KPIs for APIs: Measuring API Success, Real World Examples

This is the third and final post of a three-part series covering Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for APIs, based on John Musser's presentation at The Business of APIs Conference.

The first post of this three-part series about key performance indicators (KPIs) for APIs includes some of the reasons companies choose to have an API, the many different types of KPIs for APIs, and what should drive a company's KPIs. The second post of the series focuses on the importance of developer experience (DX) when it comes to KPIs for APIs. This post, the third and final post of the series, features real world examples of measuring API success. This three-part series of posts is based on John Musser's presentation at The Business of APIs Conference (BAPI) held earlier this month in New York City and can be viewed in its entirety on SlideShare.

There are many reasons for companies to have an API and there are many types of KPIs for APIs. Hundreds of thousands of internal and external APIs are in active use today. With so many APIs in use, there is a multitude of real world examples of KPIs for APIs.

ProgrammableWeb reached out to John Musser, founder of API Science and ProgrammableWeb, who explained to PW about why he chose this set of examples for his KPIs for APIs presentation:

"Given that there's such a wide range of reasons that companies have APIs, this set of real-world examples was intended to show that KPIs for APIs can also be very diverse. It's not that metrics like API calls are inherently wrong, it's just that they don't reflect what the real underlying business goal is. At the end of the day, metrics like revenue, retention and conversion matter much more than raw API call volume."

Real World Examples

absolut

The Absolut Drinks website uses the ADDb API as well as Absolut image and video assets. There are thousands of drink recipes available in the Absolut drink library. Recipe delivery is one of the company's API KPIs.

Absolut Vodka KPI: Recipe Delivery

Absolut Vodka has created an Absolut Drinks Database (ADDb) containing drink recipes that were gathered and created over time, as well as other related assets. The company also released the ADDb API which provides programmatic access to the database. At the time of this writing, Absolut Vodka has approximately 3500 drink recipes available. The goal of Absolut's API program is to "ensure top quality drinks consistently delivered to people regardless of where people encounter Absolut." The API allows Absolut to be where the company's customers are, it is important to measure how.

Aviary: KPI: Photo Edits

Aviary is a photo editing platform that was acquired last month by Adobe. The company provides several APIs that can be used by developers to integrate the Apiary platform with third-party applications. In March 2013, the number of Apiary partner apps reached a total of 3,500 and the number of photo edits across the Aviary partner apps network reached 3 billion.

Coca-Cola KPIs: Revenue, Brand Loyalty

Most of Coca-Cola Enterprises' APIs are internal and the company recently announced plans to launch a new developer site to simplify the process of accessing and using Coca-Cola APIs. Coca-Cola uses APIs for a variety of business functions including sales and marketing applications to boost sales and generate additional revenue. The company created a Coca-Cola Freestyle mobile app that allows users to explore over 100 drink options available on a select group of vending machines. Users can create, save and share the mixes they've created and then share their Coca-Cola drink creations on Facebook. A recent Coca-Cola hackathon winner created an app that allows users to buy another person a Coke using PayPal. The recipient can then use the app to view a map of the nearest Coca-Cola locations where they can pick up the free coke they received.

Evernote KPI: Conversions, Engagement

Evernote provides several API SDKs that developers and partners can use to integrate the Evernote platform with third-party applications. According to Evernote, the company "is seeing a trend where a person who uses another app with Evernote is 50% more likely to move on to the premium (paid) service." In addition, the API is helping to increase Evernote platform user engagement. "Apps that have an API integration with Evernote are seeing much more usage: Pocket readers normally read 15% of what they save, but Evernote users read 80% of what they save in Pocket."

FreshBooks KPI: Conversions

FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting platform featuring the FreshBooks API that can be used by developers to create third-party applications and integrations that expand and build on the platform. The company discovered several years ago that the API has helped increase the number of end users moving from a free plan to a premium plan. In a blog post, the company states that "We find that if our customers use any single integration, they are three times as likely to convert to paid."

JustGiving KPI: Revenue

JustGiving is a social and charity giving platform that recently launched new global JustGiving APIs. The JustGiving API can be used by developers to build applications powered by the JustGiving platform that help raise money for charitable organizations. The JustGiving network currently features over 13,000 charities and worthy causes. At the time of this writing, the JustGiving API now accounts for 20-25% of the charity's annual revenue.

NPR KPI: Impressions, Views

The NPR API is a content API that provides websites and other publishing platforms structured NPR stories as well as NPR audio, text, images, and other content. Some of the content available via the NPR API dates all the way back to 1995 and the archive contains over 250,000 stories. An impression is similar to a web page view and impressions are part of the metrics calculation NPR uses to gauge end-user experiences with NPR content. Another KPI is response volume (the number of stories being viewed) which helps NPR to measure the goal of increasing the number of people consuming NPR content.

New York Times KPI: Impressions, Views

The New York Times provides a large set of APIs consisting primarily of content APIs. Available New York Times APIs include article search (search articles from 1851 to present), best sellers, congress, movie reviews, the Times Newswire, and more. The New York Times uses APIs to reach a larger audience and increase the number of engaged readers. Another KPI the company uses to measure API success is the number of stories being viewed.

Internal API Usage

Measuring internal API usage is just as important as measuring external. In many cases, company goals are accomplished primarily, if not entirely, from the use of internal APIs. Netflix once offered an open API, however, the company began shutting down its public API several years ago. In June, Netflix announced that the public Netflix API will be shut down on November 14, 2014. 99.9% of Netflix's API usage is from internal API calls, only .1% is from external API usage. Netflix device and UI teams use the API to enable the Netflix experience on many different devices and platforms.

In July, the Guardian announced the launch of the Guardian Content API v2, a new version of the Guardian's content API that features faster response times, faster availability of newly published content, and other improvements. 70% of Guardian API usage is from internal API calls and 30% is from external. Like other content APIs such as the New York Times and NPR, the Guardian uses its API to reach a larger audience and increase reader engagement.

Coca-Cola Enterprises uses APIs to power most of the company's business functions including sales, finance, customers, procurement, IT, supply chain, and service technicians. All but two, of the company's production APIs are internal, and these APIs are being used to accomplish a variety of company goals. Although nearly all of Coca-Cola's APIs are internal, it is still important that KPIs are used to measure the success of these APIs. Coca-Cola KPIs for APIs include direct and indirect revenue, brand loyalty, ROI, and more.

Conclusion

We are long past the days when counting the number of API calls and becoming a member of the API billionaires club was considered validation of an API's success. APIs are allowing new kinds of business models to be created and are transforming entire industries. KPIs for APIs now involve many different metrics and must continue to evolve so that API-driven goals can be accurately measured and achieved.

Janet Wagner is a freelance technical writer and contributor to ProgrammableWeb covering breaking news, in-depth analysis, and product reviews. She specializes in creating well-researched, in-depth content about APIs, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, analytics, GIS/maps, and other advanced technologies.

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