Leveraging APIs to Help your Business
An API is an incredibly versatile set of commands and functions that can be used to integrate multiple applications to exchange data. Whether it’s enriching customer experiences or integrating with third-party databases, APIs have become increasingly popular as of late as more and more businesses are taking advantage of them. So, the big question is, what is an API exactly, and how can it improve your business? Stick around and find out.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. Essentially, it’s a set of functions that allows two pieces of software to communicate with each other to reach a common goal. Think of the API as the messenger that takes your request as a user and communicates it to the system so it can then bring back the response. The software, programs or applications don’t have to contain the same programming language – and that’s what makes an API so versatile, its ability to communicate across hurdles that would have been previously insurmountable.
Have you ever signed up to an email subscription? Of course you have. And then, you’ve received a welcome email with your 10% off coupon shortly after. That’s likely an automated API at work. It’s likely that someone has programmed the API to trigger a string of commands when an email is submitted. This particular trigger instructs the API to add your newly submitted email/details to a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, which in turn creates a new contact listing and sends the welcome email to you.
Another way to think about it is if you’re looking for a hotel online and you go to a website that showcases a range of hotels with the best deals. The website you’re on is likely communicating with the API of each hotel, gaining access to their database to show you the relevant information.
The technical side (JSON and REST)
As APIs are messengers – they’re defined by a request method. There are four basic request methods:
- GET – Gathers information from a source.
- PUT – Updates data, such as if you were to update your shopping cart.
- POST – Creates new data.
- DELETE – Removes information.
- PATCH – Makes partial changes to resources.
An example of one of these guidelines is that the coding language (such as JSON) must be easily presented and readable. So, if the code is representing a certain characteristic of an item then instead of it being written as char it will be written as characteristic so that it’s clearly defined.
How can I use an API for my business?
Essentially, any two programs or systems that need to communicate with each other will likely utilise an API. It’s the hidden gem that grows and streamlines business growth – offering integration for a variety of systems. The result is improved external and internal communications and an enhanced user experience.
As we mentioned above, an API can be integrated with a CRM and used for simple functions such as triggering an email subscription with an accompanying sign-up reward or compiling information from other websites to show users the best offer for a product or service. Other examples include much simpler possibilities such as adding an item to your online shopping cart (as soon as you hit add to cart, an API will tell the system to add the item to your cart).
APIs are also crucial for internal processes. Take an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, for example. The API will act as the go-between when an ERP tries to request data that needs to be accessed. Payroll and accounting programs can be harmoniously bridged by an API, allowing the two to communicate with each other. Web and mobile apps are also much easier to build and integrate with APIs since the language difference is irrelevant.
Are you looking for a digital agency in Melbourne?
At AWD Digital, we build and maintain custom websites and applications – working with RESTful APIs on a daily basis. Our digital development team have years of experience and will be able to lend their skills to your business endeavour.