What Are Ecommerce APIs & Why Are They Necessary?

By Frank Tilleli on July 26, 2023

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What Are E-Commerce APIs and Why Are They Necessary?

In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, application programming interfaces (APIs) can make all the difference in adapting to consumer demands, organizational growth and an evolving technological landscape. They allow complicated and siloed back-end systems to communicate freely and securely with each other, and they give businesses the speed and flexibility they need to tackle their biggest goals, especially in an omnichannel world.

E-commerce APIs focus on the applications used in this environment, and an integration platform simplifies them further with a centralized space for connecting your applications. Understanding APIs is a critical first step if you work in e-commerce and plan to grow your business.

What Is an API?

An API is a defined set of protocols, routines and tools that dictate how different software elements communicate with each other. It determines which interfaces other programs can interact with, handling complex logic without the developer ever needing to know what happens behind the scenes. For example, you could use an API to send order information to a shipping platform or send pricing information to an inventory management program. The API securely connects the data for easy, seamless communications and doesn't require all-new coding from the developer.

Businesses use APIs as building blocks to power some of their most valuable applications and simplify development processes. Since large companies have a significant number of apps, e-commerce APIs are crucial in making these programs manageable and maximizing their value. They may have diverse data structures and platforms, but an API facilitates seamless connections.

It's also worth noting that APIs are typically open or private. Open APIs refer to publicly available APIs that any developer can use, while private APIs are solely for internal use or for use by developers partnered with an organization. Depending on your demands, either one could be appropriate.

Business models that revolve around APIs contribute to the API economy, a way of doing business that shares digital services and assets in a controlled manner through the APIs. The idea of this economy is to create user-focused apps that support business goals and efficiency. Today's digital world makes seamless integration essential, and the modular nature of APIs poses them as a prime candidate for helping businesses meet those demands.

What Is an API in E-Commerce?

E-commerce APIs are simply APIs used in the e-commerce environment, usually addressing common tasks like checkout and fulfillment. E-commerce is now an omnichannel landscape, necessitating a wide range of apps and programs to ensure a seamless customer experience across all possible touchpoints. From mobile apps to in-person visits to desktop websites and phone calls, customers expect a consistent, polished process that feels smooth and uninterrupted. E-commerce APIs are designed for this purpose, connecting operational and customer-facing interfaces for a simplified experience across the board.

Two people looking a laptop and taking notes next to an explanation of E-commerce APIs.

Some of the platforms e-commerce APIs can connect include:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  • Order management systems (OMSs)
  • Product information management (PIM) systems
  • Warehouse management systems (WMSs)
  • Point-of-sale (POS) systems
  • Content management systems (CMSs)

These systems are typically closed off, and getting all of the capabilities you need within one of them is nearly impossible. With the help of APIs, e-commerce businesses can organize and unify the massive amount of data coming in from these diverse sources, allowing the organization to use it more effectively.

We'll discuss specific examples later, but most e-commerce APIs fall under one of three categories:

  • Process APIs: A process API helps break down data silos by managing data within or across systems. They allow developers to work more independently from each system and branch out from specific data formats and structures.
  • Systems APIs: These APIs hide the complexity of major core systems, like ERPs and CRMs. They can help users access the data more easily and integrate with other core or non-core systems.
  • Experience APIs: Experience APIs reconfigure data for easier use. They make data from a source readable to other applications so they can pull from a common data source rather than using separate integrations for every channel.

Why Should You Use E-Commerce APIs?

E-commerce API integrations are a powerful resource. They bring together nearly every aspect of the business, from systems and platforms to algorithms, people and locations. You might use them for fulfillment, product development, business planning, customer service and many other areas.

APIs can facilitate better connections and faster development processes since your team doesn't need to create unique connections for every interaction. With an underlying communication system, you can drastically reduce complexity. Your developers can work more efficiently, and you can get to market faster.

One of the most valuable uses for e-commerce API integrations is implementing headless e-commerce. Headless e-commerce refers to the idea of decoupling front-end and back-end systems and allowing them to communicate through the API. Customers can interact with the company through a range of interfaces, like social media platforms, mobile apps and web browsers, but the data always gets seamlessly pushed through to centralized back-end resources for easy management.

The e-commerce company can then achieve extensive customization and offer a tailored experience to every customer without creating a complicated, cumbersome network of behind-the-scenes processes. APIs facilitate this kind of infrastructure, allowing you to support an omnichannel shopping experience and efficient operations across all levels.

You can use e-commerce APIs for tasks like:

  • Connecting your e-commerce platform to third-party marketplaces
  • Connecting users' social media apps to your e-commerce platform API for a personalized experience
  • Monitor and analyze data in real time
  • Increasing visibility for large amounts of customer data
  • Implementing chatbots that can access customer and order information
  • Streamlining team member workflows by reducing the number of logins and programs required
  • Breaking down data silos by providing employees with access to information from other departments
  • Improving security and complying with data privacy laws in different regions

Benefits of E-Commerce APIs

With their extensive flexibility, APIs have a lot to offer e-commerce organizations. Whether you're looking to grow, increase profits, reduce complexity or meet another goal, the benefits of API integration can help.

Informative graphic showing the benefits of E-Commerce APIs with a man working on a laptop in an office while holding papers

1. Scalability

If you want to grow your business, APIs are a must-have. They let you add applications as needed to fit your evolving needs. For example, you might find that you outgrow your basic accounting system. An API makes it easy to transfer information over to a larger one and integrate it within your app ecosystem. You can augment your existing e-commerce system with new tools and resources without making large-scale changes to the existing infrastructure.

