APIs play a critical role in delivering Omnichannel experiences to your customers. In designing these experiences, you will ask whom you aim to serve and what they aim to accomplish, as they journey across various touchpoints. You must then deliver the right APIs and services to support that journey.
These services are often about how all the pieces fit together to deliver experiences such as click-and-collect, with contextual and actionable information throughout, and the logistics required to fulfill the order. But what’s crucial to understand about these APIs and services is that they embody your digital business, which you must deliver in an integrated and consistent manner across all channels, to achieve a truly Omnichannel experience.
Customers don’t actually perceive experiences as Omnichannel (unless they are digital experience geeks like us). What they do perceive is friction that impedes their journey, disconnects that send them off their desired path, such as asking for information too early, or repeatedly, causing them to abandon their journey. Your aim is to deliver a friction-free experience. The history of siloed IT system delivery has erected many barriers that cause a great deal of friction.
For example, consider how a bank might deliver Omnichannel experiences using a portfolio of APIs and services:
Common back-end services for managing customer and account information, for delivering financial products, and for marketing to households, enable integrated but channel-optimized outcomes via APIs that support experiences such as buying a house, bargain shopping, or going on vacation. To accomplish this kind of end-to-end integrated experience, your APIs must deliver:
- Consistent information. APIs and the services behind them are the point of integration for customer and product information, smoothing the flow across touchpoints and back-end systems – eliminating information friction. Your APIs will collect information only when customers are ready to supply it, but maintain a cohesive profile on the back-end. Rich OmniChannel analytics augment your understanding from Customer 360 to Customer “720.”
- Consistent outcomes. APIs access services to do your customers’ bidding, and must deliver consistent results no matter where the customer starts or ends the process. Consumers often use multiple screens at once, so your APIs must internalize a rich context model to inform actions and experience.
- Channel-optimized experiences. A house-buying tour might begin with initial research at home, whether on a PC or tablet, with continuing interaction via smartphone or tablet while touring, followed by meeting with a realtor back at the office. Favor different lightweight APIs for each part of the use-case, rather than one fat API that handles all house information. Also, a bank’s APIs could enable showing houses selected/ranked by affordability.
- Friction-free commerce. Building your API portfolio over a core of common business services shields customers from silos, and shields developers from systems complexity, enabling teams to more rapidly deliver and refine experiences that drive business results. Always design your APIs to place customer convenience at the top of the priority list.
Delivering such an API portfolio can be quite challenging if multiple development teams are working at cross-purposes. But API governance should not be an obstacle to rapid delivery – in fact, firms that are the most effective at governance are those that balance the speed, agility, flexibility, and innovation of client-specific “consumption” APIs with the consistency and low friction of common “exposure” services. But delivering this kind of API and service portfolio can be quite challenging without good tools to support the service design lifecycle. They must:
- Enable development teams to start from canonical “exposure” APIs, and rapidly trim them to deliver client- and channel-specific “consumption” APIs.
- Support agile processes by enabling teams and architects to collaborate easily to align consumption APIs and evolve canonical APIs.
- Provide low-friction governance to enable architects to sustain the API and service portfolio as a cost-effective business asset, over time, rather than a collection of chaotic and misaligned APIs.
The ignite Service Design Platform provides all these capabilities, while integrating with other elements in your API delivery platform, such as API Management. Embrace ignite to both speed and focus your API strategy more effectively.