By Wendy Breakstone
API stands for Application Program Interface. Think of an API as a bridge that connects two distinct web-based products or services together in order to accomplish a specific task – such as passing data back and forth in real-time. Basically, an API enables two different softwares to seamlessly and automatically talk to each other to get something done.
What’s a typical marketing or ecommerce use? Imagine you’re shopping for a new Bluetooth speaker. You’re doing online research on a speaker-centric website that shows you a few different models from various brands. You click on a model, which is made by Brand A. Instantaneously, the site you’re visiting makes a “call” or request to Brand A through its inventory API to find out if that model is in stock. In less than a second, you’re served the webpage for the model you’re looking at with a message that says “Only 2 left in stock. Order now.”
Often, a big company will make its API public through a software development kit (SDK) so that outside developers have access to the tools and information to design products that are powered by its service. In this instance, the big company wants smaller ones to be access it’s technology or data, and giving out its API makes this possible. The more the big company’s API is used, the more popular that big company becomes.
Should your company consider using an API? Take some time to see if any of your existing processes are inefficient. If you discover that several tasks are sucking up a lot of manual hours, using an API can be a good solution for you. If you’re a small business or a start-up just getting on its feet, you might not have a dedicated engineering department to handle this task for you. This is definitely not a reason to avoid APIs. There are plenty of experienced, knowledgeable business consultants and web developers that can help you.
What types of tasks can be improved by APIs?
- Social Media: Twitter and Facebook both have APIs that post feed updates to the other platform.
- Email: An email validation API can reduce bounce back rates.
- Lead Gen: A contact enhancement API can connect your website to your CRM system.
- Billing and Shipping: An address validation API can reduce undeliverable mail, saving on paper and postage.
- Ecommerce: Credit card APIs to approve and capture charges in real-time.
APIs can help enhance existing software and systems with value-added features. You’ll save time and money by reducing human errors because technology will start doing the dirty work for you. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C, your end-users will thank you for richer offerings, access to faster information and a more seamless experience overall.
Wendy Breakstone is the director of marketing for Service Objects.