API-First Ecommerce Provides Best-in-Breed Experiences for Customers and Developers


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Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have fundamentally altered how ecommerce platforms operate. The option to pick and choose best-in-breed options throughout your tech stack enables ecommerce companies to compile an end-to-end experience that is best for developers and customers.

API-first ecommerce is the approach of building a site with APIs and related apps as the foundation to create a superior digital experience.

Instead of being complementary parts, APIs are the focus. The whole of the tech stack is geared to effectively integrating and managing these parts.

Gartner predicted that 50% of new digital commerce capabilities will be incorporated as API-centric SaaS services by 2023 — and that figures to grow in future years.

An API-first approach is quickly becoming the norm for modern ecommerce platforms and storefronts, for many reasons. The advantages in customer experience and ease of development are making it more and more popular.

Why the API First Ecommerce Model Boosts Online Stores

Ultimately, an API-first approach is designed to produce a superior customer experience and encourage sales. The advantages enable ecommerce websites to extend their sales channels and make a seamless experience for potential buyers.

Omnichannel reach.

Omnichannel sales isn’t something that’s nice to have, it’s now a must have. Being able to sell across additional channels like Amazon, Target or social media sites means significantly more customer touch points — and that means more potential sales.

Ease of integration.

APIs are built to work within a complicated tech stack, which makes them easier for developers to work with. Integrations and deployments may not always be simple, but a well-built API understands this and are flexible and malleable. Though integrations don’t always go this smoothly, APIs are designed to be plug and play and fit into your stack seamlessly.

Improve customer experience.

APIs are built using significant resources and development time. That — often — makes them upgrades to bespoke options built in-house. With well-researched vendor selection, ecommerce sites are getting true best-in-breed experiences throughout their tech stack.

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How to Implement an API-First Ecommerce Model

Shifting to an API-first model doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful planning and a full understanding of organizational needs to avoid common mistakes.

Assess the cost of an API first ecommerce solution.

There will be obvious costs — like software purchases — that must be taken into consideration. There will also be hidden pricing — like ongoing maintenance — that should be uncovered and modeled out.

If you’re using a hyperscaler, assume those costs, as well as potential cost increases if traffic ticks up.

Opportunity costs should also be considered. What’s the cost of NOT taking an API first approach? That may make any budget increases much more palatable when the potential threats are considered.

Learn the basic architecture of API first ecommerce.

Your development team should have a full understanding of what API first ecommerce means to the existing tech stack. A true API first approach treats APIs as the foundation of the stack. Everything you access comes through APIs.

Microservices are also a large part of API first environments. Having the development skills available to work with these will make integration, automation and deployment much smoother.

Familiarize yourself with the process of migrating to API-first.

True AP- first ecommerce isn’t applied to existing systems, it’s built from the ground up, with a focus on MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS and Headless) philosophies.

In this way, there is less of a system migration as there is a full build out with a host of new providers.

However, data migration is another story. Existing information will need to be moved to new systems and tools — and this will not always be smooth. Developers should have the resources available to them to ensure that data migrations are done securely and correctly.

Create an API contract.

An API contract establishes standards that will apply across your new tech stack. These should be considered the new source of truth and will provide guidelines for how best-in-class APIs will be integrated and function moving forward. Everything should be documented and all systems should operate using the same standards.

Start with small experiments.

There’s no need to replace all commerce applications at once. In fact, that’s actually dangerous to system health and doesn’t follow sound business logic. Start with a smaller part of your ecosystem and get that working perfectly as an initial use case, like an ERP. That process will provide insights that can be applied to other systems as they are onboarded.

Track and manage your APIs.

This is not a fire-and-forget situation. After deployment of all systems, API-first architecture must be constantly monitored and fine tuned, usually in real-time. Processes that aren’t already automated should be reviewed. Performance should be constantly looked at and improved where possible.

Choosing BigCommerce as an API-First Ecommerce Solution

The BigCommerce platform believes in “API first.” It’s the philosophy behind our product development and means we build the public APIs for new features before introducing the native feature that will consume it.

This delivers new user experiences to our global community as soon as possible and allows the functionality of a standalone product to be accessed using a headless solution.

Headless Commerce

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The Final Word

For ecommerce sites, the speed of business has never been faster. Customer needs are changing quicker everyday and it’s the responsibility of your platform to give them what they want and how they want it.

An API-first approach to ecommerce is the best way to do this. By compiling best-in-breed solutions into a single, holistic commerce experience, you’re providing customers the best of all worlds, which means better scalability, reduced time-to-market, less friction in the purchase process and, ultimately, more sales.

FAQs About API-First Ecommerce

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