The eCommerce industry has been expanding and transforming for the past decade or so, shifting from product-as-a-service to experience-as-a-service economy. There is a visible alteration in consumer buying behavior and the expected online shopping experience, fueling the necessity of eCommerce API-led strategies. Customers today access a brand site using several platforms and channels like the mobile, web, tablets, or connected devices, making it difficult for brands to fulfill customer expectations and deliver personalized shopping moments at every touchpoint.
As a result, businesses try to reinvent themselves, adapt to modern enterprise models, and keep pace with changing customer buying trends. Although a boost in conversions, sales, and revenue depends on continuous advancements and business innovation, all of this commands speed and adaptability. Disjointed systems or inadequately integrated systems don’t serve the customers or brands well. It is why microservices architecture, headless commerce, and eCommerce APIs gain tremendous popularity in the modern market.
Exposing eCommerce functionality with APIs allow the platform to provide core functionalities and allow consumers to consume them using various technologies and provide options to utilize the technology stack as per their needs. APIs provide flexible communication options between systems and ensure a smooth and seamless integration across several elements of an eCommerce architecture. They are the key to a successful digital transformation.
In this article, we talk about eCommerce APIs, their role in the digital commerce industry, and their excellent benefits for an online business.
What is an API?
Let’s first understand the basic definition of an API before we proceed to an eCommerce API.
API stands for Application Programming Interface that allows softwares to talk with each other. With the help of API, business logic can be decoupled from UI logic and allow each other to communicate based on standard protocols. This helps in dividing large and complex systems into smaller modules that can be developed independently without much dependency. It also allows multiple systems to interact with each other while each system can focus on a specific business function. For example, ERP can interact with an online eCommerce store via API where ERP can focus on Resource Management and eCommerce can be developed to deliver core eCommerce functionality.
If the APIs were to be removed from the system, a developer would have to write thousands of code lines to achieve the required interaction. Not only will it be a time-consuming process, but you would need to hire resources to write such code for a particular user interaction, eventually increasing the project cost. APIs tend to save from such time and cost mishaps. Developers can easily employ third-party APIs to facilitate the interaction without doing anything from scratch. And that makes APIs a must for every online business.
What is an eCommerce API?
An eCommerce API is a set of interactive eCommerce functionalities brought to life via an API, like product listing, checkout, cart building, pricing information, order management, etc. When that application exposes all these features via APIs the combined set of these APIs are known as eCommerce APIs. The user can select any technology for it’s frontend and interact with these APIs to achieve eCommerce functionalities. In a headless commerce setup, an eCommerce API is a connecting bridge between the independently functioning frontend and backend of a website.
What can eCommerce APIs do for a digital commerce architecture?
The API economy is significant for online eCommerce stores because it turns them from a store into a platform that other businesses or customers can easily access. It allows eCommerce developers to store and integrate features they don’t necessarily own or develop via APIs received as a service from API providers.
This further enhances a brand’s capability to seamlessly offer functionalities habitually demanded by the customers or earn profits from its extended services through the API. This relationship between APIs, API providers, and API customers reaping benefits and deriving value is what makes up an API economy.
Through APIs, brands can meet customer expectations and adapt to their changing behavior patterns efficiently and cost-effectively. It is why APIs have become an integral part of a thriving eCommerce architecture. Now let’s have a look at some advantages of integrating APIs into the eCommerce models.
Reduces functionality implementation cost:
As mentioned before, APIs eliminate all the code legwork that a developer would have to take up to implement a functionality had APIs not been in the picture. That means you don’t need to get a developer on board to write another set of codes that may or may not work. APIs standardize this process by establishing synergy between the interacting elements.
Since there are multiple API providers in the market building-specific APIs for use, online eCommerce stores can simply integrate an API to their platform at a much-reduced cost than before.
APIs help achieve successful digital transformation from the monolithic to the microservices architecture in the eCommerce market. Unlike in a monolithic architecture where the entire system is built as one using a single codebase, in a microservices model it is broken down into small independent modules based on specific functionality. This disparate structure results in improved performance, higher accountability, and easier issue resolutions.
Better and faster upgrades:
Since APIs remove all the legwork of creating functionality from scratch, you can easily add new features and upgrades by exploring the required third-party solution and integrating it into your platform. It eventually improves the frequency of new updates.
Easy integrations with other platforms:
eCommerce has progressed from just being an online store to hosting a wide array of services with different functionalities and platform collaborations. Every website is now connected to social platforms like Google or Facebook, or other similar channels. It allows customers to comprehensively view and access a brand, their product catalogs, service portfolios, etc., from a single location, i.e., their website.
