Consumer behavior is a very fickle thing. For decades — even longer — modern marketers have sought to discover what makes customers act the way they do. With the growth of the web, this question has become even more complicated. Technology has influenced consumer behavior, especially how they purchase things online.
As the manager of an eCommerce company, how do you prevent potential customers from bouncing off your site to a competitor’s? Are your conversion rates what they ought to be? To answer these questions, consider technology-driven applications. Developers are working with marketers to design various APIs aimed at enhancing the customer shopping experience. When integrated into your eCommerce website, these APIs provide solutions that keep visitors engaged and compel them to act accordingly.
This article aims to identify and describe some APIs that could change the way you do business for the better. But before we proceed, it’s important to first understand the meaning of an API.
What is an API?
eCommerce retailers use data and analytics to understand their customers and improve their shopping experience by connecting them directly to the right products they need. The best time to do this is along the customer journey when their interest is high.
APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are a set of functions or processes that allow the development of applications used to access the data or features in an automated system. In the context of this post, APIs transform relevant shopper data into actionable business intelligence.
Regardless of how tech-savvy (or not) you may be, it’s important to understand the value of APIs and their use in eCommerce if you are to succeed in your business niche. APIs not only improve user experience (UX) along the purchase funnel, they also increase chances of conversion.
Now you know what an API is, here are some types that could be integrated into your eCommerce website.
1. Security APIs
The internet is an extremely dangerous place for an online store without any form of security. There are many users with malicious intentions who are always looking for vulnerable websites. A recent report showed that in America alone, over $445 billion is lost annually due to security breaches. With the expansion of internet accessibility and applications, we can only expect this value to increase in the coming years.
Today’s customers are more internet-savvy. They avoid websites that do not have security assurances such as encrypted domains or SSL security certificates. Nobody wants to risk having their credit card details copied or their laptops infiltrated by malware. If there is no convincing sign of protective detail on your eCommerce site, you will likely lose potential customers.
A good way to prevent security breaches on your site is by using an authentication API. There are various types available to API developers to give genuine users authorization and protection from malicious web users. A good example of such API is OAuth 2.0. It is a token-based authorization program. While the OAuth does not provide specific protocol for authentication, it does provide the framework for authentication commands and mechanisms.
Giving your website an additional armor of authority by including trust and security badges allows users grow more confident while shopping.
2. Price Comparison APIs
Being able to benchmark your competitors has become easier with an API. Smart eCommerce managers use this feature to get first-hand information on various prices. How? By simply connecting the product catalogue to a price comparison API, you can receive periodic notifications regarding price fluctuations in your industry. This allows you make necessary adjustments to the price of your own products.
According to Brendan Wilde, Marketing Manager at Umbrellar, “Price comparison APIs are essential to eCommerce vendors who operate in a highly competitive marketplace. A good number of our clients sell standardized products, and pricing is what makes the difference between successful conversion and a lost sale.”
For instance, if you sell generic running shoes, and identical sets can be found on five other websites in your geographical niche, a lower price listing could influence actual sales on your site. To stay ahead of the competition, an integrated price API could alert you when there is a drop (or increase) in price so you can adjust yours accordingly. The disadvantage though will be struggling to stay within profit margins.
An example of a price API is PriceTree. It can be used in an app, blog, or website. It helps vendors display various prices from online stores. It also lets independent sellers monitor the market and adjust their own price to appear more competitive.
3. Shipping APIs
The major selling point of online shopping is convenience. The ability to be hundreds of miles away and place an order on a product that will arrive at your doorstep in a few days is a big plus. With the growing number of product orders, an automated processing and shipping arrangement system is extremely necessary to allow online marketers to focus on their core strengths. In a 2012 study, it was revealed that inadequate shipping considerations were responsible for shopping cart abandonments on retail sites.
Having a robust shipping and delivery API helps reduce errors and complications associated with manual sorting. eCommerce retailers can use this API to coordinate the customer’s experience from the moment they complete a purchase to the moment it is delivered at their doorstep. Retailers can partner with specific couriers both locally and globally to order and complete product shipping.
For example, if you run a website that sells glassware, and you use UK Mail for your shipping, you can integrate processing, tracking, and delivery with the UK Mail API. This service helps ship parcels both locally and internationally. It is easily accessible online or through white-label hosted pages.
Stay ahead of your competitors with a quick-service shipping API. Shipping costs matter a lot, so you could even use a comparison API to make your pricing more competitive. Other examples of shipping APIs include FreightCentre, USPS Track and Confirm, Shippo and uShip.
4. Site Search API
The average online shopper is normally impatient. It has been reported that 40% of web users will leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In addition, a good majority will bounce off if they cannot find what they are searching for. One way to prevent this is to integrate a site search API. Every eCommerce site owner needs it for advanced search so that users can find items they need without perusing the whole site in futility.
If your site is an extensive catalogue of products, make sure an API-fueled search bar is located on the top left of the page. This will improve the shopping experience and increase customer conversion. It is also a way of making sure visitors don’t miss out on their favorite products.
Popular examples of site search APIs are Algolia and Google Custom Search. Algolia is designed to support developers in delivering valuable search experiences on apps and websites. Google Custom Search is an added benefit because it helps site owners earn money through AdSense advertising.
5. Payment Handling API
We have discussed security APIs and why visitors must feel comfortable doing business on your eCommerce site. Another critical feature for site owners is the payment process. A payment API makes it easy for both developers and businesses to manage transactions. It also provides a simplified interface for users to present their card details.
When selecting a payments API, it is important to choose one that doesn’t make the process complicated. Avoid microservices that require too many form fields for an end user. Research has shown that fewer form fields increase conversion rates. Lately, there has been an introduction of “full-stack” payment APIs that take away hassles such as PCI compliance and merchant accounts.
When it comes to payment handling, two APIs come to mind; Braintree and Stripe. There are two schools of thought about which one is better. The answer depends on the nature of your payments system. While most people prefer Braintree because of its ease of integration with PayPal, there are site owners who value Stripe more because it smoothly handles upgrades and proration across multiple billing cycles. Ensure you do a thorough research on other options before making a choice.
No matter how much we research, or how much data we collect, we can never truly understand a customer’s online behaviour. User behavior is vacillating with no single “one-reason-explains-all” formula. What may seem to work today can change tomorrow with a new trend. But at the locus of change, one tool remains — technology.
Technology will always affect the way we make decisions, buy things online and even use them. It is therefore imperative that eCommerce site owners pay attention to the latest technology applications before integrating them into their site. APIs have revolutionized online shopping in more ways than we can think of. From providing security to simplifying payments and organising the shipping process, it not only enhances the UX process, it takes away a huge load from developers on the backend.
However, in spite of these benefits, is it worth building your eCommerce store with so many external components? The complexity of API renewals and updates could leave it vulnerable to attack. And then there are platforms like Moltin, a site that provides unified APIs for inventory, carts, the checkout process and more. Is there something we can learn from the way it applies its multi-API systems? Perhaps, when we understand more about the compatibility of various APIs on a single platform, those answers will come more easily.