How to implement an API-strategy in Retail
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
The internet has revolutionized the way people shop. Most consumers find out about trends either through word-of-mouth or social media and they tend to use their mobile devices throughout the shopping lifecycle. Either when browsing the internet looking for deals or using an online coupon they got in an e-mail.
This new shopping behavior has created problems for companies that have been around for decades before the internet was fully in style. Their systems tend to be mostly siloed and there has been massive duplication across business units because systems were created to solve tactical problems.
As eCommerce became too hard to ignore in the early 2000s, retailers began to scramble to meet customer demand by deploying poor point-to-point integration solutions with no clear scalable strategy in mind. This fixed the problem in the short-term but left many struggling to support increasing customer demand on its online channels in the long-term. And when consumers hate the online shopping experience, that means big problems for Retailers. That’s when revenue starts to slip and the bottom line starts to shrink. The good thing is that there’s a way to correct this and adapt quickly to meet customer’s demands.
Here are some uses cases where retailers can implement a well thought out API strategy to meet customer’s expectations and increase sales:
Visibility of Information
Customers interested in a product want to see the stores closest to them that have the product in stock.
Product Reservation at ANY location from ANY Medium
Customers want to be able to reserve an item at the store that has the product in stock using their phone or personal computer, so they can stop by to view, handle, try on the product before making the purchase.
Product Purchase at ANY location from ANY Medium
Customers want to be able to purchase an item at the store of their choosing that has the product in stock, so they can quickly pick up the product at their convenience.
To create truly distinctive experiences, retailers need to bring data from disparate sources to customers, suppliers, and employees. For example, the business team might want data on product availability both in-store and online to give customers real-time information.
The idea is to unlock and expose access to data via APIs to make an application network comprised of components that can be used as Lego bricks. This approach shifts the way IT operates by decentralizing access to data and capabilities while at the same time allowing IT to always maintain visibility and control.
3-layer API-led connectivity Architecture
Agility and flexibility can be achieved by adopting a multitier architecture containing 3 distinct layers:
This is the layer where all the core systems can be found. The APIs in this layer are meant to provide access to underlying systems of record and exposing that data. IT should have complete governance over these APIs as they represent core systems important to the business. For retailers, the core systems could be their CRM, key customer and billing systems and proprietary databases.
These APIs perform a specific function and need access to core system data, however, they also have encapsulated in them the underlying processes and logic inherent to the business. For retailers, an example could be a purchase order process that has some logic common across all channels. That process can be distilled into a single service that can be used regardless of product, geography or retail channel.
Retail application network in action
The application network provides an infrastructure for information exchange by allowing applications to be “plugged” into the network. Every node added to the network adds value to the network since that data and capabilities are easily discoverable and consumable by others. For example, a team can build an Order API that can be reused for the web and mobile apps. Or an API that gives customer service reps access to previous orders and customer data through the POS system.
This makes it easier for somebody in the organization to create a useful application, use of data, or an API with a particular experience, and then expose that value to the network.
Benefits Of API-Led Connectivity For The Business:
IT can act as an enabler by allowing lines of business to self-serve
Increase developer productivity through reuse
More organized and logical architecture
Easy to scale out as the business grows
Easier to implement bimodal integration or two-speed IT approach
Deeper operational visibility
Here at NEWTOMS, we can help retailers embrace digital transformation to the fullest, so they can effectively use technology to create a better experience for their customers. We help our clients bring together business and IT as strategic partners to achieve outcomes.
We are more than happy to discuss any use cases with your organization. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to any request 24/7 because our staff is strategically located around the globe. We speak English, Spanish, and Filipino.
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