What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface.

You may have heard the term API from a software developer, web designer, and other UI & UX developers. People often wonder why APIs are so popular in the software development industry. For starters, the technology saves companies the time of duplicating the work that’s already done. To put it in simple words, API enables seamless interaction between two software apps or websites. Or, it helps people communicate with the website or software. Let’s take an example.

Suppose a mobile app development company wants to show a map in its interface. Now, creating a map can cost a bomb. Add to this the time and effort needed for building maps from scratch, and it will be an inconvenient and stressful job. Instead of building the map, what if the company uses an existing map? It would take months for a company to build codes for a new map. They can rather use the API to get these maps built into their website by using the codes for Google Maps. 

How Does it Work?

API refers to the Application Programming Interface that supports a seamless connection between software apps. It enables one application to gather data from external software systems. The technology streamlines communication between the user and software. For example, if you click on “add to cart”, the API informs the back-end team about a user requesting certain products to be added to their carts. The website, then, adds these products to your cart. It isn’t rocket science, but the process is a little complex.

For a large platform, such as Windows and Linux, hundreds of thousands of API calls are processed every day. Note that the API code for a newer version of the software system may not work. The vendors may no longer support the outdated versions once they have launched the upgraded systems. Businesses often avoid upgrades in order to keep the current apps running smoothly, but it’s only a matter of time before their access to these apps is denied.

API in the eCommerce Industry

APIs are widely used in the eCommerce industry. It enables vendors to list their products on the marketplace easily. It is the API that enables customers to find products, add them to the cart, and place an order for their desired products without any hassle. Below we have listed a few important reasons why API is a must for the eCommerce industry.

  • It Enhances Security

With API integrated into your eCommerce platform, there is minimal risk of breach and privacy violation. Now that the information between the customer and the website is shared through APIs instead of a direct link to the servers, you don’t have to worry about people getting access to your backend operations. 

  • Improved Speed

Gone are the days when people had to call the store owner to check their inventory to know whether the products they are looking for are available in current stock. Imagine answering hundreds of calls from customers inquiring about your inventory. 

It isn’t possible in today’s competitive eCommerce world where hundreds of customers request information from the stores. That’s where the APIs come into the picture. It enables your customers to check the product listings, out-of-stock products, expected delivery time, and other details. 

  • Better Scalability

As mentioned before, APIs eliminate the need for building codes from scratch for new products and functions. You can use the existing codes to speed up your store’s expansion. API offers you a great level of flexibility and convenience in your store’s growth.

Types of eCommerce APIs

It has become impossible for store owners to manage their stores and connect with the audience without a secure and reliable API. eCommerce APIs are applied to your store in different ways – from displaying your products online to managing worldwide shipping. Every activity on your eCommerce store is managed through APIs. Let’s check out a few common uses of APIs in the eCommerce industry.

  • Product Information: The product information API collects information about your products and services listed on the store and sends this information to the customers when requested.
  • Payment: Nowadays, almost every eCommerce store is accepting electronic payments. If you want to integrate an electronic payment system into your store, you will need an API that can facilitate the connection between your store and the payment processor. 
  • Shipping: Have you ever shopped from an eCommerce store or a website where you are asked to enter the zip code of your area so that the merchant can calculate the delivery charge. How do you think is it possible for a website to show you the shipping charges based on your zip code? That’s through the API code. Every eCommerce platform that supports this option has used an API for shipping.
  • Currency Conversion: ECommerce stores accepting customers from different countries often have currency conversion APIs that display the price of the product in the customers’ local currency. This saves customers the time of converting currency.

Should You Use a Custom API Solution?

There is no denying that the existing API or the codes built by a software developer are often adequate for most eCommerce store owners. For some businesses, however, a custom-built API makes a better option. These custom API solutions offer one of the major benefits to the eCommerce store, i.e. control. 

These are designed to fit your business’s specific requirements. Suppose you need the API for order management. While there are plenty of pre-built systems available on the market, they may not fit your specific requirements or chances are they are not designed for your business model. In such cases, it makes sense to have a custom-built API integrated into your eCommerce store, as it saves you the time of making changes to the current API so that it fits your store’s interface.

Bottom Line

API is an essential tool for any eCommerce store offering electronic payments, shipping, product listings, and other services to customers. It gives your customers a hassle-free and safest shopping experience from your store.

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