In the past few years, we have seen a real increase of e-commerce software tools that make life easier for online sellers. From streamlining your website, improving your checkout experience, making shipping convenient, providing robust inventory tracking, and more, these web apps give businesses new speed and agility when serving customers. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to grow your online stores with all of this great cloud based software.
What is the hidden engine that is fueling all of this growth? The API.
An application program interface (API) is code that allows two software programs to communicate with each other. An API functions as a set of specifications that tells developers how to get data both into and out of a piece of software.
This is critical for e-commerce companies because so much of our work relies on getting your apps to talk to each other. When an order is placed, that info has to get to your shipping tool and update your accounting system. When an order is shipped, you need to notify the customer that their product is on the way.
At the highest level, this shift towards API driven e-commerce makes a lot of sense. It lets software companies focus on their core strength, rather than building or buying an expensive all-in-one product suite that tries to solve every need.
But using APIs can quickly become painful. Whether you are about to jump in with your first connection or your business already depends on several APIs, there are a few things you should consider:
1 - Is your chosen software API friendly?
Before you make a decision about a certain software, go deeper than just answering whether it has an API since not all APIs are created equal. Do they use current RESTful standards? Most cloud software should have a well documented API, but there’s no guarantee for older and larger software.
2 - Does my software give access to the data I need to share?
As you think about why you’re upgrading to a new software, will you be able to access that customer, product, or order information through their API? Even if the software has great features, it isn’t very useful if you can’t access or send your important data.
3 - Out of the box integrations vs. custom integrations:
As we talked about previously on our blog, many apps come with pre-built e-commerce integrations to other cloud tools. These often work for a while, but as your online store grows, you may have to hire a developer to write custom code to integrate all of the data you need to pass between your web apps.
4 - Where is your source of truth?
When connecting your e-commerce software stack, you need to decide where all of the data for your customers, orders, products, and inventory will live. Will they be spread across multiple tools or held inside one central database? What if two pieces of information conflict - which one wins?
5 - Support and upgrades:
As features expand for software, APIs will need to expose more aspects of that app's data. The API will have to evolve and update to accommodate that change - will you have the support you need to adapt your connection to that change?
6 - Flexibility for new tools in the future:
Will using this new software allow you to implement additional software down the road? If you want to keep providing a great experience for your customers, then you’ll need to be using cutting edge tools to reach out to them.
As an online seller, your choice of e-commerce software makes a big impact on the health of your business, the ease of your operation, and your digital customer experience. APIs make it possible to keep everything in sync, but they require some extra consideration to use and implement in your business. At Toolkite, we’ve already taught the most popular e-commerce tools to speak the same language. You decide what to connect. We make it automagic.
If you’re ready to harness the power of e-commerce APIs without the development hassle, sign up for a demo of Toolkite!