As Andy Williams’ popular song reminds us, the holiday season really is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. The same is true for retailers, with UK shoppers expected to spend £42.2 billion in December 2016, a 2.5% increase from last Christmas. However, without adopting an appropriate API strategy to respond to increasing customer pressure for friction-free online and in-store experiences, many stores will be left out in the cold.
As recent Black Friday trends suggest, consumers are considering to buy more online than previously: 1 in 5 shoppers have decided to buy more online than they have before. As customers’ expectations change, retailers must respond by perfecting their online platforms as well as blurring physical and digital boundaries in their bricks and mortar stores. Those high-street stores who don’t adapt really will have a Blue Blue Christmas.
Conscious of my role advising retailers on their digital strategies, I’m keen to compare stores’ online presence in the run-up to Christmas. Presents for a newborn niece, a sweater for an office party, return train tickets to visit family at the weekend; although it sounds like the prize line-up for the latest TV game show, these are the most recent purchases I’ve made online just in the last week.
Thinking about my own habits, I’ve become less reliant on the brand when making purchasing decisions; I demand one-click shopping and competitive pricing. Sites such as Amazon, which provide this ‘shopping as a service’ experience, capture my attention – and my money – rather than those sites which require re-clicking through multiple webpages.
There are various ways which consumers shop nowadays – mobile, tablet, in-store, desktop – and retailers need to connect consistently with their customers across every channel. What’s more, shops have to adapt constantly to new means of communication. Consider social media; nearly a third of online shoppers now use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as a channel to look for new items to purchase. The landscape is constantly shifting, and retailers need to be prepared to respond quickly to what’s coming round the corner.
In response to these demands, IT teams typically have grown substantial in-house development knowledge and try to design fully in-house solutions. Often development teams believe that the most expedient approach to creating solutions to multichannel shopping is a custom point to point integration. This might be well suited to the first project but fails to scale and becomes increasingly brittle, slowing down the organization and allowing competitors to gain traction.
MuleSoft advocates an API strategy to avoid this problem, designed to enable businesses to innovate at speed securely. The consequence of exposing data through reusable APIs means that work can be recycled easily, instead of IT teams and lines of businesses having to recreate the wheel for each new project.
Consider this API strategy in the context of a new iPhone app launched in time for Christmas. The app was created as a means of capturing a segment of the market who enjoy mobile shopping for its speed and convenience. For that app to function, it requires information from a customer relationship management tool, some systems of record, and information about stock levels. If the app was created using point to point integration as teams have done so traditionally, there is no re-usability for the next project, for example, the Android app.
By exposing the data needed for the app through APIs, the different components of the mobile app can be considered as reusable building blocks. So how about creating the next Android app? No problem, use the same integrations for the iPhone app but create a different experience API for Android.
As integrations between all the component parts of the iPhone app no longer need to be redone for the Android one, the end-product will be delivered to market rapidly and keeps the retailer ahead of the competition. What’s more, as the apps are both composed of the same building blocks, the customer receives a consistent brand experience.
Dixons Carphone, Europe’s largest specialist electronics retailer, needed to transform its digital offering to provide greater focus on its customer. This meant creating a closer brand connection by having a consistent omnichannel approach across multiple different channels, such as desktop, mobile, and tablet. They needed a 360-degree view of their customers in order to drive average basket size and offer shoppers customized recommendations. Here’s a quick video detailing what they achieved.
Working with MuleSoft and Accenture to create the honeyBee platform, Dixons is now able to build and implement new or modified APIs in a matter of weeks, not months. Their customers can now interact with the Dixons’ services much more easily, the business can easily track customer journeys, and average basket size has increased.
So from the team here at MuleSoft, Have an API-Christmas and have a peaceful holiday season.