Snapchat recently announced an update to its advertising platform which includes the availability of a new Ads API. The API is a set of tools for allowing approved business partners access to real-time bidding on advertising time, and a non-API set of tools that can be used to develop the content that will stream for the advertisement.
When advertisers place ads on Snapchat, they bid against each other for access to the streams that most interest them – normally the streams with the largest number of followers in their chosen audience. And then, they create the content that will appear in those advertising campaigns. For larger advertisers, this process is handled by a relatively small group of marketing firms.
With the release of this API, bidding for that small group of marketing firms can be largely automated, and tools are provided to make advertising content creation easier.
Snapchat's business model highlights an interesting point for other B2B shops to consider. The company's API is targeted at a small number of their most profitable customers/partners. Unlike many public APIs, it is not one that any developer can use, but rather a value added tool to drive increased customer loyalty and efficiency for partners.
Most organizations like Snapchat have a set of customers that they consider important, no secrets there. The challenge is how to continue to offer those customers value that will steer even more dollars their way.
While Snapchat had a clear use case in mind – real-time bidding is well suited to APIs – there are similar use cases in just about any business.
APIs for webcart software like API2Cart, for example, appeal not only to developers, but to organizations with a dedicated and skilled website staff. Devops APIs like the Oracle Cloud Stack Manager API for infrastructure installation and monitoring may well appeal to developers wishing to integrate software packages that cover different areas, but they also appeal to corporate developers that wish to – or need to - stand-up a fully integrated stack of their own with as few manual steps as possible.
I know a niche market hobby retailer that uses Supply Chain Management to track everything that's for sale in its store or on its website. While some of the backend process is still manual, any tools a given vendor makes available are used in this process. For the hobby in question (historical miniatures), most stores do not have this functionality. This retailer gains business because customers can see right on the website if the item they want is in stock. For most retailers in the industry, customers find out about out of stock items when they receive backorder notices and their entire order is held up. This retailer's proprietor gets value from this functionality, so by extension it makes sense for him to gravitate toward vendors that offer similiar options for integration. That’s building customer loyalty for the vendors that offer him those hooks.
Even when it only has to do with integrated with a limited set of partners (as is the case with Snapchat), across the spectrum of business, there is almost always a role for APIs to play in both furthering the organization's objectives and driving competitive advantage. Development groups need to start thinking about what kind of APIs could add value – not just massive public APIs, but also specially targeted APIs that will increase customer loyalty. Business stakeholders might come up with these ideas. But the development teams and IT architects know what data and functionality is available at the granular level, and can start the discussion with the business side based on these facts.
The cost of developing such an API may be offset quickly by increased revenue if the targeting is correct, meaning that there is almost always fertile ground for spinning up an API that suits the market, your particular organization, and your customers.