1) A Brief Explanation of Ecommerce API Integrations
The ecommerce industry has been taking off like a rocket over the past decade, with over 2 billion people making their purchases primarily online. A little known fact is that ecommerce API integrations are what make this industry flourish. So in this article, we’ll be taking a quick peek at what ecommerce API integrations have brought to the game.
An API (full-form: Application Programming Interface) is a programming tool that connects different systems together in order to perform specific tasks. API integrations can be seen in all major facets of life, from viewing platforms like YouTube to information dispensaries like Weather Apps. Even chatting platforms make use of API integrations to function, as these programmes act as repositories of information for various systems. Based on their programming, they can send messages, initiate actions, collect knowledge, analyze data and carry out a myriad of other functions.
These APIs have also made their way into the online retail and logistics industries, playing a vital role in both the basic and complex operations. Ecommerce API integrations are vital for ensuring efficient supply chain management and offering customers a smooth delivery experience. Carriers, customers, storefronts and enterprises all make use of ecommerce API integrations for communication and dispersal of information in an accurate and timely manner.
2) How Do Ecommerce API Integrations Work?
Optimizing your supply chain is all about creating a well-connected web of information, and this is precisely how ecommerce API integrations work. An ecommerce API integration is a programme that enables the operating system of an ecommerce business to quickly and effectively connect with a multitude of other support systems. These systems include but are not limited to courier api integrations, storefront APIs, shipping APIs and communication gateways.
So let’s get down to business, the business of how exactly ecommerce API integrations do their thing. These integrations essentially pull data and push actions across multiple systems. Your respective ecommerce API integration, once set up, would relay information to and from these other systems. The API can then be programmed to perform certain functions based on the information received.
The most common use of ecommerce API integrations has typically been in order tracking. When a carrier updates their status of an order being handled by them, an API automatically pulls that data from the carrier to ensure you are updated. Another API is then used to send that data directly to your customers so that they are also informed. The automation of all these functions can be controlled by an ecommerce API integration.
3) What are the Difficulties of Using Ecommerce API Integrations?
Ecommerce API integrations have a wide range of benefits that have cascading impacts on supply chains. We’ll go into those in greater detail shortly. However, despite these positive attributes, many businesses find themselves struggling to properly use API integrations in eCommerce. This is because, as with all good things, there are numerous drawbacks to the usage of ecommerce API Integrations.
3.1) Minimal Standardization
There is one major area where standardization becomes important with the use of ecommerce API integrations. And that’s with respect to the API standard in question, which differs from system to system. Some use SOAP, others use REST, and many also make use of Graphql. This can interrupt the flow of data between the systems connected through your ecommerce API integration.
3.2) Tech Limitations of 3PLs
Third Party Logistics companies aren’t the companies you’d go to for tech expertise, so it’s natural to assume that shipping APIs and other API integrations used by these companies won’t be the same. They will differ between various 3PLs and in many cases, the API integrations used may be less advanced or supported by systems with limited capacities.
3.3) Lack of Synchronization
This is another problem caused by lack of standardization with respect to the APIs in themselves. In terms of the functions they perform and how they operate, the APIs developed by different tech teams for different services can be fundamentally different. This affects synchronization of information and functionality across different systems.
3.4) Fast-Paced Regulatory Changes
Getting ecommerce API integrations up and running can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. So by the time an API integration is set up, the legal framework for tech and data transfer can change rapidly. In fact, this has been a common occurrence when it comes to integration with ecommerce API, since regulations are constantly in flux.
3.5) Regular Maintenance Requirements
When it comes to ecommerce API integrations, just setting them up is never quite enough. Like with every complex system that functions mechanically, it also requires regular maintenance. So a tech team or a service provider with tech expertise would be required to ensure the API integration is fully operational at all times. This also comes in handy when it comes to upgrading and updating ecommerce API integrations.
4) What are the Benefits of Ecommerce API Integrations?
So if there are so many problems that arise when making use of ecommerce API integrations, then why do companies still keep turning to them. The answer is rather obvious when you think about it. It’s because the benefits heavily outweigh the challenges, especially since the challenges are easily solvable if you make use of a multi-carrier integration software or a logistics intelligence solution. Let’s take a look at some of the positive outcomes of using ecommerce API integrations.
4.1) Reduce Duplication of Efforts
In the process of ecommerce shipping, there are numerous tasks that need to be carried out. Many of these require the same activities to be performed over and over again. For example, when an order is placed by a customer, the order details must be entered manually into the carrier’s system to create the order. These same details again have to be inputted to create the shipping label. Using an API, this same task can be carried out both times with greater accuracy and little to no manual effort.
4.2) Maximize Automation
Automation is the way of the future. From unmanned assembly lines to self-driving cars, automation is being used in most industries and, of course, logistics is no exception. The use of API integrations in ecommerce essentially creates a chain reaction of functionality. An order being placed triggers automated order creation with the carrier which then triggers automated shipping label creation. Various ecommerce API integrations can be carefully set up like dominoes to make things run smoother.
4.3) Accuracy in Administrative Work
There’s a lot of information involved in ecommerce fulfillment, so administration is a big part of the job. From customer data to order details, then to carrier and order tracking updates, plus payment info - keeping track of all this information is absolutely vital. When this information has to be manually entered and stored, there are high chances of inaccuracy and delays in updates. This is where ecommerce API integrations fly in to the rescue, automating the process of information collection and storage, thereby reducing inaccuracies in the process.
4.4) Fast Order Tracking
Order tracking is the best way to every customers’ heart, and API’s play a huge role in ideal order tracking. Pull APIs are the most common ecommerce API integrations used for order tracking as they pull status updates immediately from carrier systems. More advanced systems, like the one provided by ClickPost, makes use of Push APIs as well. These push carriers to provide updates within a designated period of time. The two together ensure real-time tracking updates can be automatically notified to customers.
4.5) Lower Logistics Costs
Ecommerce API integrations offer one major advantage and that is efficiency. By automating a variety of functions, including data collection, relay and checking, the entirety of your operations are able to run more smoothly. Each individual action can be broken down into various components and improved in such a manner that regular challenges can be overcome. These actions together result in a guaranteed reduction of overall logistics costs.
Online shopping is the current go-to mechanism for nearly every operational industry. With services like omnichannel fulfillment quickly making their way to the forefront as well, intelligent use of tech is truly the name of the game right now. This is precisely why understanding ecommerce API integrations is absolutely essential when it comes to gaining a competitive edge in the ecommerce market. If you use ecommerce API integrations the right way, you could not only optimize your operations but also keep costs low and customers happy. And that’s the trifecta of profit-making.