What are Shipping APIs?
Every single person that uses the internet or web-based platforms has at some point or another unwittingly made use of API integration. Whether you’re chatting with friends on Facebook, viewing a YouTube video a friend shared, or even checking the weather, API integrations have a big hand to play. API Integrations are also used by most shipping companies to streamline their eCommerce logistics services. The next time you enjoy any online shopping experience, remember that you have APIs to thank for.
An API, which stands for Application Programming Interface, is a programming code that acts as an intermediary between two softwares. An API for any given platform essentially becomes a repository of data science knowledge for that respective platform. It can then be programmed to perform a specified action, like receive and/or sending messages or data, presenting information in a specified format, or pushing functions forward.
How Does eCommerce Shipping APIs Work?
We’ve established that an API uses information gathered about its respective software or program to enable specified actions and sharing of data. Shipping APIs work in a similar manner, optimising functionality to the delivery mechanism of each shipping company. Functions that previously had to be done manually can be automated through the use of shipping APIs to speed up the process, ensure easy management of orders, minimise losses, and maximise order fulfillment.
When tying up with a shipping company, e-commerce businesses can integrate with the respective Shipping API. These different Shipping API integrations each have their own role to play, in accordance with their code, in nearly every aspect of delivery. Shipping companies that offer inventory management solutions use Shipping APIs to track each item in the warehouse. From the moment an order is placed, shipping APIs work in double time to make sure it is picked up, tracked throughout its journey (both forward and reverse) and can even help reduce delivery exceptions and optimise returns, depending on its programming.
What are the Most Common Shipping APIs Used in the eCommerce Industry?
Since Shipping APIs can be programmed to perform a wide variety of functions, there can be an endless number of Shipping API integrations being deployed by shipping companies. Integrating with these different types of shipping APIs is a necessity for most larger ecommerce businesses looking to streamline their delivery processes. However, every ecommerce company can benefit from the use of basic shipping APIs. Here are the different functions simplified by shipping API integrations that every ecommerce business should be familiar with.
#1)Order Manifestation and AWB Generation
Order manifestation is the process by which the order is readied for delivery at the origin warehouse. Each step in this process is pushed forward and automated using individually programmed API integrations. The first step is creation of the order on the shipping partners platform by inputting all requisite order and customer details. After this, another API works to generate an AWB or an airway bill.
The corresponding AWB number that is generated will be a unique identification code for the order. After this, the order information submitted will be used to print a shipping label to be presented on the packaging of the order. The order is then assigned to a delivery agent for pickup. These final two steps make up a process known as picking and packing of the order.
#2)Sending Tracking Updates
Tracking may be one of the most important steps in the delivery process as it can have an impact on both ecommerce businesses and their customers. Different Shipping API integrations can be used to get tracking information and order status updates from the respective shipping partner. An API can then be used to automatically push those tracking and order status updates to the customer.
Customers can then be kept informed of their orders whereabouts at any given point of time, or at the very least when certain delivery milestones have been crossed. These updates inform the customer when the order has been picked up, when it has completed the first mile of delivery, when it reaches the city of delivery, and when it is finally dispatched to the customers location. This also ensures they are aware of any delays in deliveries and do not face any anxiety regarding the status of their orders.
There is another API that actively works to keep customers informed. However, unlike the tracking API, this API is functional long before the order is picked up and in-transit. In fact, this API works prior to an order even being placed. When customers are viewing an item on an ecommerce platform and debating whether or not to purchase it, there are numerous details they will check before deciding. While most of said information is related to the order description, this API calculates one of the most important details, the EDD or the Estimated Delivery Date.
Once the customer provides information on their delivery location or their delivery destination pin code, this API calculates the most probable delivery date based on the delivery location and data on previous similar deliveries. This EDD is then displayed on the order description page so the customer can determine when the order will be delivered and make the purchase accordingly.
Cancellations are an all too common part of any high functioning enterprise. With hundreds to thousands of orders being delivered on a daily basis, it's only natural that a few would be cancelled before the order is delivered. Customers may get anxious waiting for an order (especially if there are delays), or they may have simply changed their mind. Either way, a cancellation doesn’t have to mean any heavy loss for your company. But that is largely dependent on ensuring that the cancelled order makes its way back to the origin warehouse safely.
This is where the cancellation API integration comes into play. It processes the cancelled order on the shipping partners platform and pushes the manifestation process forward again, printing a shipping label for its reverse journey. This enables you to track the order’s return progress and ensure it reaches the warehouse in proper condition, ready to be restocked and resold, minimising your loss on the cancelled order.
How Do Multi-Carrier Integration Platforms Help?
Multi-carrier eCommerce shipping software and platforms, like Narvar, ClickPost and MetaPack are essentially order management platforms that handle API integration and optimise tech-based shipping solutions for eCommerce businesses tied up with multiple shipping partners. Growth is the inevitable goal of every ecommerce business, and as order volumes increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to maximise order fulfillment with a single shipping partner.
But with multiple shipping partners on your bandwagon, managing orders, tracking them, and ensuring they are fulfilled regularly becomes a herculean task as each order has to be monitored individually from each shipping partner's platform. Multi-carrier integration platforms not only give ecommerce businesses a single page view of all their orders and respective order statuses, but also handle integration. That means the integration of all Shipping APIs, followed by maintenance and upgrading of the same are handled by the platform with minimal effort and investment required from your business.
A good multi-carrier integration platform can further streamline solutions for your business. For example, ClickPost provides ecommerce businesses with a single API integration to manage all order manifestation functions, and uses both Push and Pull API integrations to get real-time tracking updates and send them to customers.
Technology has long since been deemed as the key to a pathway of efficiency for numerous different industries and the ecommerce logistics industry is no exception. Shipping API integrations can make a huge difference in helping your ecommerce business set itself apart from the competition, with the help of a multi-carrier integration platform to provide the best version of each shipping solution. The alternative would be to create an in-house infrastructure, either to handle end-to-end logistics or to handle API integrations. Both of these can put an immense strain on the profitability of your ecommerce business. With the use of Shipping API integrations and shipping intelligence platforms, you can ensure your customers enjoy their post-purchase experience and brand loyalty remains at optimally high levels.