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Google Inc. recently introduced new application programming interfaces for Android Pay, its mobile payment platform, as well as Android Auto, its infotainment system for cars.
Bloomberg BNA's Alexis Kramer posed questions to Paul Dumas, API manager at Market America | SHOP.COM on the nuts and bolts of APIs and how technology companies can benefit from using them.
What are application programming interfaces (APIs) and how do they work?
As the name implies, APIs enable applications and systems to interface. APIs can come in many forms, but usually when they are talked about we are referring to web based services that businesses use to securely expose data and/or services.
With APIs in place, businesses can “mash-up” (work together, each providing its data or service) their applications much faster than before API technologies. APIs can be thought of as connectors between existing applications that share data and services to let the applications collaborate. APIs also encourage innovation when partners and developers use the data and services from APIs to create new applications.
How can technology companies and e-commerce platforms benefit from using others' APIs?
We all know that breaking a challenge down into manageable parts is how you accomplish great things, and delegating is how you accomplish great things faster. APIs let tech companies build smaller components that can interface with each other to provision a larger application.
Once you have designed your solution with smaller components, these components can be provided internally or you can outsource components to leverage others who are specialists and have great solutions for your needs.
For example, an e-commerce platform can solve its need for payment functions by incorporating a third-party payment solution. And the better this third-party payment solution API, the easier it will be to integrate into the e-commerce platform and the more successful the platform will be.
This lets the platform focus on its core competency, and not re-invent its own payment solution. The more this approach can be taken, the more application delivery becomes the assembly of existing components rather than building from scratch.
How do SHOP.COM developers and consumers interact with APIs?
SHOP.COM has a well-designed public API that enables access to millions of products carried at SHOP.COM, including SHOP.COM high-demand exclusive products. Using the API, partners and developers can provide curated products and information specific to a consumer’s interest.
This results in consumers finding products that are relevant, and introduces the consumer to the vast selection, comparison features and the cashback opportunities of SHOP.COM. SHOP.COM has used its public API to create and host an affiliate marketing program, and the public API is currently part of a public contest hosted by Devpost.
What do start-up companies need to know when developing their APIs?
They need to know how to identify the assets (data and services) they have that will be valuable to partners, developers and their market in general. Then they need to know how to design their API to provide those assets in an intuitive, standard way for developers to understand and code to easily. They need to have a quality developer portal so that their API is discoverable and lets developers enjoy self-service access to everything they need to use the API. And finally, they need to make sure the API is secure, highly available and performant (always on and fast).
How can APIs be used as part of businesses’ marketing strategies?
Among many things, APIs help a business with reach, exposure, innovation and brand building. It will depend on the nature of the business.
For example, B2C businesses would use their API to expose their products/services to more consumers through the applications of partners. For B2B businesses, their API can make their solution easier for new partners to engage with, shorten the on-boarding process, and that can be a differentiator for them in their market.
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