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APIs are the digital access point to the business capabilities that power the digital economy. The most successful digital organizations recognize that their APIs grow in value the more they are connected to a broader ecosystem of applications, developers, partners, and customer experiences.

As the API economy matures, an increasing number of organizations are co-creating API-based products in collaboration with other ecosystem members — including customers, partners, independent developers, software vendors, etc. These partnerships are mutually beneficial for everyone involved and valuable for their collective customers. Empowered with a fresh perspective of consumer-centric thinking, organizations should be open to reimagining value creation in collaboration with their partners.

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This is the first post in a series about how to build your own thriving API ecosystem that broadens the innovative work of your organization’s APIs. So where do you start when working to build out your API ecosystem? The customer experience. 

Consumer-centric approach 

Traditionally, “consumer” is a term used to reference customers in a B2C business. In the world of APIs, all customers are technically consumers, but not all consumers are customers. Let’s dive into that a bit further. 

“Consumer” is short for someone or something that consumes or uses an API. Sometimes we use the phrase “consuming developer” to avoid any ambiguity. It’s a reference to a developer that consumes APIs in the course of developing an application — internal or external to an organization. In contrast, a customer is exactly that: a customer of the organization. In either a B2C or B2B context, it is a person or business that purchases goods or services from your organization.

Establishing your API experience 

Regardless of whether your final consumer is a customer, an internal stakeholder, or a developer, start with defining the best possible customer experience or business outcome, while avoiding any preconceived notions about the organization’s limitations or capabilities. 

This approach is known as an “outside-in” strategy: relying on customer needs and preferences to guide strategy. The outside-in perspective is objective, oriented around your consumers’ use cases, rather than the structure of the data in your system. This approach considers both developers — the API’s direct customers — and the end-users those developers serve. Outside-in thinking requires the collective imagination of the organization to work together. As a result, both IT and business teams should be involved in brainstorming next-generation customer experiences. 

When ecosystems are organized with value creation for all constituencies in mind, it can be a win-win-win for all — including the organization that hosts the ecosystem, the partners and developers with whom the value is co-created, and the customer, who ultimately benefits from the customer experience. 

Whether your organization is just starting to build an API ecosystem or is already growing one and looking to drive API consumption, measure success, and better engage consumers — MuleSoft can help.

Check out the seven steps to creating a thriving API ecosystem by downloading our white paper.

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