Five Ways Retailers Can Leverage APIs to Boost Profits

September 6, 2016         By: Sean Riley

In the past, adding any advanced functionality to a retailer’s website or app meant a significant investment in both time and money. It often meant hiring a developer to both create and then implement the requested new feature.

Today, things have changed thanks to the proliferation of public Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These are essentially building blocks that allow developers to quickly and easily add new functionality to a site or app without having to craft it from scratch. Retailers are increasingly faced with the need to provide a seamless omnichannel experience in order to succeed — one way to achieve this is via APIs that help integrate the in-store experience with web and apps. Here are five key areas that retailers can quickly and easily address with the right publicly available APIs.

  1. Payments

One of the most obvious areas to address with APIs is the ability to accept payments in an app or online. Beyond simply offering the option to make a purchase, this feature lets customers pay using the service of their choice, like Apple Pay or Android Pay. It is precisely the sort of feature that public APIs make so simple to implement. Adding a payment component to your website and app removes friction from the buying process — it presents customers with a service they already trust, which is guaranteed to deliver more sales.

  1. Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are a proven method for boosting customer retention; return customers have been shown time and again to spend more than new customers. Loyalty programs also provide retailers with a wealth of valuable data regarding purchasing habits. There are a multitude of companies in this space with public APIs that will provide both the framework for the loyalty program and deliver the resulting data in an easily digestible fashion. Additional APIs can be used to serve offers and deals to customers in-store if they agree to provide their location or via Bluetooth beacons.

  1. Social Media

Social media is an invaluable tool for any business today and APIs are there to help. Whether looking to streamline the process for customers sharing links from a site or app to the social network of their choice, or enabling automatic updating of product listings, or placing a menu on a retailer’s social pages, this can all be achieved using APIs. Maintaining a social media presence could be a full-time job, so automating some processes to keep the content fresh without costing time and money is key. There are even APIs that let customers make purchases directly from social sites, extending a retailer’s reach to yet another channel.

  1. Security

Speed and ease of payment are crucial, but equally as important is the need for security. One way to achieve both is through APIs that tie into customers’ existing accounts with external payment services — this offers retailers the benefit from these security systems and avoids the pitfalls of storing customer payment information. On the either side of the equation, consumers know they are using a trusted payment method and aren’t sharing their personal data again. It’s a winning scenario for both sides.

  1. Customer Service

This is an area that can be a significant differentiator for a retailer — APIs can reduce the time spent to ensure that customer satisfaction remains high. They can be used to triage incoming customer service messages and provide a framework for answering common questions that will do away with some of the message volume entirely. APIs exist that allow retailers to incorporate chat bots into their customer service system that will handle customers’ questions interactively on a website or in an app. Much like social media outreach, these efforts can return tremendous value, but alleviating some of the burden with APIs can maintain a high level of customer satisfaction without monopolizing all of a retailer’s time.

Crafting a smooth omnichannel customer experience is critical for retailers. APIs can help to integrate services and offload some of a retailer’s most time-consuming tasks. Thanks to APIs, a retailer can keep customers engaged at every stage of their buying journey, including the final sale.

This article was brought to you by Discover Network. For more insights into consumer trends and the world of payments, visit Discover Network Perspectives.