What are Shipping API Integrations and Tracking?
An API (application programming interface) is a software intermediary, essentially acting as a bridge between two programs. These pieces of programming code can be found in nearly every single online platform that is currently in operation. In fact, you can thank API integrations for the chat features on various social media platforms and for updates you receive from weather apps and news apps. Each API integration stores the data of its corresponding platform and uses that data to enable actions between the integrated platforms. So with the advent of online shopping, it should come as no surprise to us that the shipping industry also incorporated the use of API integrations to ensure smooth functionality.
What are API Integrations for eCommerce Shipping and How Does It Work?
The logistics industry has been around since the 1980s when retailers first began to rely on distribution centres to fulfill deliveries. After the 1990s, which brought globalisation into the picture, and the 2000s, which brought the eCommerce market to India, shipping companies had to up their game. With over 100 million online shoppers spanning the country, the old fashioned solutions just won’t cover it. Using API integrations, shipping companies found a more effective way to optimise their shipping solutions to keep up with the needs of their 21st century customers which consists of a long list of ecommerce businesses. There are 4 major areas where API integration impacts eCommerce shipping.
1. EDD Calculation
Nearly everyone shops online now, whether they're purchasing groceries, clothing, furniture or niche items. The first thing that every customer checks before making a purchase is when their order will potentially be delivered. So if you really want to keep customers happy, it's important to provide them with an accurate date (as much as possible). This is the first place we see Shipping API integrations at work.
After a customer specifies their delivery location, a Shipping API processes this information and reviews the previous performance of shipping partners to determine approximately how long delivery to that location will take. The same API then displays the calculated EDD (Estimated Delivery Date) on the product page of the ecommerce website being viewed by the customer. This can greatly influence the customer’s decision to make a purchase.
2. Order Creation and Waybill Generation
The standing assumption is that a shipping company’s only job is to ship an order, sending it to its destination via air, road or sea. However, ensuring an order is shipped smoothly and with minimal difficulties requires much preparation prior to actual transportation. The order first has to go through the process of manifestation with the shipping partner.
This involves numerous steps, starting with creation of the order on the shipping partners platform, followed by the generation of the AWB (airway bill) and the AWB number (for tracking the order), then printing of the shipping label and finally assigning the order for pickup and delivery. These steps are each carried out by different API integrations.
Streamlining the process of cancelling orders can go a long way in reducing overall losses. This is because delayed responses to cancelled orders can result in the shipment getting delayed, stuck or lost during its return journey. Cancellation API integrations use the details of the cancelled order to create it on the shipping partners platform.
This sets into motion the process of preparing the cancelled order for its reverse journey, starting with manifestation and ending with the safe return of the item to the origin warehouse. Once safely returned, the item can be restocked and resold.
Tracking is one of the most important factors influencing a customer’s overall delivery experience. When an order is in-transit, endless possibilities may occur that could potentially delay the order’s delivery, or result in the shipment getting lost or damaged. Giving customers the ability to track orders on a regular basis can help ease customer anxiety while waiting for an order to be delivered.
Order tracking is just as effective a tool to comfort customers even if the order delivery is not delayed or stuck. Sending customers tracking information and notifying them every time a new delivery milestone has been crossed during their order's journey to them.
How Did Tracking API Integrations Work in eCommerce Shipping?
Out of the four major functions performed by Shipping API integrations, we’ve established that tracking is one of the most vital. Providing real-time tracking updates to customers can not only ease them of anxiety and potential buyer’s remorse, these updates can work actively to improve your customer’s overall delivery experience.
This is because each time a tracking notification is received, a customer gets to relive the excitement and anticipation they felt at the time of placing the order. But this can only be a truly effective process if the tracking updates sent to the customer are provided in real-time. There are typically 2 types of shipping tracking API integrations used by the more well-equipped shipping partners that can ensure eCommerce businesses give their customers to-the-minute real-time tracking information.
1) Pull API
Pull APIs are the most common type of Shipping API employed by Shipping companies to provide tracking information. Using a pull API is also known as using the polling method. Pull APIs essentially give you access to specified data of the shipping partner on-demand.
It is the coding equivalent to refreshing your browser in 5 second intervals to see if the page has been updated. Pull API integrations essentially pull tracking data from the shipping partners' platform every hour or after specified intervals.
2) Push API
While Pull API integrations are the primary source of regular tracking updates, a good shipping partner knows the importance of employing both pull and push APIs. Push Shipping APIs allow eCommerce businesses to receive data from shipping partner platforms even when the shipping partner’s platform is not loaded or being specifically searched. These automate the process by which shipping partners push tracking data to e-commerce businesses and to customers waiting for their orders.
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Out of all the functions that Shipping API integrations platform like ClickPost perform, from the four listed above to numerous others like returns optimisation and NDR management, tracking orders is among the most crucial. A customer’s overall delivery experience can be made enjoyable or intolerable based on the tracking updates pushed to them. If the tracking updates being shared with customers don’t seem to correspond to the actual position of the order, for example, in case of delayed or stuck shipments, customers will lose patience. They are more likely to wait for a delayed order that has been notified to them than an order that may or may not arrive on-time. To ensure customers stay enthusiastic about their orders, Shipment tracking APIs can be the ultimate equalizer, especially if you tie up with a good shipping solutions company that uses both push and pull API integrations.