On average, 6 out of every 10 listings on eBay are done via their APIs. On microblogging site Twitter, close to 15 billion APIs are called everyday. We are well and truly in the midst of a booming ‘API economy’ – with more than 15000 APIs being accessible on ProgrammableWeb (by May 2016). These APIs, or application programming interfaces, are, in essence, methods or tools with which coders can interact with their software applications. These have to be called whenever data has to be accessed from any application. In what follows, we will discuss the importance of APIs and mobile applications for businesses:
Consistency across versions
Mobile apps for business need to be customized for multiple versions – iOS and Android primarily, and maybe even for smartwatches and smart TVs). APIs help in bringing uniformity to the manner in which data is sent to and received from different versions of such applications. This, in turn, gives a consistent experience for end users. The ‘data loop’ of business apps are provided with an extra layer of security as well. As a result, app maintenance becomes a lot easier too.
Greater visibility to prospective clients
According to a recent Flurry report, app-interactions make up 86% of the total ‘mobile time’ of smartphone users in the United States. In comparison, usage of the mobile browser constitutes a measly 14% of the time. Across the globe, nearly 3 and a half hours are spent by people every day on accessing mobile applications. Having a strong presence in the mobile app stores, hence, can be the ticket for any business for becoming more visible to customers. A lot of client-interactions with businesses happen on the go, and creating a fast, user-friendly, updated mobile application is an absolute must for that.
Importance of APIs for making apps
Open APIs are often used by both Android and iPhone app developers, while creating custom business software and applications. Data is pulled from these open APIs, in a manner that makes both the app (in particular) and the business workflow (in general) more neat and streamlined. While working on a business app, APIs are extremely important for developers.
Getting more from competitors and customers
APIs can, when properly used, help a business generate more value from both its rivals as well as its customers. For instance, if APIs are not extensively used by firms in any particular domain, a particular company can grab first-mover’s advantage by applying resources and data-driven services on the products/services of competitors. This can, in turn, even convert these competitors into collaborators. Also, APIs open up the opportunity for customers to create certain new custom tools and solutions. With increased reach, these solutions help businesses generate more value without having to shore up investment levels.
Facilitating prompt, specific actions
The main reason why every business needs an API is that the latter helps customers receive information on a real-time basis (through mobile apps) and take quick, specific, focused actions on its basis. Put in another way, APIs make it easier than ever for the entire audience of a business (or a cross-section of it) to interact with information in a more prompt and efficient manner. API-driven development is already fairly popular in the private sector, while the public sector is gradually moving towards it too.
Using APIs help businesses cut down on total man-hours spent on any particular task. This becomes possible thanks to the seamless business automation solutions that application programming interfaces provide. Right from sending email messages to a customer as soon as (s)he makes a purchase from your store, to sending social media messages and adding calendar events – practically all routine tasks can be automated with APIs. This frees up a large volume of man-hours, which can be put to other productive uses.
Establishing a personal connection
This is one of the main things that make mobile business apps stand out from other conventional advertising channels. Be it hoardings or billboards or newspaper ads or even banner ads on websites – all of these forms of communication are ‘one-to-many’ – i.e., they are posted by one source, are impersonal, and are meant to grab as many eyeballs as possible. In contrast, advertising and other marketing activities through mobile applications is a lot more personal (i.e., ‘one-to-one’). They give a face to a company, establish a brand personality, and go a long way in building customer loyalty. After all, there is certainly a ‘wow’ factor when a company wishes you on a special occasion personally, through its iOS/Android app!
Fostering innovative practices
Modern-day businesses need to be dynamic in their approach, to constantly evolve and innovate. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, had identified the importance of APIs and is regarded as a pioneer in this regard – for it was he who had decreed that all software interactions in his company would take place through APIs from 2004 – a move that had held Amazon Inc. in good stead in the long-run. Companies, irrespective of their field of operations, have to come up with new, client-focused innovations and tools regularly, and APIs are of great help for that.
Importance in e-commerce portals
On online shopping portals like eBay, it is well nigh impossible to manually implement all the functionality on the numerous product pages (the time and resources required for doing so would be prohibitively high). Instead, the common practice is to customize ‘best-of-breed’ software, and implement them in online shopping sites. From prices and SKU inventory, to images and social integration – the API system handles all the information to be displayed. The catalog management system, the social integration tabs, the recommendations engine, and even the actual e-commerce platform (the ‘Add to Cart’ call-to-action) can all be smoothly integrated by API calls.
Direct, dynamic marketing tools
Open APIs are used for making business applications, and the latter serve as extremely effective direct marketing tools, confirm mobile app entrepreneurs from across the world. All types of relevant purchase information (price, models, shipping information, etc.) can be accessed directly from the app. Businesses can send along information on special deals, offers and loyalty programs directly through the app. Researches have shown that customer-engagement levels jump by about 20% when a business has its very own mobile app.
APIs as final products
Obviously not for every company out there – but for select large businesses, the APIs themselves can be their final products or core offerings. The buyers would be third-party mobile application developers. In this way, APIs can generate their own revenue generation systems, as well as establish a core infrastructure in companies. Over time, such ‘pure play’ API companies can develop a strong business ecosystem.
Note: Sendgrid and Twilio are two examples of such ‘pure play’ API companies.
Creating service integrations and custom automated reports
APIs let businesses use cloud services in a smarter way than ever before. Multiple services (for instance, Google Analytics, Google AdWords and Google Webmaster Tools) can be integrated by professionals by calling suitable APIs. What’s more, custom dashboards can also be created, so that companies can view and use only the most relevant data – all neatly organized at one place. Information from the integrated services can be used to create custom automated reports as well.
It has been projected that, over 50% of all B2B interactions will take place via web APIs, by the end of 2017. From the list of Fortune 1000 companies, 3 out of every 4 are expected to to provide public web APIs. There are a couple of concerns associated with API usage to be pondered over – namely, the increased operating expenses and the probable security threats. However, there is no way of arguing that the advantages of APIs and mobile apps for business are considerable…and they can indeed take professional organizations to the next level.