Overview of Shipping API in Detail
An API (full form: Application Programming Interface) is programming software that acts as an intermediary between certain software, programs and platforms. Each platform likely has its own API and set of APIs that perform designated functions. You can see API integrations at work on every social media platform, streaming website and weather applications.
Facebook uses API integrations to allow users to chat. YouTube APIs display their videos on third-party platforms. Other applications use APIs to compute and present data or enable certain actions. With their myriad of functions, API integrations have been revolutionizing supply chain management for the e-commerce industry.
What are eCommerce Shipping APIs?
An API is essentially a repository of knowledge for the software it is programmed with. API integrations can then use that data to enable different actions with other applications. This is how API integrations work. Accordingly, different eCommerce shipping companies maintain their own unique APIs that e-commerce businesses integrate with to streamline various delivery functions. These Shipping APIs allow data to flow freely between your eCommerce business and shipping partners.
What Shipping APIs Do and How They Work in the eCommerce Industry?
Shipping APIs can be programmed to handle a variety of different things, from calculating delivery dates to passing on vital delivery instructions. Proper use of Shipping API integrations can help you maximize order fulfillment, reduce RTO numbers, and improve customer satisfaction. So the first thing you need to do when you’re tying up with a new shipping partner is to determine what functions are handled by API integrations. These are the major functions Shipping APIs take care of.
1. Order Creation and AWB Generation
After you are notified that a customer has placed an order on your e-commerce platform, the order then has to be prepared for shipment with the appropriate shipping partner via a process known as order manifestation. This process has numerous steps in it.
Multiple API integrations are at work here to automate processes that previously had to be done manually. Once the order details are entered on the concerned shipping partner platform, an API creates the order, generating an AWB (airway bill) number. This number is the unique identification code of the order and can be used to track the order through its entire life cycle.
After this, a shipping label with all the order & shipping data is printed. The order is then prepped for shipment and assigned to the delivery agent for pickup. API integrations not only make this process faster but also easier to monitor, regulate and manage.
2. EDD Display
This is an API integration that jumps into action before an order has even been placed. It helps to push sales forward and incentivize customers when shopping online. As a customer browses a Product Description page, debating whether or not to purchase the item, they invariably look for the EDD (estimated delivery date).
The EDD API takes the pin-code data provided by customers on the platform and analyses it in respect of past data on shipments to that delivery location by the respective shipping partners. This analysis enables it to calculate the estimated time of the order's journey and when it is likely to arrive at the customer's doorstep. The calculated results of the EDD are then displayed on the Product Description page, to help customers make an informed decision about their purchase.
3. Send Customer Tracking Updates
Being able to track orders efficiently is the creamy delicious centre of the top supply chain management candy that every eCommerce business wants to sink their teeth into. There are multiple API integrations that enable more efficient tracking of orders. Some of these APIs work to pull tracking information at regular intervals from shipping partner platforms.
As each delivery milestone is crossed, from Picked Up to In-Transit and finally to Out-For-Delivery, API integrations pass on said information first to the e-commerce business and then to the customer. Tracking API Integration enables not only enterprises to keep track of all their orders but customers as well. As each milestone is crossed, automated notifications are sent to customers informing them of their order status.
4. Manage Cancelled Orders
Most shipping companies make use of Cancellation APIs to enable effective and efficient reverse logistics for cancelled orders. These Cancellation API integrations start winding their gears as soon as a cancellation request is received and accepted by the eCommerce business.
It automatically creates the new cancelled order on the shipping partner page and then sets in motion the return journey for the cancelled order back to the origin warehouse from whichever delivery milestone it is at. The reverse journey can then be monitored to ensure the order does not get lost in-transit and is returned to the origin warehouse with minimal hassle and no damage. The item can then be restocked and resold to an anticipating customer.
5. Edit Orders
There are numerous different types of edits that can be made to order, from a change in the delivery address or contact details to adding or removing discounts. When an order is edited by either the customer, as in the former case or the enterprise, as in the latter case, changes to that order then have to be notified to the corresponding shipping partner and then the order must be modified on the respective shipping partner platform. The Edit Order API integration ensures that edits made via storefronts by customers or enterprises are notified to shipping partners so adjustments can be made accordingly.
6. NDR Management
NDR management is a 4-step process that involves immediate notification of delivery failure, followed by a collection of data from customers to ensure successful delivery and then communication of the new delivery instructions to the shipping partner. This is how NDRs can be converted into successful deliveries instead of RTOs. API integrations play a very important role here. Shipping APIs are used to transfer the instructions and information collected from customers to the shipping partner and consequently to the delivery agent. Automating this process reduces the likelihood of information being lost or further delays in completing delivery.
How To Manage Different Types of Shipping APIs
Once you tie-up with a shipping company, you need to integrate with their Shipping API to enable the above-mentioned functions and many others. This can be a costly and time-consuming task that requires professional expertise. Even after the initial integration process is complete, Shipping API integrations need to be maintained and upgraded regularly. Smaller eCommerce businesses sometimes tie-up with shipping aggregators who are enabled to handle certain basic integrations.
However, for more streamlined solutions, the best option is to make use of a multi-carrier integration platform. These are usually SaaS companies that enable a multitude of Shipping API integrations across multiple different shipping partners. Any eCommerce company with order volumes greater than 2000 a month will need more than one shipping partner. Multi-carrier shipping software and integration platforms like MetaPack, Narvar and ClickPost provide end-to-end logistics management using the latest API integrations and other tech-enabled solutions.
API integrations make everything easier when it comes to shipping solutions and supply chain management. Even before an order is placed, we see Shipping APIs hard at work. They are used to help keep you and your customers informed every step of the way from the beginning to the end of every order’s lifecycle. API integrations allow you to almost instantaneously create orders, enable picking and packing, ensure the order is picked up, track the order till its final destination, ensure successful delivery and even enable better returns. Using a multi-carrier integration platform gives you an added boost. Effective platforms like ClickPost, offer easy implementation and solutions to help you get the most benefit from eCommerce Shipping APIs and integration with the least expenditure.