In my last article, I discussed how retailers can develop a personalization strategy and how they can use technology to achieve their personalization goals.
With a clearly defined personalization strategy, retailers can leverage data — specifically real-time data — to create customer-specific experiences throughout their marketing channels and website. One way retailers are maximizing their data is through APIs with complex third-party AI platforms.
What Is an API?
An application programming interface (API) is a computing interface that allows multiple applications to speak as a software intermediary. It can be used to define the elements of a particular data set and then help you decide what to do with it. When setting up an API, users can programmatically create and manage custom data pulls for various needs when working with third parties. For example, Fit Analytics’ clients leverage APIs to retrieve sizing and style recommendations for each specific customer visiting their site. Using established endpoints, our clients are able to call directly to our database and retrieve the data in real-time.
There are four main pillars to an API:
- It makes data sets accessible.
- It shields the user from backend complexity.
- It extends functionality.
- It provides data security.
How Are APIs Being Applied to Personalization?
There are limitless applications to an API for personalization, as the data sets can be manipulated for unique combinations depending on the need. There are some common use-cases, though, that we are seeing on e-commerce sites:
Login APIs allow users to login with their Facebook or Google accounts.
Payment APIs help customers purchase with a PayPal account or other third-party payment platform.
Social proof APIs link social media feeds — such as showing Instagram posts of the product directly on the product details page.
Recommendation APIs — such as Fit Analytics’ — can give customers the likelihood an item will be the right style and fit based on the past purchase and return data of consumers with similar fit profiles and preferences.
The Benefits of API Integration
When considering an API integration, there are the benefits to the customer and to the business. Customers benefit from a personalized online environment and more options for how they login, make purchasing decisions and checkout. Businesses benefit from many factors depending on the department:
- APIs allow your developers to build tailored software faster and give them creative flexibility around how to display the data.
- They allow access to third-party platforms that gather real-time data and operate with computation complexity such as AI.
- APIs allow brands to offer more functionality and services to the consumer.
- Third-party APIs have more volume and access to larger data sets that create network effects and more diverse possibilities.
- Finally the key business benefit to APIs is how they can deliver personalized experiences which have a direct impact to a brand’s bottom line. According to a 2017 Epsilon survey of 1,000 consumers ages 18 to 64, personalization has a huge appeal — with 80 percent of respondents indicating they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
In our own case, the Fit Analytics recommendation API allows clients to access style and fit recommendations for customers directly from our database, then feed it back to the client website. Our recommendation API allows data to be delivered in real-time, contributing to better, more personalized experiences for shoppers.
How to Apply APIs to Your Business
Since an API allows the platform owner to expose some portion of their data to other users or clients, the recipients can use the API to develop a custom solution, application or user interface.
To get started, determine the configuration and data you need customized for your business. You may want to integrate a service to your site or leverage existing third-party data. Whichever it may be, start by assessing how to retrieve the functionality or data. Look into existing APIs that are developed for easy integrations with minimal code or create your own use case. Ultimately, it comes down to understanding what you want to do and then leveraging key functionalities, like an API, to get there.
Integrating with an API is an excellent way to scale your business and connect your website visitors with the experiences they have grown to expect — and it can have a major impact on your bottom line.