Plus, APIs are easier to work with, so you don't need to significantly scale up your IT team to make system changes.

2. Efficiency and Speed

APIs can support fast-moving interfaces and efficient teams. Streamlined data sharing lets apps work quickly and present a smooth system to their users. Meanwhile, your developer team can focus on more important tasks. Their workflow moves faster, and you don't need to spend time or money on proprietary or full-stack platform development. You can pull from a larger talent pool and reduce the need for employees with specialized skills.

With APIs, you can speed up processes for product launches, app customization and much more. They're highly reusable, too, so you won't need to start from scratch for every program or interface.

Team efficiency extends to other departments, too. Implementing chatbots, for instance, can help eliminate low-hanging fruit from the workload of your customer service team, freeing up more representatives for complicated issues and improving the customer experience overall. APIs can streamline workflows across the organization, allowing employees to reduce the number of apps they need to access. 

3. Adaptability

E-commerce is constantly evolving. Changing technologies, from new social media integrations to smart devices and buying trends, necessitate flexible solutions. APIs answer the call by creating a highly adaptable solution. You can add and remove integrations without lengthy development demands. Whether the market changes or you want to make use of an exciting new technology, simple API integrations can make it happen.

APIs can also boost the value of your existing applications by stretching their functionality. Automatic data transfer can make a tedious program more efficient and useful.

4. Improved Security

An e-commerce platform is built on large amounts of data, and an API adds an extra layer of security to keep it all safe. It encrypts the information and sits between the software system and whoever is requesting data for added protection.

5. Improved Customer Experiences

Remember, customers now demand omnichannel shopping. About 60-70% of people shop and research both online and in stores, and Generation Z is especially enthusiastic about breaking down shopping boundaries. Moving forward, e-commerce businesses must focus on ensuring an exceptional customer experience at all possible touchpoints, and APIs can help.

E-commerce API integrations can allow you to accommodate a diverse selection of apps. You can integrate whatever programs your customers are using, connect more data for easier customer service and provide a seamless, uninterrupted shopping experience. With centralized data and improved visibility, you can learn more about your customers and find ways to make them happier.

Summary of the statistic that 60-70% of people shop and research both online and in stores

Types of E-Commerce APIs

E-commerce APIs come in many different flavors, each used for different purposes. Here are some common types of API integrations for e-commerce.

1. Login API

A login API lets customers log into your e-commerce platform with their credentials from other platforms, such as Facebook or Google. Customers get to use a service they already trust to share their information rather than make a new account.

2. Cart API

A cart API helps you manage, build and view shopping carts for your customers, such as calculating shipping costs and sales taxes. It adds valuable features for your buyers to make their checkout experience smooth and predictable.

3. Catalog API

With this kind of API, you can create, edit and manage the products in your catalog. A catalog API can help you integrate the items with the rest of your core systems, such as a POS or PIM. You can also connect the catalog to your analytics platform to learn more about it and make informed business decisions.

4. Checkout API

Checkout APIs let you customize the checkout interface for different users. You might adjust it for certain audiences, such as the currency to fit the country a customer is visiting from.

5. Sales Tax API

Sales tax can get complicated, especially with variations across countries, states and counties. An API can take care of these calculations and help you avoid the complexities while providing predictable costs for customers.

6. Social Proof API

Social proof refers to integrations with social media platforms. One example of an e-commerce API for social proof could let users like or share a product or review. Customers get to add something to their feeds, and you get some free advertising. Most major social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer customizable APIs you can use.

7. Fraud Prevention API

An anti-fraud or fraud prevention API can help screen for fraud. It might look for red flags related to the user's location, credit card information, email or other elements of the purchase. These APIs can help protect you and your customers from fraudulent purchases.

8. Shipping API

A shipping API for e-commerce is a useful type of API integration that can automate data transfers with your shipping provider. They can pull information from your e-commerce platform and send them directly to popular shipping providers like USPS, UPS and FedEx. Many e-commerce platforms have these integrations built-in, but you can also add them yourself. Many sellers use these connections for tasks like printing packing slips and labels.

9. Widget API

With widgets, you can inject custom code — including CSS, HTML and JavaScript — into your e-commerce store. You can make customized experiences for your users and create tools that developers can use without coding knowledge.

10. Marketing Automation API

Email lists are a great way to reach your audience with targeted communications. This kind of API can pull customer information and add it to an email list. It can also support additional segmentation for more targeted marketing efforts, like separating customers based on how much they spent or where they're located.

11. Order API

An order API will sync up all of the orders from a channel and help you organize and analyze them. You can sort through the data, view orders according to specified criteria and make adjustments. This API can help with returns and cancellations, too.

12. Subscription API

Many e-commerce stores are using subscription APIs to help customers make repeat purchases at recurring intervals. It's often convenient and customized. A subscription API can connect this software to the rest of your systems and help you organize these purchases.

Contact ConnectPointz for E-Commerce API Integrations

With so many options out there, APIs can open a lot of doors for your e-commerce business. They can help you work more efficiently, scale your organization and reach your goals more effectively. Still, you'll need the right integration system if you want to implement them successfully. ConnectPointz offers a wide range of pre-configured and custom integration solutions to make quick work of omnichannel e-commerce and automate your entire order-to-cash process.

We adapt our flexible services to your unique needs and offer ongoing support to keep you working efficiently. Learn more about ConnectPointz and implementing APIs for your e-commerce business today!

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