Why are APIs Important to my Online Business in 2019?
If you’re not familiar with APIs, let’s run through a quick primer. API stands for application programming interface and refers to a set of tools and protocols that makes it possible to easily and efficiently access a software or hardware system from the outside.
It might help to think of providing an API as somewhat analogous to giving someone limited access to your home, letting them use the facilities at their leisure without your oversight (though on the condition that they agree to obey your house rules).
With that established, let’s move on to the purpose of this piece; laying out why APIs matter so much for online businesses. Whether you’d previously heard about them, or first encountered them in the title and opening paragraph of this post, there’s a lot of value in learning more about them — so let’s get to it. Here’s why APIs matter so much for online businesses in 2019:
APIs are essential for integration
The online world is increasingly interconnected, hurried along by the widespread development of infrastructure and the move of many (maybe even most) software solutions to the cloud. The days of relying exclusively on specific tools and only going online on occasion are long gone, with the modern business using an ever-changing set of online tools to maximize impact.
Using so many distinct tools together with any degree of cohesion, of course, requires them to communicate — to share data and functions. One tool sends a file to another, then calls a function from yet another. The alternative would be unbearably cumbersome. The user would consistently need to hunt for a way to convert data between formats, and plan out confusing stretches of manual action (knowing that one user error could render the result worthless).
APIs make it so much easier for distinct applications and pieces of hardware to cooperate, allowing users to choose very freely from the options available and combine tools in interesting ways to achieve outstanding results. But that’s not the limit of integration’s importance.
Integration fuels so many parts of business
Even if you don’t much care about using varied sets of tools together, integration is still a big deal for your online business — and the reasons are numerous. Firstly, there’s automation. As a business owner, your time is very precious, and anything that can save you time is worth pursuing — combine automation processes with API-led integrations, and you can massively speed up your operation while lightening your workload.
Usefully, whether you’re scheduling posts through something like Hootsuite or posting manually when you feel like it, integration empowers cross-channel marketing. If you’ve created a great post, why manually upload it to every suitable social media channel when you can post it to all of them in one click using their APIs?
It can even come to the rescue in the event that you need to go through something like a migration (the bane of the online business). Let’s say you were using something cumbersome like Magento and considering migrating your store to something more intuitive like Shopify (Magento is powerful, but it’s also a major headache). Instead of traumatically moving all the files and settings over manually, you could use an intermediary solution like Cart2Cart.
Analytics, meanwhile, allow you to meaningfully assess the impact of both your business itself and related efforts — particularly those pertaining to your marketing. Without the same access to APIs that allows cross-posted content, you wouldn’t be able to accurately gauge where your website visits and customers come from.
And you certainly wouldn’t be able to properly monitor your site’s performance, let alone the performance of your IoT devices. Tools like Rapidspike have such rich APIs that you can connect anything you want to check very easily. Simply write a short script to run on your device, and you’re ready to build a comprehensive view of everything you have online.
Customers demand cross-platform options
Have you ever used a social login? You visit a new store with the intention of placing an order, but you don’t want to go through the awkward process of creating a new account you may never use again, so you opt to sign in with Google instead. You’re ready to go in seconds, with no data entry required. That’s the kind of convenience that shoppers have become accustomed to.
Now think of how prevalent social sharing has become. You find a great product offer that you want to share with your friends, so you simply click on the relevant button to share it on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or whatever other platform you prefer. It’s become part of the online shopping experience, and going without it feels odd at this point.
All these options are only possible through the rich web of APIs available to website owners. It doesn’t seem that special because it’s always there and gets taken for granted, but you’d immediately notice it if the APIs stopped working.
Wrapping up, then, there are two main reasons why APIs matter to your online business: they’re essential for a wide range of actions and features that you rely on daily, and they make it possible for you to massively extend your operation with minimal fuss and effort. They form the connective tissue that holds the internet together, so appreciate them!