The Role of APIs in the Retail Industry

Nick Rojas
Nick Rojas
Guest Contributor

It is not enough for retailers to simply have an online presence anymore - you need to have strong APIs to pair with your online platforms as well, for failing to do so will make your business fall behind both shopper expectations and your closest competitors.

There is no doubt the retail industry is one of the biggest sectors of the United States economy. According to the U.S. Census, retail sales hit a record of $6 trillion in 2018. The retail industry is huge and is continuing to grow by breaking new records each year. One of the biggest sections of retail in today’s day and age is online. The U.S. Commerce Department states that online retail has grown 300 percent between the years 2000 and 2018. It is almost impossible to be in the retail business in the year 2019 without having a strong online presence.

In order for retail companies to stay relevant, they need to be able to adapt quickly to new trends and provide multi-channel engagement opportunities for their shoppers across web, mobile, social and all other online platforms. This is where APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) come in to play. Simply put, APIs are a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. If you are a retailer and don’t have any APIs on your web, mobile, social or other digital platforms, you may be providing a less than stellar experience for your shoppers. In this article, I will discuss four critical roles APIs play in the retail industry, and why every retailer should have them.

Growth Potential

APIs provide an excellent opportunity for your business to grow because they can give your customers exactly what they are looking for, and they can do this quickly. Providing customers with accurate and fast information is what APIs help businesses do, and if done correctly, will help your business grow tremendously.

In retail, there are four general types of APIs – shipping, taxation, e-commerce, and payment. Shipping APIs enable customers to track the status of their deliveries, taxation APIs ensure businesses automatically charge the right tax rates for their customers, e-commerce APIs enable businesses to establish a direct channel to shoppers from their product catalogs, and payment APIs allow shoppers to pay for their purchases online in a very easy and secure manner. Having all of these different quality APIs on all of your online platforms will put you ahead of your competitors and enable you to grow your business.

Online User-Friendly Experience

APIs make it relatively easy for retailers to create user-friendly experiences on their webpages. For example, let’s say you want your shoppers to be able to schedule an appointment directly on your webpage, and you want them to be able to automatically create a Google calendar event with the appointment details at the same time. The use of APIs makes this process possible. Allowing your shoppers and customers to do something like this makes the overall experience of visiting your website pleasant for any consumer.

This is something important to do in today’s society because according to a study conducted by Experience Dynamics, 52 percent of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company. The study also states that mobile users are five times more likely to abandon a task if a site isn’t optimized for mobile. As you can see, ensuring your website is optimized is extremely important because if you don’t, you run the risk of your shoppers becoming frustrated with your brand. Thankfully, APIs optimize websites extremely well, and using them will create an online user-friendly experience for your customers that is slowly but surely becoming mandatory in today’s business world.

In-Store Shopper Experiences

APIs allow you to determine what your customers actually want when shopping at your store. This is important for a retailer to know because if you don’t have what people are looking for, you will be out of business fast. The way in which APIs can do this is by installing questionnaires, surveys, polls, etc. on your webpage. Based on the results, you can easily determine how to improve your business. For example, if you are a clothing company and are determining which color pants to release, you can install API technology on your website that will create a poll asking your customers which color pants they are more likely to buy. Not only does this give you a better understanding of what your shoppers want, but it also saves you time and money trying to figure this information out on your own.

Businesses Performance

APIs not only enhance your shoppers’ experiences, they also can enhance your businesses performance as well. There are many ways in which APIs can help your businesses performance, but the main way is by providing accurate information with regards to your inventory. Using APIs for tasks like these eliminates the inevitability of human error, and will make it that much easier for you to run your business effectively.

In summary, it is not enough to just simply have an online presence anymore. You need to have strong APIs to pair with your online channels as well. Failing to do so will make your business fall behind those that do, and as a result, the future of your business may be in big trouble.

About the writer: Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto.

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