There are many business benefits that APIs provide. Merchants need to embrace those strategic opportunities instead of treating APIs only as technological commodities.
Improve Agility and Time-to-Market
Following an API strategy has a positive impact on business agility - in two ways. For one, creating and maintaining internal APIs makes it easier to make data and processes available in entirely new contexts and across the entire organization. Secondly, brands and retailers are enabled to consume external APIs, without having to rely only on internal resources. In both scenarios, building and testing new functionalities on top of those APIs lead to much faster development cycles.
Relying on a tightly integrated legacy commerce platform, businesses find it hard to innovate their services, bring new features to their customers or follow new business opportunities. If it takes months to make the slightest change to the software, innovation is effectively stifled. Having a flexible API infrastructure in place means a big step forward for brands and merchants: New ideas and POCs can be tested and brought online within days, requiring only a fraction of the cost.
The API Economy
According to ProgrammableWeb, there are now more than 18,000 APIs online today, ready to be used by external parties. This opens up enormous possibilities to retailers who have a vast array of information at their disposal. It can be used to build services which provide extra value to customers. Open weather APIs, for instance, make it possible for merchants to create offers based on the weather conditions. In turn, retailers opening up their API to others can have their data pool used to fuel alternative business models and generate extra traffic.
API-first. vs. API-last
There are quite a few companies in the commerce software market which claim to offer an API. Most of the time, though, these are legacy solutions trying to come across as state-of-the-art. In other words, they bolt an API as an afterthought. The result: such an API-last approach often results in a poor experience. Those API’s functions are often limited, and it takes many resources to be able to build custom functionality. In contrast, API-first solutions such as commercetools have been created from scratch, always with the API in mind, offering maximum flexibility.