How to plan a SaaS offer for the commercial marketplace

This article explains the different options and requirements for publishing a software as a service (SaaS) offer to the Microsoft commercial marketplace. SaaS offers let you deliver and license software solutions to your customers via an online subscription instead of local installation on individual computers. This article will help you prepare your offer for publishing to the commercial marketplace with Partner Center.

Listing options

As you prepare to publish a new SaaS offer, you need to decide which listing option to choose. The listing option you choose determines what additional information you’ll need to provide as you create your offer in Partner Center. You will define your listing option on the Offer setup page as explained in How to create a SaaS offer in the commercial marketplace.

The following table shows the listing options for SaaS offers in the commercial marketplace.

Listing option Transaction process
Contact me The customer contacts you directly from information in your listing.*
Free trial The customer is redirected to your target URL via Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).*
Get it now (Free) The customer is redirected to your target URL via Azure AD.*
Sell through Microsoft Offers sold through Microsoft are called transactable offers. An offer that is transactable is one in which Microsoft facilitates the exchange of money for a software license on the publisher’s behalf. We bill SaaS offers using the pricing model you choose, and manage customer transactions on your behalf. Azure infrastructure usage fees are billed to you, the partner, directly. You should account for infrastructure costs in your pricing model. This is explained in more detail in SaaS billing below.

* Publishers are responsible for supporting all aspects of the software license transaction, including but not limited to order, fulfillment, metering, billing, invoicing, payment, and collection.

For more information about these listing options, see Commercial marketplace transact capabilities.

After your offer is published, the listing option you chose for your offer appears as a button in the upper-left corner of your offer’s listing page. For example, the following screenshot shows an offer listing page in Azure Marketplace with the Contact me and Test drive buttons.

Illustrates an offer listing in the online store.

Technical requirements

The technical requirements differ depending on the listing option you choose for your offer.

The Contact me listing option has no technical requirements. You have the option to connect a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage customer leads. This is described in the Customer leads section, later in this article.

The Get it now (Free), Free trial, and Sell through Microsoft listing options have the following technical requirements:

These additional technical requirements apply to the Sell through Microsoft (transactable) listing option only:

  • Azure AD with single sign-on (SSO) identity management and authentication is required for the buying user accessing the landing page. For detailed guidance, see Azure AD and transactable SaaS offers in the commercial marketplace.
  • You must use the SaaS Fulfillment APIs to integrate with Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource. You must expose a service that can interact with the SaaS subscription to create, update, and delete a user account and service plan. Critical API changes must be supported within 24 hours. Non-critical API changes will be released periodically. Diagrams and detailed explanations describing the usage of the collected fields are available in documentation for the APIs.
  • You must create at least one plan for your offer. Your plan is priced based on the pricing model you select before publishing: flat rate or per-user. More details about plans are provided later in this article.
  • The customer can cancel your offer at any time.

Technical information

If you’re creating a transactable offer, you'll need to gather the following information for the Technical configuration page. If you choose to process transactions independently instead of creating a transactable offer, skip this section and go to Test drives.

  • Landing page URL: The SaaS site URL (for example: https://contoso.com/signup) that users will be directed to after acquiring your offer from the commercial marketplace, triggering the configuration process from the newly created SaaS subscription. This URL will receive a token that can be used to call the fulfillment APIs to get provisioning details for your interactive registration page.

    This URL will be called with the marketplace purchase identification token parameter that uniquely identifies the specific customer's SaaS purchase. You must exchange this token for the corresponding SaaS subscription details using the resolve API. Those details and any others you wish to collect should be used as part of a customer-interactive web page built in your experience to complete customer registration and activate their purchase. On this page, the user should sign up through one-click authentication by using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

    This URL with marketplace purchase identification token parameter will also be called when the customer launches a managed SaaS experience from the Azure portal or M365 Admin Center. You should handle both flows: when the token is provided for the first time after a new customer purchase, and when it's provided again for an existing customer managing their SaaS solution.

    The Landing page you configure should be up and running 24/7. This is the only way you’ll be notified about new purchases of your SaaS offers made in the commercial marketplace, or configuration requests for an active subscription of an offer.

  • Connection webhook: For all asynchronous events that Microsoft needs to send to you (for example, when a SaaS subscription has been canceled), we require you to provide a connection webhook URL. We will call this URL to notify you on the event.

