Which industry is most closely associated with the use of Business APIs? If you guessed Retail, you are correct! Retailers have been interested in APIs to increase their speed and reach for quite some time (see this InfoWorld article from 2010). Let’s take a look at Retail and the API Economy, once again using the structure I introduced a few weeks ago (here).   This is still generic and not specific to any single Retail company. My hope is that these examples provoke thought and help you identify APIs that will benefit your business.


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Mobile App Development – Retailers – along with everyone else – are creating mobile apps for their customers. These apps need data contained in the enterprise and to get this information they will use APIs. I’ll break this into three categories of APIs:

  • General information – information that is not tailored to the specific customer.       Examples here are very common in retail – store locations, product catalog, product descriptions, in store ads, product pricing, availability, locator in store, ratings, and reviews.
  • Custom information and transactions –information that is tailored to the customer. For these APIs, additional security is required to ensure appropriate access.      
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    APIs fitting into this category might include – order, order status/tracking, frequent buyer data, shopping history, and wish list. Personal discounts might also apply to pricing.
  • Mobile advantages – Customers using the App on the mobile device can use functions of the phone or tablet in conjunction with the APIs provided.       A basic example is to use the store location list with a mapping API and GPS to provide directions to the store. More advanced ideas might include using NFC to identify potential items of interest based on shopping history and social networking as the customer enters a section of the store.

What APIs are available today in the Retail space? Here are just a few samples of public APIs:

  • Atosho Retailer API – Atosho allows users to buy products directly from digital content in demand such as articles, reviews, and images.
  • ShopStyle – allows client applications to retrieve the underlying data for all the basic elements of the ShopStyle website, including products, brands, retailers, and categories.
  • iOpenAt.com API – is a search engine that users can search and return the opening hours of retail locations closest to them. Currently, iOpenAt.com only includes retail locations of stores in the UK. The API method returns opening hours of locations within the set postal code searched by.
  • Taulia – is a supply chain management and vendor service that allows users to integrate supplier data into current workflow solutions, send e-invoices and business documents, and build discounting capabilities.
  • Pennock – Pennock Floral is a wholesale supplier of flowers, floral containers, and other specialty items that sells exclusively to retail outlets.

Besides creating Mobile Apps, there are many other areas where APIs can provide value for retailers.

Partnering – APIs can help make it easy to do business with you. If you offer B2B purchasing relationships, offering APIs that allow businesses to sign up for the program and place orders from their procurement systems can generate new customers and revenue. You can also integrate with your suppliers using APIs that allow them to check inventory levels for example.

Public APIs – Many of the same APIs used internally and with partners can be used as public APIs to drive additional business and new customers.
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For example, you may choose to make APIs available for a comparison App, so that your company has the opportunity to compete for new business.


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Extending your reach to other industries that can send business to you is one of the large incentives in moving to an API economy. Depending on the type of retailer different industries can be partners. For example, travel apps might suggest clothing required for the trip or event planning apps (e.g. birthday or wedding) might suggest gifts. By providing APIs to these other industry Apps the retailer has the opportunity to obtain new customers, not just support your existing customer set.

Social / Big Data Analytics –Using Social media APIs to search for comments about your company or products can help identify opportunities or threats which can be acted upon. By combining their APIs with your APIs to identify customers or products you can make appropriate offers to generate new business or head off a problem. For example, a customer complaint that is quickly acted upon with an offer can turn negative comments into recommendations to do business with your company.


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Device Integration / Wearables
– So let’s get creative. Where is this going? Combining the shopping cart with in store location services and personal history can help promote products of interest. The shopping cart can host a screen that displays demonstrations of product usage or advertise products in the section you are near. And then when the item is selected and placed in the cart – self checkout– no lines!

Data Assets – Retailers gather large amounts of data about their clients which may make these clients attractive potential customers for companies in other industries. Providing access to data assets in aggregate can be valuable. Clients may pay for access to send offers to your client base. For additional value (and with appropriate opt-in support) the ability to target specific customers with offers from other industries could also be supplied.


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Connect with me through comments here or via twitter @Arglick to continue the discussion.  You can also read my earlier blogs.

4 comments on"Today’s Special – APIs for the Retail Industry"

  1. […] and careers,” should very well know, APIs are indeed gaining popularity in other industries. Retailers expose APIs to coupons, specials and catalogs to increase their profits from Internet commerce, and […]

  2. […] and careers,” should very well know, APIs are indeed gaining popularity in other industries. Retailers expose APIs to coupons, specials and catalogs to increase their profits from Internet commerce, and […]

  3. Pankaj Kumar sharma April 17, 2017

    mail us details about indian e-comm retails pricing update api.

    • there seems to be a misunderstanding as to what IBM provides. IBM supplies a product called IBM API Connect. This helps you create your own APIs that your business wants to provide, run them, manage them and secure them. IBM does not supply APIs for the any industry or from any other companies. If you want to find existing public APIs for any industry or geographic region, I suggest you use a site such as programmableweb.com. If you are looking for industry specific APIs from particular companies, look at those companies.

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