An API is not the product, but it makes the product better

Like chemicals, APIs are not a product on their own, but they can be found in many of the products you use, making them better

Most of us probably remember this advertising line from chemical company BASF:

We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.

In our digitalized world, some businesses have been built around providing data or services through APIs. But when you think about it, they do not represent the majority of use cases for APIs. In many more cases, APIs serve the purpose to augment or support a core go-to-market strategy.

Leverage an API to go omni-channel

Opening up an API to partners, such as retailers, distributors, complementary service providers, is the best way to get your product in the hands of market segments you wouldn't be able to reach on your own.

By increasing the opportunities for consumers to be exposed to your product in third-party applications or websites, you are not only reaching out to these new consumers, but you are also becoming more visible, getting established as the undisputable reference in your domain, making your product better.

Enable contributions through APIs

The most valuable content you can provide to your users is not content you created yourself but content their peers have contributed. Adding an API that makes such contributions possible (in the form of direct feedback, reviews, social posts, etc.) will enable you to enrich your content and offer a more valuable -- and a better -- product.

Use APIs to connect partner processes

You don't want to reinvent the wheel. Some of your partners are providing a service or product that's complementary to yours, or that's a key part of your business process. If you deploy APIs that let your partners integrate with your business, they will do the integration work in order to become part of your ecosystem. Getting this integration done in a standardized way will be more efficient than legacy ad-hoc integrations, and will make your product better.

APIs open up new interactions

Providing access to your data model, to your business logic, can enable the development of new applications, and let you concentrate on your core competency instead of spending resources to address the needs of the entire target population. Maintaining mobile apps, web sites, is a very demanding job. Maybe you're better off letting other people do this, but ensure they can smoothly leverage your product, making it better.

And when the API is the product, is it really the product?

And there are cases of course when the API is the product. Think for example of Twilio, a provider of communication APIs in the cloud that allows software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls and send and receive text messages.

For Twilio, the API is the product. But for the services it powers, such as Uber, Opentable or, Twilio’s API helps make their products better.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.