventually expand into end users with the customizable chatbots.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

December 12, 2023

4 Min Read
AppDirect AI Bots
CKA/Shutterstock

AppDirect is making chatbots available to help technology advisors more quickly and efficiently traverse its marketplace.

The subscription commerce platform provider on Tuesday announced its in-development AppDirect AI Marketplace. The platform is currently running in beta with a gradual expansion planned for 2024.

The solution lets partners build no-code bots that are operate off data from AppDirect's supplier marketplace and internal sales enablement data, as well as the partner's own chosen proprietary data.

AppDirect's vice president of product management Peush Patel said the AI Marketplace makes technology advisors' lives easier, and by extension, makes end user customers' lives easier.

Patel_Peush_APpDirect.jpg

"The most important thing for us is to deliver a frictionless experience to advisors. Advisors want to close a sale deal rapidly. When advisors have questions from their customers on a particular product and offering, they want to get those answers instantaneously. They don't want to spend time calling people and writing emails. That's where this chatbot comes in," Patel told Channel Futures.

The platform currently can layer its bots over three different ChatGPT models but will expand to include large language models (LLMs) like Llama, Bard and Cohere.

A select number of technology advisor firms are testing out the chatbots, Patel said. After collecting feedback in Q1, the AppDirect will make its AI Marketplace available to more partners. Patel added that those partners' end user customers who possess an AppDirect account will eventually get access.

Building the AppDirect AI Marketplace

Patel wrote in a blog that the solution started as a proprietary application AppDirect was building as a customer service and sales bot. The "painful, excruciating" nature of building the app left his team thinking about the issues channel partners would face building their own internal chatbots, Patel said.

"We realized that if this was so painful for us, it's going to be so painful for everybody else in the market. We have a 250-person engineering team today..." Patel said. "So what about small companies with 15, 20, 100 employees? They don't have technical skills. They don't have all the resources at their disposal. So they need a no-code solution."

Patel showed in a demo with Channel Futures that the bot can pull up information on topics like Microsoft license pricing or AppDirect's AppHelp service team. He said some partners want to use the bot for sales planning. A news release from AppDirect says the chatbots could point out upsell opportunities for partners.

If partners wish to input data of their own onto the bot, the data would reside on a "vector database" that AppDirect hosts and manages. That contrasts with the advisor sending its data directly to OpenAI, Patel said.

Eventually the bots will pull information on actual orders and payments, Patel said. That particular teaser could intrigue technology advisors the most. Partners frequently cite that they desire increased visibility and automation from their distributor's digital platforms when it comes to the status of their orders.

AppDirect provides a marketplace platform that vendors use for their own self-service websites and a broader marketplace offering that end user customers and channel partners use. In addition, AppDirect functions as a technology services distributor (TSD) with many of the vendors on its platform. The company has often described its vision as a relationship-guided marketplace, in which businesses digitally procure software with advice from channel partners (particularly referral/commission-based technology advisors).

AppDirect's Nicolas Desmarais

“AppDirect has over a decade of experience in assisting organizations around the world to expand and monetize ecosystem and digital service strategies,” AppDirect chairman and CEO Nicolas Desmarais said. “Combining our marketplace expertise, digital commerce platform capabilities, and the massive application of AI, AppDirect is in a distinct position to accelerate and democratize AI adoption for non-technical users that buy, sell, and manage technology.”

Clarus' Charlie

The digital platform race has heated up in technology distribution in recent years, and the TSD (formerly master agent) space is no exception. Developers are working to expand platforms like Avant Pathfinder, Telarus SolutionVue, Intelisys University and Sandler Partners Scout to make them more indispensable (and operationally threaded) to partners' day-to-day activities.

The era of generative AI is only pouring fuel on that fire.

One of the first major AI tool announcements from a TSD came from Clarus Communications back in September. Clarus, St. Louis-based sister company of the advisory firm TDM, announced a tool called Charlie.

That offering connects partners to quoting, order tracking, commission rates, incentive information, serviceability checks and other info, according to Clarus. Moreover, Clarus allows partners to place the tool in the end customer environment to answer questions related to inventory and other solution questions.

Charlie leverages the Falcon AI LLM.

About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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