The serious e-commerce business is going to find every way possible to build its business into a stronger, more formidable opponent in the Online market place. Plopping up a quick shopping cart does not in itself create this strength. More sophistication is required on your part. This is where APIs come into play.
You can add your own products to many shopping sites through APIs, you can add products from big sites into your website through their APIs, or you can build your own API to others to integrate their products and services into your website or webapp.
You should integrate your product catalog or database into any sites that offer this, where many customers already look for their purchases, if you have your own products and services. But if you do not want to create your own products and you simply want to be an affiliate, there are many who offer APIs that allow you to tap into many of the big guys' sites. If you want to be one of those big guys, though, you can do it by building your own API and offering it to online shops for them to tie into. Which route you take depends on your resources and your dedication to fueling your e-commerce venture.
Utilizing Others' APIs to Build Your E-commerce
Amazon, eBay, CafePress, and many more offer APIs to either connect your product databases to their sites where your products are then found or to link products from their sites into yours. What could you do with that? You could build an interface, appliance, or application that draws from their product database. This relieves you of building your own database of products, saving you the money of data entry and maintenance. More importantly it relieves you of keeping inventory, shipping, returns, and many other headaches.
Imagine spending time developing the user experience and not worrying about the product data. This also solves the dilemma of product data unification. One additional benefit is tapping into multiple product databases. You could draw on Amazon and eBay and present the items within a single user interface.
You can lean on such APIs as those from CafePress and Zazzle to tap into on-demand manufacturing. Turn to SwapThing if you want to build a bartering project. If product search and comparison is up your alley, check out the APIs from Shopping.com, Amazon, Shopzilla, eBay, or CNET. Once you are ready to build a checkout, most payment gateways offer their own specialized APIs, like Google Checkout, Authorize.net, PaySimple, or Paypal. Coupons are a special niche that you can access through Zixxo. Reading the UPC and EAN is easy with the help of the UPC database API. Affiliate network APIs come from such sources as Commission Junction and LinkShare. You can even sink your teeth into review APIs of the likes of Yelp, CityGrid, and GoodGuide. Location oriented APIs are found at Milo and Retailingence.
Now let us talk money for a moment. The most prevalent revenue models for APIs are Pay-per-Click (PPC) and Pay-per-Action (PPA). The former charges a fee for each click through made by a visitor, part of that fee is paid to the developer as well. The latter is akin to an affiliate commission awarded when a visitor, referred to a place like Amazon.com, makes a purchase.
The real gem in this is niche shopping segments. They take from multiple sources and pull it all together in one place. The combinations are untapped. If I were to focus somewhere, it would be here.
Let's Mash It Up!
Take a little of everything and tie it into every presence your e-commerce has on the Internet, then give your customers everything in one place. There are certain elements you really should not overlook when mashing up an e-commerce project. Let us look at four angles of mashups: Social Mash, Comparison Mash, Location Mash, and Review Mash.
The most obvious oversight someone could make is missing the Social Mash. There is nearly no overhead from these, yet they are extremely effective. Forget the mere postings and likes and move beyond to displaying your entire catalog or even shopping carts in Facebook. Tie in the product info, browsing history, and shopping cart from your e-commerce platform and you can make a bang up user experience.
During all this time you should be thinking mobile mashup orientation, because, in fact, comparison of products is what most mobile users rely on their phones for. Shopping.com, Redlaser, and ScanLife are all relevant. The last two take bar code scans from your phone and cough up the details. Your website or webapp can tap into these powerful capabilities through these companies' APIs, placing your products into the pool of available ones.
Your inventory should be tied into location sites like ShopKick, Groupon, and Google Maps through their APIs. Then your products will show up in searches on these sites and local customers in your area will find you. You could also tie in your products that you offer on your site, drawn from other APIs on other sites, to the search function for location.
Review mashing, along with social and comparison mashing, are big on steering the customer's buying habits. You can tie in with review sites so they can pull reviews from your site, but be absolutely certain they have a link back to you. The most notables in this category are Amazon, Pickii, and Yelp.
Constructing Your Own API to Expand Your E-commerce.
Another route you could go with your e-commerce business is to create your great e-commerce site and develop an API for resellers to use in tying in their product inventory to your site. They maintain their product inventory and you maintain the user experience. It takes some programming know-how, but you could manage to construct it with a scripting language which is easy, like Php.
The Final Word
This is the age of networking and nothing says networking in the e-commerce world louder than API. If you ignore this prong of your e-commerce strategy, you will certainly flounder about, leaning only on SEO. You need to branch out, think bigger, extend your reach. Certainly, these big sites you plug into with your product database are also your competitors. That is a concern, but you should see this from a different angle. You have the possibility of leveraging their traffic to pick up some sales and win some customers. How you capture those customers is the challenge in this part of the game. You must develop that part of your strategy most carefully, because this is how you will really kick the likes of Google in the ass, while using their own API's. And we all know we would love to do that to the big G.