Want to increase your pace of innovation?
Giving your customers truly innovative experiences is the fourth step in your unified commerce journey. By this stage, you’ll have centralised your inventory and customer data onto a single platform, you’ll be extending brand experiences across all channels and you’ll be delighting customers with personalised experiences and messages. Next is shifting your team’s priorities to innovation and using APIs for a disruptive competitive advantage.
The most innovative retailers are creating new business models that are less focused on the store-online-mobile balance and instead concentrate on building ecosystems that give their customers extraordinary experiences.
These retailers have realised that they need to access third-party data and services to successfully give customers what they want at every step of the customer journey. In the past, that required moving a lot of data between systems and possibly even replicating functionality in systems to achieve a consistent outcome.
Now the best retailers are embracing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for efficient and open connectivity between applications, partners and customers. Using APIs, they can expose rather than move or replicate data, and make one set of functions available across various systems without having to recreate it.
APIs are present in every part of our digital world. Every time we use an app like LinkedIn, make a Skype call or listen to Spotify on our phone, we’re using an API.
APIs let you add specialised functionality to a website, application, platform or software without having to write all of the back-end code. By using APIs to access existing solutions in the market, you are free to focus your development efforts on the front-end and create new services that deliver frictionless customer experiences and differentiate your brand.
You can also use APIs to turn your own assets into a platform that can attract partners to build new products and services that bring you both additional revenue. For example, you could release an API that lets developers access your product catalogue to build interesting applications that increase your product exposure.
Here are just some of the ways APIs are enhancing the retail experience:
Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have launched APIs that let you sell products on your social pages. For example, Instagram’s shopping feature lets you tag up to five products in organic posts which consumers can then tap on to find out more information and make a purchase.
Using an API like Semantics3, you can connect your product catalogue web pages directly with a global database that shares detailed information such as brand images, product descriptions, product specifications and full product titles. That lets you sell more by creating better product listings and expanding your catalogue and market reach.
Visual search APIs are also helping customers quickly find the products they want. The Iconic’s Snap to Shop and Cue Clothing’s Style Finder mobile apps use Alibaba Cloud’s visual search service to retrieve information about products that are similar or identical to an input image. Users can shoot or upload an item of clothing’s photo and each service searches the retailer’s range for similar looking products.
When 50 percent of all searches are predicted to be voice searches by 2020, you can consider using Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant APIs to further tailor the shopping experience and boosts sales.
Payment APIs from PayPal, Stripe, Square and Dwolla not only offer you the technical, fraud prevention and banking infrastructure that’s required to operate online payment systems, they also give consumers innovative digital payment options.
When 25 percent of online shoppers abandon their orders due to frustration with filling in forms, you can offer a digital wallet that lets people transfer their information securely and accurately. These digital wallets are the payment method of choice in mobile-first markets like China.
If you’re selling in China or want to provide frictionless experiences to Chinese visitors, students or ex-pats, then include support for Alipay and WeChat Pay, the dominate digital wallet providers with 92% market share between them.
Consumers also love new ‘buy-now, pay later’ services, particularly millennials with an aversion to credit card debt. APIs let you easily offer pay-later options from providers like Afterpay, Laybuy or PartPay. The benefits can be immediate: Afterpay reports that many retailers have seen customer order sizes jump between 20 to 50 percent and retailers are processing up to 25 percent of online orders through the service.
Shipping and delivery APIs let you integrate third party services to automate everything from the sale through to the parcel being delivered to your customer’s address of choice. APIs from Shippit, Temando and Gosweetspot provide one-stop-shop systems to generate a consignment label, ship via the cheapest and fastest delivery service and track your order.
Your customers get the benefit of shipping flexibility, checkout customisation and other functions like tracking notifications and customs forms. And bricks-and-mortar retailers can gain a competitive advantage – for example, fashion retailer Cue Clothing uses its stores as distribution centres for fulfilment options such as 30 minute click-and-collect, store-to-door and 3-hour deliveries nationwide.
So how do you start making the most of APIs?
Begin by evaluating your company’s value chain. Can you easily integrate and use APIs to access third-party platforms and services to scale your business? Or can you release your own APIs to attract partners and build out your platform? The two options are not mutually exclusive.
We can also help if you’re looking for advice on how to create a strategy and implement an API programme that quickly creates customer and business value.
By developing a community of third-party apps and systems working together in an ecosystem, you can reduce integration and maintenance overheads, enjoy virtually limitless scalability, monetise your data and continually innovate.