Streamlining E-Commerce for the Future
Brands and retailers know the potential of e-commerce over the next decade. With even more innovations in data speeds like 5G that are here and on the way, consumers are looking for speed now more than ever. However, brands and retailers both stand to lose more than they stand to gain if they can’t deliver the speed consumers expect in the shopping experience.
My branding agency’s digital team has been sharing their thoughts on future opportunities in e-comm with me, and they see the possibilities available to streamline the buying process to benefit online shoppers. Even though brands and retailers have their own digital storefronts, there are ways to improve their existing relationship in a way that benefits all parties.
Before we talk about one specific way, we need to understand APIs and current online shopping trends first.
The Power of APIs
An Application Programming Interface, or API, is essentially a digital messenger. It allows websites to communicate with each other through a series of backend twists and turns. APIs are already being used to ease the lives of people around the planet.
Imagine the last time you bought a movie ticket online. You may have bought it through an app on your phone or directly from the movie theater’s ticketing platform. An API can look at the ticket purchase confirmation email, tell your preferred navigation app where the movie theater is located for easy directions, and tell you what time you should leave to avoid traffic and arrive on time. This integration has been available in Google Maps since 2016.
It’s not just maps and email. There are many uses of APIs in everyday life that we aren’t even aware of. Nordic APIs’ blog has a good list of some of their common uses here, but they also power everything from smart speakers to robot vacuum cleaners. The widespread usage of this interfacing plays a bigger part in your daily life than you may realize.
Online Shoppers Trend Toward In-Store Pickup
Saying the online shopping industry is huge sounds like an understatement. In 2019, global retail e-commerce sales hit 3.53 trillion US dollars. By 2023, those sales are projected to surpass 6 trillion US dollars.
With so many purchases being made, it follows that these purchases are not all being made the same way. There are a wide range of purchase options, from PayPal to payment plans. But there are also different delivery and pickup options available to consumers.
One increasingly popular way for US-based consumers to get their products is in-store pickup. According to Business Insider, nearly 70% prefer using this method. The reasons for this tendency are varied—saving on shipping costs, speed and convenience are all factors—but it’s a trend retailers and brands should be taking advantage of together.
E-Commerce and APIs Together Mean Opportunity
While there is an existing relationship between brand and retailer, there is a lack of communication that leaves a lot to be desired for the growing consumer base that prefers to pick up their products in-store. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a real world example. Let’s buy a TV together.
Open up a new tab. It doesn’t matter what major brand, but go to their website and click on a TV. That one should do. Can you see where else you can buy it outside of the brand’s own online store? If you can, click the option of a physical retailer, one that has a store near you.
That should lead you to another webpage. Can you pick it up in store? If you can, you’ll have to find which store near you has it in stock. Is your current location already captured, or will you have to type your location yourself? Now that you have done that, is it even in stock at the closest physical location?
If we were seriously considering purchasing that TV, we most likely would have given up by now. If we were making an impulse purchase, we would have given up a long time ago. There are just too many steps.
Brands and retailers can fix this with the use of an API. Imagine if from the very first step it was possible to see which physical location near you stocked that specific TV model and how much stock it had. The technology for a sleeker online shopping experience already exists, it only needs to be implemented. It saves time for consumers, and gives them the option of purchasing online with express shipping, or to choose in-store pickup.
This API-based relationship has benefits for brands and retailers. Brands can gain valuable customer data on shopping habits and inform retailers when they missed a sale and how much product they should order wholesale to meet demand. Retailers now stand a chance when going toe-to-toe with large e-commerce platforms and can increase in-store foot traffic and upselling.
The technology that is available today can let brands and retailers do more for consumers, but it does require the willingness to do so. As the e-commerce giants and consumer appetite for convenience continue to grow, innovative thinking and partnerships will help ensure that competition thrives.