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What Is the Best E-commerce API?

APIs are so key to business success that experts describe an “API economy,” which explains the ways in which APIs have a positive impact on companies that use them.

John Restrepo

By John Restrepo

Principal, Client Solutions - OH, Western PA, MI, IN

10 min read

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Application programming interfaces (APIs) are essential for companies that want to make their services usable by outside sources, as well as for those sources themselves. For example, to serve businesses that might want to place Google Maps images on their websites to help customers find them, Google Maps provides an API that enables the company to embed images without the need for a specific programming element. The API helps the two systems talk to each other. 

The following video provides another context to help illustrate how APIs work.

APIs are so key to business success that experts describe an “API economy,” which explains the ways in which APIs have a positive impact on companies that use them. They include the integration of disparate systems, the ability to share information, and the development of new service models

One type of API is specifically for e-commerce platforms. Given the importance of these sites for online retailers, they want to ensure a smooth experience for both customers and their staff. In the sections below, we explore the role of e-commerce APIs. But first, we will delve a little deeper into what they are. 

What Is E-commerce API? 

In a recent blog post, CRM provider HubSpot explained that e-commerce APIs facilitate communication between applications on commerce platforms in the categories of e-commerce platforms, payment, inventory, marketplace, and marketing. These specific types of APIs help businesses create online shops on platforms like Shopify, add purchasing functionality, manage inventory, and reach customers

An example of an e-commerce-specific API is the ability to make purchases on websites using PayPal. The process is made possible through the use of an e-commerce API integration. Given the high level of convenience services like PayPal offer, online retailers need them to work smoothly with their own platforms to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. In addition to PayPal, e-commerce APIs include Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon, among others. 

APIs can be sorted into 3 models: system APIs, which relate to internal systems such as ERP and CRM; process APIs, which relate to data transfer; and experience APIs, which relate to data use across channels. All are needed to create a smooth customer experience (CX).  

Why Do You Need API Integrations in Your E-commerce Business?

APIs are critical for improving CX, which is essential for driving business success. One area to focus on is omnichannel shopping, which means the ability for customers to shop from any device and have information available within customer care systems as well. Creating interconnections between the various systems can be challenging but is worth the effort to provide a seamless CX as well as create a way to glean valuable customer data. 

Other benefits are as follows: 

Security. E-commerce sites contain a large amount of customer data that could be valuable to cybercriminals. So, these businesses must be extra careful about how that data is managed. APIs provide an added layer of security.

Scalability. APIs equip online retailers with ways to grow their businesses quickly and easily. One good example of this benefit is WooCommerce, which enables users to convert a WordPress site into an e-commerce platform. 

Variety. With online platforms, the possibilities of new business models are nearly endless. APIs enable you to turn those ideas into reality by using different APIs for different functions and replacing them with new functions—such as carts, checkouts, payments, storefronts, or shipping—that are needed over time. 

So, why do we need API in e-commerce? Primarily to keep customers happy and keep them coming back. 

Which API Is Best for Your E-commerce Business? 

While it would be nice to think there is an easy answer, reality is that the best API for your e-commerce site is the one that performs the functions you need. Here we take a closer look at the APIs mentioned above (which are some of the most common) and their functions. 

  • PayPal – A REST e-commerce API that collects payments, assists with orders, and even gets involved in disputes. Great for companies looking for a reliable payment solution. 
  • Shopify – This API offers ease of use and a range of capabilities, including administration, storefront, and security. Supports a variety of formats. 
  • WooCommerce – An open-source option known for being one of the most secure e-commerce platforms. This API enables users to transform a WordPress site into a fully functional e-commerce platform. 
  • Etsy – This API enables users to manage their Etsy shop, including listings, reviews, and transactions. A good choice based on Etsy’s name recognition. 
  • eBay – Offers both REST-ful and traditional APIs to support multiple formats and provide access to primary functions, including buying, selling, and searching. 
  • Amazon – Offers multiple integrations to provide developers with Amazon data and functionality. These APIs are reliable and easy to use and deliver a high-quality CX. 

An API Case Study

To pull all this information together, let’s explore a real situation featuring a company using APIs, based on a description from e-commerce solutions provider BigCommerce

Skullcandy, an audio accessory brand, needed a way to deal with many connections between its e-commerce components. The company used APIs to connect various components of its e-commerce system and provide an omnichannel experience for customers. Product information is connected to order capture, credit card processing, tax calculation, and user interface. All that data is captured within the company’s ERP for fulfillment. 

The company’s approach helps it to achieve many of its primary objectives, including smooth internal operations, a seamless customer experience, and a place for customers to research products they may end up buying somewhere else (like Amazon). This example shows how each e-commerce platform should use the APIs that fit with the objectives the company is trying to achieve. 

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