When we speak about application programming interfaces (APIs), it’s hardly a topic that gets pulses racing. Nonetheless, they make our world go round. From listening to music, buying tickets to Taylor Swift’s latest tour, to booking a doctor's appointment online. Whatever the interaction, the chances are developer-built APIs are powering it.
From customer relationship management systems to tax compliance automation software, when developers build APIs they facilitate connections between nearly every system powering modern businesses, enabling them to build new functions and experiences with the right building blocks in place. In the world of commerce, these connections are crucial to our global economy, benefiting each of us with always-on access to what we want and need online, at ease and with speed.
As businesses look to recover from a tough economic climate, APIs can be the tool they need to get there. However, they must make sure they have their technology house in order to ensure back-end functionality.
Baby steps on the API journey
Businesses can’t jump the gun with getting to know APIs and how best to use them. It takes time to integrate them into processes, and will require all-important developer support to ensure they are built to purpose. It is only then that businesses will be able to use APIs to deliver value to technology providers, partners, and customers alike.
First, businesses must define what their information model looks like and which systems or databases they consider to be their source of truth. Using APIs requires data transformation and the synchronization of data from multiple systems, so defining these among a multitude of systems and data streams is critical to success throughout your API journey.
It is also important to integrate APIs with design principles in mind from the very start of this journey. For every API used, logic must be written, and if developers aren’t using forward-looking design principles as they create new integrations, they run the risk of creating an unmanageable number of brittle point solutions. Ideally, developers want to create a modular, and extendable integration between multiple systems that can transform data and keep it synchronized across those systems.
Danny Fields is Chief Technology Officer at Avalara.
Joining the dots for commerce
Convenience matters to consumers, and its importance in today’s day and age is undeniable, particularly when competition is fierce and consumers can take their business elsewhere at the touch of a button. This being said, convenience can be incredibly difficult to nail. As the number of channels and systems used to power businesses today is on the increase, how do businesses join the dots to ensure the ease of their customer experience isn’t falling short?
To meet these demands of convenience, businesses need to offer a seamless checkout experience, payment options, shipment tracking, and more. When the list of functionalities necessary to power an online store alone is a mile long, how can retailers ensure a positive customer journey at every touchpoint? The answer lies in leveraging developer pre-built solutions and integrating these using APIs.
As businesses continue to battle against a turbulent economic climate, nurturing and fostering customer loyalty is integral. Developer built APIs will be a key tool for business decision-makers to utilize as a means towards business recovery across the globe.
A simplified customer experience that allows a consumer to start shopping through an e-commerce store and finish their purchase on a mobile app - with access to ample payment options, correct tax and shipping calculations, and post-purchase customer service - will only be a positive to businesses’ bottom-line.
APIs in tax compliance
Furthermore, businesses can look to build additional capabilities into their experiences by leveraging the technology and expertise of developers in specific industries.
Take the example of tax compliance automation software, where I have seen the value of APIs first-hand. Tax can be difficult to get right, and has increasingly become a pain point for many businesses as rules and regulations rapidly evolve. For some commerce businesses, building out a standalone tax function is both time-consuming and costly. So, when businesses embed APIs to natively serve their customers' tax requirements, this allows for "headless compliance." - where a business decouples the front-end presentation layer of a compliance experience from the back-end compliance functionality, streamlining the process.
Ultimately, the ease of integration and added flexibility that comes with APIs make it easy for businesses to support their commerce needs as they evolve. To keep our global economy up and running, businesses need access to technology that enables convenient, always-on experiences for not only themselves, but their customers too. Developer-built APIs provide critical connections between commerce technology, increasing data visibility for the business while creating a seamless customer experience.
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Danny Fields is Chief Technology Officer at Avalara.
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