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To most people, an API – or Application Programming Interface – is just another techie acronym. But in the age of Big Data and cross-channel marketing, APIs are the key to creating seamless, engaging, and enjoyable customer journeys. Here’s what they’re about and how they help.
What exactly is an API?
If you’ve ever worked with data and tech teams, chances are you’ve heard them talk about APIs. They might even have tried to explain them to you using the TechTerms definition: ‘API is a set of commands, functions, protocols, and objects that programmers can use to create software or interact with an external system.’
But what does that mean in plain English?
Put simply, an API allows different pieces of software to communicate with each other.
How are APIs helping businesses?
APIs are the backbone of digital businesses. Every time your customers connect with multiple systems from one place, whether they’re aware of it or not, these systems are talking to each other using APIs. Take the financial services sector, for instance. In this context, typically a number of different systems cooperate using APIs to monitor transactions for fraud and then to respond to potential frauds once identified.
Regardless of your industry, APIs are the thing that makes your customer journeys smooth. Think about all the times one programme interfaces with another. Every time a customer logs into an online service using their Facebook credentials, they’re using an API. Every time they book an appointment online and add it to their Google calendar, they’re using an API. Every time they use an online comparison site and receive a call from an insurance provider, they’re using an API.
What do APIs have to do with customer experience?
APIs aren’t just about creating better customer journeys from a practical point of view, although they do certainly make the online experience smoother. They’re also about engaging customers in new and innovative ways.
Customer communication, for example. Every good customer experience professional knows that success lies in personalisation and tailored content. By allowing different systems to talk to each other, APIs make it possible to bring in customer information from different sources, enabling you to contact your customers how they want, when they want, and with the kind of messaging they’re likely to engage with.
APIs can also help you deliver campaigns to capture customers’ imagination. Here at Engage Hub, for example, we recently worked with Weve to deliver a mobile campaign that used train delays as the trigger to prompt commuters to buy premixed cans of Gordon’s Gin & Tonic. The hyper-targeted, location-based campaign used 3 data sources – National Rail, Weve’s location data and stores supplying Gordon’s Gin & Tonic – to send customers automated messages with an offer. Our platform collated these sources using API data. And the result? A highly targeted campaign that reached 155,225 customers and made 32,604 sales.
How can you make use of APIs?
There are myriad ways in which APIs can help improve your customer journeys and customer experiences. If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could just combine 2 data sources, the chances are an API can make it a reality.
So my top tip – stop thinking of APIs as the domain of the developer or the tech team. They’re a vital tool in the customer experience arsenal, helping you remove friction and maximise personalisation.
To learn more about how Engage Hub can help you use APIs to improve your customer engagement capabilities, get in touch today.