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Applications in today's retail industry are highly distributed and are generally connected by proprietary protocols. But trends toward expanding geographic distribution are driving increased demands for integration — and these demands are driving a greater use of application programming interfaces (APIs) in retail. Retailers worldwide are under tremendous pressure to innovate faster and cycle through inventory as quickly as possible. Also, aggressively managing inventory supply chains is increasingly challenging because consumers have online access to competitive retail Web sites and can easily purchase products elsewhere. “Showrooming” — the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail store but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item — is placing increased margin pressure on retailers, particularly in countries like the US that have relatively low shipping costs.
Read more: 5 Simple Strategies for Securing APIs
Retailers are responding by accelerating inventory churns by gaining product visibility on partner Web sites and maximizing exposure of available inventory. The ability to quickly implement secure APIs that enable innovative merchandising opportunities and aggressive supply chain management can make the difference between success and failure in a highly competitive market. Customers expect retailers to always have items they want in stock. For example, a customer who wants a sweater in a certain size and color will just shop elsewhere if that exact sweater is not available when he or she wants to buy it. Brand loyalty and repeat business are hurt by a failure of any link in the supply chain. APIs and the ability to accelerate integration with partner systems help retailers not only to increase merchandising opportunities but also to gain greater visibility over purchasing patterns and supply chain demands. APIs can have an even greater impact on retail markets with products that have shorter shelf lives. While the clothing markets are aggressively deploying APIs, so too are retail markets that rely on perishable products, such as the food industry. Obtaining food products when needed and minimizing spoilage requires an information-centric approach to supply chain management. Food service retailers and grocery stores both depend on real-time information about product availability. In this context, innovative APIs into third-party applications can provide a competitive advantage. To see the long-term potential of APIs in retailing, I think we can take a look at industries such as online gambling. The gambling industry is a tremendously aggressive consumer of APIs. In locations where it’s legal, large bookmaking organizations compete to quickly introduce opportunities for people to bet on everything from sports to political races or the national budget. Online betting companies develop games or set up innovative new betting scenarios to captivate retail customers and APIs allow them to retail new services out very quickly, to keep customers engaged. For multi-channel retailers, it’s only natural to want to give customers immersive shopping experiences across not only brick-and-mortar storefronts but also Web, mobile and social media channels. These online experiences are increasingly location-specific and contextualized to each shopper’s identity and buying history. APIs provide the means for ensuring consistent shopping experiences across multiple retail channels. Retailers are increasingly seeking to engage buyers everywhere they might be, whether online or in-store. They are looking for ways to deliver immersive commerce experiences — including consistent content, promotions and rewards — across multiple channels. Retailers want to tailor these experiences to buyers’ enhanced identity information. Achieving all this requires the ability to:
- Expose content, commerce, loyalty and promotion functions as APIs
- Integrate APIs from third-party affiliates, mobile apps, social networks, geolocation services, customer data sources and ad networks
- Resolve and reconcile a buyer’s identity across online channels
- Simplify mobile notifications.
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Mehdi Medjaoui on Aug 8, 2018