Business APIs -The Secret Sauce in Successful Digital Marketing

Alan Glickenhouse, API Business Strategist IBM Cloud, IBM [NYSE: IBM]

Alan Glickenhouse, API Business Strategist IBM Cloud, IBM [NYSE: IBM]

Effective Digital Marketing must be in a constant state of improvement. How quickly a business can iterate across the buying cycle trying new capabilities keeping the successful and discarding those that are unsuccessful is a competitive advantage. Failing fast is good. Failing slow and expensively is going to leave you behind the competition. Effective use of Business APIs and other modern integration capabilities enable the necessary business agility.


Let’s start with a few definitions:

• Business API – is a simple to understand programmable interface focused on business recognizable assets –a product, an order, a customer, etc. Business APIs are targeted toward the consumer of the API, not the provider application(s).

• API Management - is about driving the consumption of business assets securely and easily. It consists of creating and publishing APIs, applying security and consumption constraints and enforcing these constraints at run time, socialization to internal and external developer communities, collecting and analyzing metrics, and ongoing testing and monitoring.

Applying APIs to Digital Marketing

Applying APIs to the sales cycle supports rapid iterations and innovation:

1. Opportunity Identification

In the simplest case, the customer finds you - perhaps using a search engine. But, we still must make it easy for the client to find what they are looking for on our mobile app or web site. User interface development is a specialized skill, but these same specialists are often not skilled in accessing the systems where data about customers or products reside. Business APIs address this issue by exposing complicated systems as easy to consume assets supporting rapid prototyping and agile UI development.

"Failing fast is good. Failing slow and expensively is going to leave you behind the competition"

But, do not rest on the idea that the customer is going to find you! You need to go where clients are looking. Potential clients may be discussing a vacation on social media which could indicate a travel or clothing opportunity. Someone may be researching cars which could signify a need for a loan or insurance. Perhaps an event such as weather or a geo-location could signify an opportunity. Each scenario is enabled through Business APIs (and/or Events). I call this the “Business Next Door” and every business has one. Partnering through APIs with your business next door can enable significant new revenue streams.

For expensive purchases, customers may be doing research or interacting with you (and competition) through multiple channels. Effectively collecting data from all the customer interactions through APIs helps achieve a full view of the customer opportunity.

2. Present a Compelling Offer

Now we must act quickly to provide a compelling offer. Presenting your complete set of offerings and hoping they find something of interest is not going to cut it. A tailored offer unique to the situation has a higher likelihood of success. Customer data including buying history may be reflected in your CRM system (accessed via APIs) but is not the full picture. Social media, partner systems, the event(s) that drove the customer to you, the weather, can all be accessed via APIs to define the current context. Even pricing may be different based on the circumstances. Uber charges congestion pricing based on demand. Insurance based on your behavior, umbrellas when it is raining, and airline seats based on availability are all examples where pricing could vary. Taking this context and acting on it with Artificial Intelligence (AI) can present a tailored compelling offer. And, yes, all of these are also accessed via APIs.

3. Close the sale

Make it easy for the client to say “yes”. Have accurate product availability and delivery information. Provide secure transactions and offer multiple payment options. As you progress in your customer centric model, you may include partner offerings. Making this a single interaction can be a differentiator.

4. Measure and Optimize

API Management provides analytics showing usage patterns which can be helpful in determining what is working and what is not. Rapid adjustments, A/B testing, and other mechanisms support rapid innovation.

5. Retain and Grow

Customer follow up, support, personalized offers, loyalty programs, and other post-sale processes can also be enhanced through APIs integrating your information with events, social media, and AI.

Driving Value for Clients

Businesses are trying to deliver using more agile processes to speed offerings to market to be more responsive to client needs and business opportunities. This is a (digital) transformation from the historical slower rate of change in offering delivery. To achieve this increased agility IT is looking at several architectural changes and requirements:

• Hybrid – enable enterprises to execute across traditional on-premise, private, and public clouds. Most companies either temporarily or permanently will have assets in many locations including on-premise and cloud(s).

• Multi-cloud – enterprises are heterogeneous with many enterprises using 5+ clouds. Primary value propositions for cloud are speed and cost, and different cloud providers have optimized for different capabilities. The reality is that most businesses will operate across multiple cloud providers and shift work between cloud providers to maximize value.

• Open– Capabilities should be open by design, enabling flexibility and portability across clouds.

• Secure – Provide reliability and continuous security for the environment. Failing on security can cause serious business damage.

• Management – Consistent service level, support, logging, management, and delivery across complete heterogeneous cloud environments.

Effective API management provides the desired flexibility and shields consuming applications from back end changes.

Customer Data

Being in the headlines as the victim of a successful cyberattack can be extremely costly –both in immediate costs and ongoing reputation. The EU regulatory requirement – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires protection of citizen personal information and gives citizens the right to view, manage, and request that you delete their information. Penalties can be severe – up to €20 million or 4% of worldwide annual revenue. Other regions are looking to implement similar controls.

APIs provide a security mechanism to control visibility to personal information and can be used with proper controls to allow citizen access and control of their personal information. See “GDPR Considerations for Integration and the API Economy”.

Effective Digital Marketing is a critical element in Digital Transformation. Business APIs are the secret sauce that enables the required agility and security to drive success.

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