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It’s all about APIs! How to make your eCommerce more interconnected

Great sales strategies in eCommerce break down barriers. Many shop owners had to close down because of the pandemic and so omnichannel concepts, such as Click & Collect, have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. For sellers who sell in the digital world exclusively, it is becoming more important than ever to promote marketplace sales alongside their own online shop and interconnect multiple sales channels. It is a trend that does not only offer new chances but also poses challenges. This article compiles the most important technical requirements for successful omnichannel strategies. It also shares how Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, can break barriers in eCommerce and omnichannel commerce.

What are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)?

APIs can be described as the technical base of all interconnected systems and therefore also of omnichannel commerce. In the software world, they are used in many different areas. In eCommerce, they are like the highways of the eCommerce infrastructure. Whether between online shops, ERP systems, marketplaces, shipping service providers or fulfilment providers – APIs ensure smooth communication between multiple applications.

The REST API (Representational State Transfer) has become increasingly important over the last couple of years due to its flexibility, compatibility, and scalability. It is a specialised API that is used in client/server-based web applications as well as cloud, social media and app services. Feed services, such as idealo or Google Shopping, also use REST APIs or XAPI.

APIs benefit both user and developer

Software providers of eCommerce solutions who focus on APIs and REST APIs to further develop their systems can offer their users a whole range of advantages, which are especially useful for online sellers who sell their goods on several marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay. APIs make it possible to centrally manage marketplace sales across multiple channels in only one software, such as an ERP system, using interfaces. Sellers who are active on several marketplaces are able to expand their business without additional administration effort. Besides eBay and Amazon, players such as Kaufland and Media Markt are becoming increasingly important in eCommerce as well. These technological possibilities therefore offer online sellers an enormous advantage and also benefit online sellers that are selling their goods offline as well. 

Managing your offline and online business via a single ERP system or application will help you develop more efficient sales strategies and use your resources more purposefully. Questions such as “Which goods sell better in the offline shop?” or “When do I make the most profit in the online shop?” are ultimately easier to answer if the sales channels are managed centrally via one programme. 

API technology cannot only save resources for users but also for developers of eCommerce solutions. In this way, they can include technology partners in the optimisation of existing systems with open system interfaces. This external input allows them to be more agile and respond more quickly to specific user requirements than if they were doing the developing themselves.

What makes a good omnichannel software?

Aside from using APIs, which other requirements must software systems meet in order to enable interconnected commerce? In general, one can break it down to three essential requirements:

  • Shared dataset: Omnichannel systems are only efficient if data relating to items, stocks, prices, etc. is stored in one source. That is why ERP systems such as JTL-Wawi are designed as a “control centre” for omnichannel commerce. From there, online shops, marketplace sales or stationary cash registers can be centrally managed.
  • Performance: Fast and smooth systems are a requirement for well-interconnected commerce. Ideally, the data exchange of all processes – from purchasing, purchase orders and billing to delivery – should be updated in almost real time. 
  • Automation: With complex omnichannel commerce, it is impossible to keep an eye on all processes at the same time. Every automated process constitutes a gain in efficiency. Therefore, import and export solutions or automation tools, such as JTL-Workflows, are important to keep quality and efficiency as high as possible while keeping error rates low at the same time, even for fast-growing eCommerce companies.

Many companies develop their own solutions to meet the technical requirements of their omnichannel commerce. However, this does not only entail high costs, but often also represents difficulties when needing to change the systems. Software providers who have recognized this “pain point” provide online sellers with modular, rate-based solutions that adapt to order volume and company size – like “building blocks” for the individual business of each seller.

Omnichannel makes sellers more flexible and independent

In addition to the many technical requirements for interconnected commerce, the strategic considerations behind it are just as important. The annual Google Omnichannel Excellence Study (GOES) not only puts together a ranking of the best omnichannel concepts, but also identifies five success factors for them:

  • A flexible purchasing process that adapts to changing customer requirements
  • Unified and cross-channel marketing with clear brand messaging
  • Informative touchpoints that provide customers with orientation for their purchase decision. To recognize these, sellers must be familiar with the customer journey of their target group.
  • A personalized shopping experience that incorporates customer needs and preferences
  • Practical solutions for the challenges of each sales channel

Technology of openness brings more diversity to eCommerce

Especially larger eCommerce companies have special requirements for their software due to the growing importance of omnichannel commerce. Because of the constantly changing market, they need flexible solutions to remain competitive. Software providers for eCommerce solutions must meet this challenge in technical terms by creating open system solutions. 

Author: Bettina Taylor, Online-Editor at JTL-Software