    The webhook you provide should be up and running 24/7. This is the only way you’ll be notified about updates about your customers' SaaS subscriptions purchased via the commercial marketplace.

    Note

    Inside the Azure portal, we require that you create a single-tenant Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) app to enable one Azure App ID to be used to authenticate the connection between our two services. To find the tenant ID, go to your Azure Active Directory and select Properties, then look for the Directory ID number that’s listed. For example, 50c464d3-4930-494c-963c-1e951d15360e.

  • Azure Active Directory tenant ID: (also known as directory ID). Inside the Azure portal, we require you to register an Azure Active Directory (AD) app so we can add it to the access control list (ACL) of the API to make sure you are authorized to call it. To find the tenant ID for your Azure Active Directory (AD) app, go to the App registrations blade in Azure Active Directory. In the Display name column, select the app. Then look for the Directory (tenant) ID number listed (for example, 50c464d3-4930-494c-963c-1e951d15360e).

  • Azure Active Directory application ID: You also need your application ID. To get its value, go to the App registrations blade in Azure Active Directory. In the Display name column, select the app. Then look for the Application (client) ID number listed (for example, 50c464d3-4930-494c-963c-1e951d15360e).

    The Azure AD application ID is associated with your publisher ID in your Partner Center account. You must use the same application ID for all offers in that account.

    Note

    If the publisher has two or more different accounts in Partner Center, two or more different Azure AD app IDs should be used, each for one of the accounts. Each partner account in Partner Center should use a unique Azure AD app ID for all the SaaS offers that are published via this account.

Test drives

You can choose to enable a test drive for your SaaS app. Test drives give customers access to a preconfigured environment for a fixed number of hours. You can enable test drives for any publishing option, however this feature has additional requirements. To learn more about test drives, see What is a test drive?. For information about configuring different kinds of test drives, see Test drive technical configuration.

Tip

A test drive is different from a free trial. You can offer a test drive, free trial, or both. They both provide your customers with your solution for a fixed period-of-time. But, a test drive also includes a hands-on, self-guided tour of your product’s key features and benefits being demonstrated in a real-world implementation scenario.

Customer leads

You must connect your offer to your customer relationship management (CRM) system to collect customer information. The customer will be asked for permission to share their information. These customer details, along with the offer name, ID, and online store where they found your offer, will be sent to the CRM system that you've configured. The commercial marketplace supports a variety of CRM systems, along with the option to use an Azure table or configure an HTTPS endpoint using Power Automate.

You can add or modify a CRM connection at any time during or after offer creation. For detailed guidance, see Customer leads from your commercial marketplace offer.

Selecting an online store

When you publish a SaaS offer, it will be listed in Microsoft AppSource, Azure Marketplace, or both. Each online store serves unique customer requirements. AppSource is for business solutions and Azure Marketplace is for IT solutions. Your offer type, transact capabilities, and categories will determine where your offer will be published. Categories and subcategories are mapped to each online store based on the solution type.

If your SaaS offer is both an IT solution (Azure Marketplace) and a business solution (AppSource), select a category and a subcategory applicable to each online store. Offers published to both online stores should have a value proposition as an IT solution and a business solution.

Important

SaaS offers with metered billing are available through Azure Marketplace and the Azure portal. SaaS offers with only private plans are available through the Azure portal.

Metered billing Public plan Private plan Available in:
Yes Yes No Azure Marketplace and Azure portal
Yes Yes Yes Azure Marketplace and Azure portal *
Yes No Yes Azure portal only
No No Yes Azure portal only

* The private plan of the offer will only be available via the Azure portal

For example, an offer with metered billing and a private plan only (no public plan), will be purchased by customers in the Azure portal. Learn more about Private offers in Microsoft commercial marketplace.

For detailed information about listing options supported by online stores, see Listing and pricing options by online store. For more information about categories and subcategories, see Categories and subcategories in the commercial marketplace.

To simplify the procurement process for customers and reduce legal complexity for software vendors, Microsoft offers a standard contract you can use for your offers in the commercial marketplace. When you offer your software under the standard contract, customers only need to read and accept it one time, and you don't have to create custom terms and conditions.

If you choose to use the standard contract, you have the option to add universal amendment terms and up to 10 custom amendments to the standard contract. You can also use your own terms and conditions instead of the standard contract. You will manage these details in the Properties page. For detailed information, see Standard contract for Microsoft commercial marketplace.

