The importance of API’s in scaling e-commerce

Whether it is marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Rakuten and Lazada or ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and BigCommerce; all offer an API to integrate into their services.

But why are APIs so important?

An API is a way for two systems to communicate with each other to access each others services and data. A merchant using an inventory management system would typically connect that system to the webstore. Once connected, orders generated by customers purchasing a product, will immediately appear in the inventory system. The communication between these systems is done via an API.

ecommerce_api

Another example might be a marketplace API allowing other systems to send product and order updates via their API. This would allow an ecommerce platform to keep a marketplace product catalog up to date. Any updates applied to products inside Magento would be reflected in eBay immediately for example.

Integrations like the above are only a few examples but all share that manual work is avoided, processes can run faster and less mistakes are made.

When working with different APIs, there are few challenges to overcome:

Format differences

Data can be expected in different formats such as XML, JSON, CSV.

Structure differences
Data field names can differ. Some APIs might call a field “title”, others “product_title” or “name”.
Data differences
Prices might be specified with or without a currency. For some destinations, products will need to be categorised. The list of categories differs depending on the destination.
There is a large potential for platforms that manage to connect to different marketplaces, ecommerce platforms or any other systems and provide a seamless integrated solution.

This holds particularly true for a region such as Asia Pacific where the amount of systems is increasing rapidly due to the fragmented market.

 

SOURCES
http://techcrunch.com/2015/07/03/experiential-commerce-is-the-next-billion-dollar-opportunity-for-developers/?ncid=tcdaily
http://thejibe.com/blog/15/06/ecommerce-platforms-api-revolution-infographic
http://unicomarketing.blogspot.sg/2014/12/10-trends-that-will-shape-southeast.html

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