Effective APIs for Retailers: An Overview
Now more than ever, customers are integrating the retail brands they love into their everyday lives, through mobile, web, social, app, and in-person interactions. APIs (application programming interfaces) drive many of these transactions. This is why it’s increasingly critical for innovative retailers that want to reach customers in new ways to develop and execute successful API strategies.
In addition to developing public APIs that enable customer-facing applications, innovative retailers are also creating private APIs that give their own employees new tools that help them streamline business operations and better serve their customers.
APIs Help Retailers
Connect With Customers
An effective API can give existing and potential customers new reasons to interact with a retailer and connect with the brand on a personal level — and to share their experiences with others. Take, for example, the hypothetical case of a retailer of outdoor adventure gear and apparel (for camping, hiking, skiing, mountain-biking, canoeing, etc.). Over many years, as part of its business planning, it has assembled comprehensive, detailed data on the country’s outdoor adventure destinations, cataloging things like the sites’ activities, skill-levels, family-friendliness, quality of facilities, available amenities and more. By making this previously internal data publicly accessible through an API, the retailer unleashes the creativity of developers and related businesses to devise new uses for the data. Developers create apps that recommend outdoor adventure sites based on customer-selected criteria and apps that cross-reference the site information with local weather, nearby lodging, and restaurants, etc. A business that provides tour guides and trainers incorporates the API in an app on its website. The retailer itself creates an app that cross-references the site information with gear rental availability at its nearby stores. Simply exposing this previously isolated and hidden data through a public API has enabled the retailer to extend its reach to many thousands of additional customers — who now regularly connect with the brand in a more personal, meaningful way.
In addition, this retailer could develop private APIs for its own employees — for example, to improve inventory awareness and management throughout the business. An app for store employees could utilize such an API to help customers find out-of-stock items at other store locations with available inventory. They could then use the app to process the customer’s order — either for easy in-store pickup or home delivery. The same API might also be used by the retailer’s inventory management and distribution departments, to streamline their operations. In these and other ways, internal APIs can improve a retailer’s operational efficiency and customer service. Moreover, with integration connectors, retailers can streamline processes and create instant API connectivity between customer service software applications such as Zendesk and subscription billing applications such as Zuora.
Challenges of Developing and Integrating APIs for Retailers
Most retail organizations that have been around for several years have, over time, deployed a mix of technologies, computer systems, and applications to solve a variety of business challenges. These earlier legacy systems become increasingly inefficient as they age and fail to support interoperability with newer technologies. Retailers that are dependent on such legacy systems often encounter problems when attempting to add newer services and software, like SaaS applications and modern APIs. Sometimes these problems can be addressed with point-to-point integrations among existing systems. But eventually, these custom point-to-point integrations create multiple, fragile dependencies that complicate systems and make them more prone to failure.
Another challenge for retailers in developing APIs is the lack of access to effective tools for designing, testing, and monitoring them and a vibrant developer community that can provide feedback and insights into the APIs’ design and features. These are critical to developing well-crafted and engaging APIs that inspire widespread adoption.
API Management, Design, and Development Simplified
MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform™helps retailers enable seamless integration and interoperability throughout the enterprise. With solutions for SaaS, SOA, and APIs, Anypoint Platform makes it easy to share information across applications, services, and systems on-premises and in the cloud. The connectivity these solutions enable allows retail organizations to unlock the systems and data.
Anypoint™ Connectors provide instant API connectivity to some of the most popular retail applications and services. With a library of pre-built retail application integration solutions, retailers can rapidly connect and integrate CRM, accounting, billing, marketing, and other retail applications with legacy systems. Anypoint Connectors make it easy for retailers to deploy integrations rapidly, either on-premises or in the cloud.
In addition, MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform for APIs delivers the tools retailers need to design and build APIs that developers want to use. With tools to support every step in the development, implementation, and management of APIs, Anypoint Platform for APIs is the most effective way to take APIs from concept to reality.
Anypoint Platform for APIs allows you to:
- Design great APIs. By leveraging RAML tooling, the API Platform offers an onramp for API Developers to design RESTful APIs quickly, using expressive, intuitive language.
- Take your API from concept to reality, fast. Anypoint Platform for APIs allows you to quickly and easily build an API once it’s designed, ensure that it performs well and scales to support your growing community of app developers.
- Take the guesswork out of API management and monitoring. MuleSoft’s API Platform provides all of the tools you need for API management, governance, and monitoring.
- Drive engagement with your API. Create and publish interactive docs and code samples, so developers can get started with your API in minutes.
These and other components of MuleSoft’s API and integration solutions make it easy for retailers to design, develop, implement, and monitor useful and engaging APIs — even when they need to be integrated with legacy systems. Anypoint Platform for APIs allows retailers to unlock the useful data within their internal systems and leverage the power of a creative developer community to create new ways for customers to interact and engage with their brands — and for internal departments to improve and streamline operations. Learn more about how MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform can help drive your retail business forward — to a more engaging, efficient, and profitable future.
Explore MuleSoft's retail solutions and see how retailers can use APIs to transform the digital retail experience.