An API-powered shopping season

From dynamic pricing to unified shopper's experience, APIs are impacting the entire shopping experience

The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, marks the opening of the holiday shopping season. As usual, stores witnessed stampedes of shoppers chasing early morning bargains, and online shopping sites got hit as early as midnight by cybershoppers trying to snatch the best deals. And it's only the start, with this Monday, Cyber Monday, marking the beginning of a week of online specials.

Unlike every year before, this shopping season is driven by APIs. Since the beginning of 2015, APIs have become increasingly pervasive in all types of consumer interactions. Let's take a tour of an API-driven shopping season.

API-enabled dynamic product pricing

Traditionally the realm of giant online merchants, the alchemy of dynamic product pricing is increasingly available to all retailers. Driven by big data and sometimes by artificial intelligence, this science is about offering the most competitive price without leaving money on the table. The problem is, once the best price has been computed, how does the store apply it across its online properties and its physical stores: shelves and checkouts?

Online integration came as the easiest but the systematic use of APIs to adjust prices in e-commerce systems has also made it easier to make these prices available to physical stores. Add connected digital price tags to the equation, and you gain the ability to change the price of a product without sending a clerk skating through aisles to swap labels. The same APIs get the information to checkout systems in real-time.

API-driven unified shopper experience

It's a now given that e-commerce sites know all there is to know about their consumers. But physical stores still only have rudimentary ways to identify clients before they reach checkout.

This is changing fast thanks to cleverly designed shopping apps that guide consumers through the aisles and provide a wealth of information about their in-store behavior. Using the same APIs than e-commerce sites, shopper's apps integrate online and offline interactions with the brand into a single unified experience.

API-based partnerships & marketplaces

Online platforms now offer an ever broader range of products and services thanks to partnerships and the integration of third party merchants through marketplaces. Increasingly, these extended scopes are becoming available through mobile apps or in-store systems.

This is made possible by the backend APIs that power these marketplaces, insulating the frontend from the provider and making it easy to connect new systems to the same backends.

API-supported backend services

This area may not be new, but it's improving all the time. Payments are authorized by third-party clearinghouses. Shipments are set through direct integration with couriers. Orders are automatically forwarded to third-party partners/providers.

What's new in this field is that B2B exchanges and SOAP Web services are being replaced by standard web APIs. This makes it a lot faster and smoother to onboard a partner and integrate systems, and competition is increasingly shifting from the value of the actual service to the ease of calling that service. With a march toward commoditization of services, the speed and cost of use is taking a front row seat.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.