Note

After you publish an offer using the standard contract for the commercial marketplace, you cannot use your own custom terms and conditions. It is an "or" scenario. You either offer your solution under the standard contract or your own terms and conditions. If you want to modify the terms of the standard contract you can do so through Standard Contract Amendments.

Offer listing details

When you create a new SaaS offer in Partner Center, you will enter text, images, optional videos, and other details on the Offer listing page. This is the information that customers will see when they discover your offer listing in the commercial marketplace, as shown in the following example.

Illustrates how this offer appears in Microsoft AppSource.

Call-out descriptions

  1. Logo
  2. Categories
  3. Industries
  4. Support address (link)
  5. Terms of use
  6. Privacy policy
  7. Offer name
  8. Summary
  9. Description
  10. Screenshots/videos
  11. Documents

The following example shows an offer listing in the Azure portal.

Illustrates an offer listing in the Azure portal.

Call out descriptions

  1. Title
  2. Description
  3. Useful links
  4. Screenshots

Note

Offer listing content is not required to be in English if the offer description begins with the phrase "This application is available only in [non-English language]".

To help create your offer more easily, prepare some of these items ahead of time. The following items are required unless otherwise noted.

  • Name: This name will appear as the title of your offer listing in the commercial marketplace. The name may be trademarked. It cannot contain emojis (unless they are the trademark and copyright symbols) and must be limited to 50 characters.

  • Search results summary: Describe the purpose or function of your offer as a single sentence with no line breaks in 100 characters or less. This summary is used in the commercial marketplace listing(s) search results.

  • Description: This description will be displayed in the commercial marketplace listing(s) overview. Consider including a value proposition, key benefits, intended user base, any category or industry associations, in-app purchase opportunities, any required disclosures, and a link to learn more.

    This text box has rich text editor controls that you can use to make your description more engaging. You can also use HTML tags to format your description. You can enter up to 3,000 characters of text in this box, including HTML markup. For additional tips, see Write a great app description.

  • Getting Started Instructions: If you choose to sell your offer through Microsoft (transactable offer), this field is required. These instructions help customers connect to your SaaS offer. You can add up to 3,000 characters of text and links to more detailed online documentation.

  • Search keywords (optional): Provide up to three search keywords that customers can use to find your offer in the online stores. You don't need to include the offer Name and Description: that text is automatically included in search.

  • Privacy policy link: The URL for your company’s privacy policy. You must provide a valid privacy policy and are responsible for ensuring your app complies with privacy laws and regulations.

  • Contact information: You must provide the following contacts from your organization:

    • Support contact: Provide the name, phone, and email for Microsoft partners to use when your customers open tickets. You must also include the URL for your support website.
    • Engineering contact: Provide the name, phone, and email for Microsoft to use directly when there are problems with your offer. This contact information isn’t listed in the commercial marketplace.
    • CSP Program contact (optional): Provide the name, phone, and email if you opt in to the CSP program, so those partners can contact you with any questions. You can also include a URL to your marketing materials.
  • Useful links (optional): You can provide links to various resources for users of your offer. For example, forums, FAQs, and release notes.

  • Supporting documents: You can provide up to three customer-facing documents, such as whitepapers, brochures, checklists, or PowerPoint presentations.

  • Media – Logos: Provide a PNG file for the Large logo. Partner Center will use this to create a Small and a Medium logo. You can optionally replace these with different images later.

    • Large (from 216 x 216 to 350 x 350 px, required)
    • Medium (90 x 90 px, optional)
    • Small (48 x 48 px, optional)

    These logos are used in different places in the online stores:

    • The Small logo appears in Azure Marketplace search results and on the Microsoft AppSource main page and search results page.
    • The Medium logo appears when you create a new resource in Microsoft Azure.
    • The Large logo appears on your offer listing page in Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource.
  • Media - Screenshots: You must add at least one and up to five screenshots with the following requirements, that show how your offer works:

    • 1280 x 720 pixels
    • .png file
    • Must include a caption
  • Media - Videos (optional): You can add up to four videos with the following requirements, that demonstrate your offer:

    • Name
    • URL: Must be hosted on YouTube or Vimeo only.
    • Thumbnail: 1280 x 720 .png file

Note

Your offer must meet the general commercial marketplace certification policies and the software as a service policies to be published to the commercial marketplace.

Preview audience

A preview audience can access your offer prior to being published live in the online stores in order to test the end-to-end functionality before you publish it live. On the Preview audience page, you can define a limited preview audience. This setting is not available if you choose to process transactions independently instead of selling your offer through Microsoft. If so, you can skip this section and go to Additional sales opportunities.

