Why APIs Should Be an Essential Part of Your Omnichannel Strategies

APIs can play a critical role in enabling seamless omnichannel experiences, and are often the missing link in many omnichannel strategies.

Omnichannel capabilities can benefit companies and their customers greatly. They can drive greater customer satisfaction, increase revenue, enhance brand reputation, and enable companies to launch new channels and enter new markets quickly

Achieving this involves so much more than adding “another” channel and connecting them to your other systems as you go. It requires extensive connectivity and integration across a complex network of channels, partners, processes, marketplaces, distribution centers, stores, systems, and more. And with the pace of technological innovation, what is connected and modern today could be outdated tomorrow. You must be able to change or add new channels and systems quickly to maintain a competitive edge.

APIs can play a critical role in accomplishing this and are often the missing link in so many omnichannel strategies across industries. Let’s explore what this looks like.

Omnichannel Across Industries

While the most prominent use cases for omnichannel have been in retail and B2C-focused companies, other industries – distribution, manufacturing, CPG, automotive, healthcare, financial services, and others – also must meet the demand for seamless experiences across channels: for employees, for partners, and for their customers. For example,

Healthcare providers can engage patients outside the clinic through mobile and web channels, such as patient portals to view lab results and the ability to book appointments or reserve a time at the urgent care clinic on a mobile device.

Consumer packaged goods companies can provide a seamless experience for their partners and develop business-to-consumer relationships with technologies like smart shelves and kiosks.

Financial services companies can ensure they’re everywhere their customers are: in physical branches, on the web and mobile devices, at ATMs, and as part of telephone support.

At the core of all these use cases (and more) is integration. For a non-retail example, take the case of a pharmaceutical company that needed to educate physicians on new drugs and encourage the physicians to prescribe them. It leveraged an omnichannel strategy to expose data from over 8,000 on-premises and cloud systems and provided real-time access to information for clinicians. With APIs, the company could provide a consistent experience, whether in the web portal or on a mobile app.

Why You Need APIs in Your Omnichannel Strategy

With APIs, you can create a flexible, scalable, and agile IT architecture in a sustainable, future-proof manner. Without APIs, the development cycle slows, as the IT team must spend significant amounts of time on maintenance and integration. Additionally, no APIs means no significant amounts of time on maintenance and integration. Additionally, no APIs means consistency, as applications and connections are developed in a one-off manner. You can’t reuse the code, and when you add a new channel, your developers must start from scratch. With omnichannel projects, such as enabling omnichannel order management and fulfillment, it’s not just a matter of connecting Point A to Point B. There are order management systems, e-commerce systems, ERP, warehouse, shipping, POS, legacy systems, cloud-based systems, and more to integrate to enable seamless omnichannel experiences. In fact, the average omnichannel process requires over 35 different systems on average. APIs offer a standardized way to enable and enhance the customer experience using business logic and connectivity to key systems. They’re reusable, so developers don’t need to spend time reworking code. You can use an order status API for both the web and mobile app instead of having to rebuild it. Developers can focus on the end-user experience rather than integration.

Access to Back End Systems

One of the APIs we think about most is the API that unlocks data from back-end systems like SAP, Salesforce, and Oracle. These APIs provide consistent, managed, and secure access to these systems, revealing only the data necessary for operation.

Built-in Business Logic

Another way to use APIs is to build on the first type. You can combine and streamline data from multiple sources, for example, customer data. Then, you can map the customer and order data to create order status and order history APIs, which combine your core data assets with business logic. These are now useful – and reusable – assets that can be used for launching new channels in your omnichannel strategy.

Create the Experience

APIs can also deliver a specific experience. For example, an API that combines order status and history and delivers just the data specifically needed by the web app is one of these types of API. It is designed specifically for an app or device, and this type of API lets developers work quickly on projects without having to figure out how the data got into the app. If anything changes to the systems or processes underneath this API, it doesn’t require changes to the app.