How Modern APIs are Pushing Innovation in Retail

Consumers are interacting with retailers through an ever increasing range of channels, via the web, via mobile and even through third party marketplaces. New channels are emerging all the time and a retailer that wants to stay ahead of the game needs to adopt an API-ready approach to make integrating those new touchpoints quick and painless. Chris Blackburn over at Made Tech explains more

Chris recommends retailers centralize customer data in a CRM system and let data from that system be accessed via APIs. In this way, it’ll be easier to recognize customers across channels and that’ll help tailor each prospect’s shopping experience. The advantage of two-way APIs (i.e. fetching and posting data) is that, as well as a salesperson’s being able to see a customer’s browsing habits and online purchases when recommending products, customers can be retargeted online based on their offline behavior. 

This API-enabled strategy is already a priority for many of the world’s top retailers. Jeff Bezos apparently mandated that every service must expose an API. This mandate helped give birth to AWS’s $12bn business. 

The benefits of offering APIs are not limited to in-house recommendations and retargeting. Being able to do things like expose product catalogs to aggregation services without needing a special channel manager for each one can drive revenue by exposing data to third parties. Apparently 60% of eBay’s revenue is the result of API calls, with Expedia’s figure looking more like 90%. 

It’s not so easy for the established retail players to adopt an API-enabled strategy. They often have to support expensive, all-in-one legacy systems from the likes of SAP. The opportunity for these retailers comes when they decide to replace all or part of an existing system with something new. Chris recommends that traditional retailers keep APIs and third-party integrations at the front of their mind when they come to update IT infrastructure. 

Chris concludes by admitting that it can be hard for established players with legacy systems and established business practices to change the habits of a lifetime and become API-focused. He recommends however that they consider the commercial benefits, in terms of operational efficiency and new commercial opportunities, and at least explore the idea of an API-enabled strategy. 

Be sure to read the next API Strategy article: What is The Micro API Design Pattern?

Original Article

Modern APIs are Pushing Innovation in Retail