Note

A preview audience differs from a private plan. A private plan is one you make available only to a specific audience you choose. This enables you to negotiate a custom plan with specific customers. For more information, see the next section: Plans.

You can send invites to Microsoft Account (MSA) or Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) email addresses. Add up to 10 email addresses manually or import up to 20 with a .csv file. If your offer is already live, you can still define a preview audience for testing any changes or updates to your offer.

Plans

Transactable offers require at least one plan. A plan defines the solution scope and limits, and the associated pricing. You can create multiple plans for your offer to give your customers different technical and pricing options. If you choose to process transactions independently instead of creating a transactable offer, the Plans page is not visible. If so, skip this section and go to Additional sales opportunities.

See Plans and pricing for commercial marketplace offers for general guidance about plans, including pricing models, free trials, and private plans. The following sections discuss additional information specific to SaaS offers.

SaaS pricing models

SaaS offers can use one of two pricing models with each plan: either flat rate or per user. All plans in the same offer must be associated with the same pricing model. For example, an offer cannot have one plan that's flat rate and another plan that’s per user.

Flat rate – Enable access to your offer with a single monthly or annual flat rate price. This is sometimes referred to as site-based pricing. With this pricing model, you can optionally define metered plans that use the marketplace metering service API to charge customers for usage that isn't covered by the flat rate. For more information on metered billing, see Metered billing for SaaS using the commercial marketplace metering service. You should also use this option if usage behavior for your SaaS service is in bursts.

Per user – Enable access to your offer with a price based on the number of users who can access the offer or occupy seats. With this user-based model, you can set the minimum and maximum number of users supported by the plan. You can create multiple plans to configure different price points based on the number of users. These fields are optional. If left unselected, the number of users will be interpreted as not having a limit (min of 1 and max of as many as your service can support). These fields may be edited as part of an update to your plan.

Important

After your offer is published, you cannot change the pricing model. In addition, all plans for the same offer must share the same pricing model.

SaaS billing

For SaaS apps that run in your (the publisher’s) Azure subscription, infrastructure usage is billed to you directly; customers do not see actual infrastructure usage fees. You should bundle Azure infrastructure usage fees into your software license pricing to compensate for the cost of the infrastructure you deployed to run the solution.

SaaS app offers that are sold through Microsoft support monthly or annual billing based on a flat fee, per user, or consumption charges using the metered billing service. The commercial marketplace operates on an agency model, whereby publishers set prices, Microsoft bills customers, and Microsoft pays revenue to publishers while withholding an agency fee.

The following example shows a sample breakdown of costs and payouts to demonstrate the agency model. In this example, Microsoft bills $100.00 to the customer for your software license and pays out $80.00 to the publisher.

Your license cost $100 per month
Azure usage cost (D1/1-Core) Billed directly to the publisher, not the customer
Customer is billed by Microsoft $100.00 per month (Publisher must account for any incurred or pass-through infrastructure costs in the license fee)
Microsoft bills $100 per month
Microsoft pays you 80% of your license cost
* For qualified SaaS apps, Microsoft pays 90% of your license cost
$80.00 per month
* $90.00 per month

* Reduced Marketplace Service Fee – For certain SaaS offers that you have published on the commercial marketplace, Microsoft will reduce its Marketplace Service Fee from 20% (as described in the Microsoft Publisher Agreement) to 10%. For your offer(s) to qualify, your offer(s) must have been designated by Microsoft as Azure IP Co-sell incentivized. Eligibility must be met at least five (5) business days before the end of each calendar month to receive the Reduced Marketplace Service Fee for the month. The Reduced Marketplace Service Fee also applies to Azure IP Co-sell incentivized VMs, Managed Apps, and any other qualified transactable IaaS offers made available through the commercial marketplace.

Additional sales opportunities

You can choose to opt into Microsoft-supported marketing and sales channels. When creating your offer in Partner Center, you will see two tabs toward the end of the process:

  • Resell through CSPs: Use this option to allow Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSP) partners to resell your solution as part of a bundled offer. See Cloud Solution Provider program for more information.

  • Co-sell with Microsoft: This option lets Microsoft sales teams consider your IP co-sell eligible solution when evaluating their customers’ needs. See Co-sell option in Partner Center for detailed information on how to prepare your offer for evaluation.

Next steps