From single clicks to social platforms to product reviews and descriptions showcased, APIs enable integrations and collaboration that make the exchange of goods and services easy and straightforward.
Deliver omnichannel customer experiences:
The word ‘Omnichannel’ is exceedingly associated with the eCommerce market.
Customers today interact with an online eCommerce store through different devices such as smartphones, desktops, tablets, or other connected platforms. People can now place their grocery orders by simply commanding their smart refrigerator to do so. It is why customers expect a seamless and smooth product and service delivery across every channel and platform.
APIs help make it possible. It empowers websites to extend their capabilities to other devices and platforms; hence, achieving the seamless shopping experience milestone. APIs enable brands to consistently assist a user throughout their buying journeys at every touchpoint and offer a similar shopping experience everywhere.
Lead the competition:
Although several eCommerce businesses have already embraced the API culture, some others are still running on the monolithic architecture. In this digitally-led market, brands need to either stay ahead of the competition or suffer a loss in sales, conversion, and revenue.
It is why enterprises must integrate their website to other extended eCommerce platforms and marketplaces via APIs. Such native functionalities interest a prospect and grab their attention. Eventually, it helps you build a steady customer base and win over customers from your competitors.
Top 10 eCommerce APIs that improve customer experience
When you implement API-led integration, you enhance the manner in which customers interact and engage with your brand today and even during technology shifts. That said, eCommerce APIs perform multiple tasks from marketing to order management, transactions, checkouts, and shipping. Below we list the top 10 eCommerce APIs that improve customer experience of your online store.
Catalog APIs: This API helps you create, edit, and manage your product catalog. It allows you to update thousands of products instantly and integrate with other critical systems like inventory management, order management, etc in a hassle-free way.
Checkout APIs: This API customizes the checkout experience for a customer. It modifies the user design to make it look more appealing and boost conversion rates. These APIs improve the checkout functionality and provide a personalized experience like in the case of a headless storefront or a mobile-compatible store.
Shipping APIs: This API tracks shipments, employs multiple carriers, confirms customer addresses, generates product labels, and performs similar functionalities. They automate the entire process from the sale of a product to customer delivery, resulting in an error-free, cheaper and faster product delivery. In addition, this API allows you to partner with notable shipping providers as per a customer’s location to deliver the product at the earliest.
Payment APIs: With more than thousands of payment options available, from credit cards, debit cards to cryptocurrencies and cash on delivery, you need to integrate all of them to allow your customers to choose their preferred payment method and offer an effortless payment experience. Payment APIs integrate multiple payment options and payment gateways to your online store.
Shopping Cart APIs: This API allows users to control their cart data and customize items as per their needs. Incorporating such APIs reduces car abandonment rates and boosts sales as users are allowed to customize and individualize their orders depending on their demands. Moreover, shopping cart APIs allow you to deliver personalized offers and discounts based on customers’ buying patterns and motivate them to complete a purchase. It ensures an omnichannel customer experience for every shopper across all the channels.
Sales Tax APIs: Sales tax varies from state to state and country to country. So, if your business deals with a customer base spread across several geographies, you might want to implement sales tax APIs. They readily calculate the correct tax rate based on a user’s region, preventing any discrepancies in order payments.
Login APIs: This API manages customer data and identities. It allows users to log in to an online store even when using different systems and channels.
Social proof APIs: This API uses product reviews from similar websites, highlights the product’s popularity, and builds your site’s reputation. They work better than word-of-mouth marketing and make sure customers see your brand in the best light. It collects social proof from different websites and channels and either displays them on your website or uses it to boost brand image.
Marketing automation APIs: This API automates your marketing strategies, segment customers based on their product preferences, and offer personalized solutions to every shopper. They can also add shoppers to a specific email list based on their purchase history and browsing patterns. With automated and personalized marketing strategies, a brand can connect with their customers better, pitch them products that they might be interested in, and improve conversion rates in the process.
Anti-fraud APIs: As the eCommerce industry grows, so do the hacking and security threats. These APIs protect your store from cybercriminals and establish a secure login, payment, and checkout across multiple checkpoints. It allows you to verify email addresses, validate financial information, and perform tasks that keep your transactions safe and your customer’s data secure.
Apart from making things easy for developers and saving a lot of time, APIs help enterprises maintain their pace in the fast-moving and ever-changing digital landscape. The API economy helps fine-tune your digital commerce strategies and fulfill game-changing customer demands. It allows you to explore opportunities without affecting data security and the present operational infrastructure value. With APIs, you can create an authentic omnichannel customer experience- one that builds brand loyalty and increases business profitability.