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What is API Integration? Business applications and examples

Table of Contents

  1. API Definition
  2. What exactly is an "API Integration"?
  3. Why do businesses integrate and use APIs?
  4. Examples of API integrations
  5. Examples of custom API integrations
    a. WhatsApp and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
    b. Accounting/bookkeeping
    c. Scraping Amazon data
  6. Key takeaway

API Definition

In essence, an application programming interface (API) allows services to communicate with each other, usually over the Internet.

More specifically, APIs are a set of tools and protocols that allow two applications to interact with each other. The API provides a set of clearly defined methods of communication, often documented in a specification that both parties can follow. An API can be created between two separate software applications, or within one application.

You can also read a more thorough, technical introduction to APIs.

For example, an online store may use an API to pull down product information from a warehouse or supplier's website. A flight aggregator such as SkyScanner gets flight information from various airlines using an API to get the information. And automation platforms will usually use APIs to request information and send instructions. These could be sending an invoice, an email, an appointment reminder, adding a task for an employee after a request, or almost anything that users might do with software.

What exactly is an “API Integration?”

In short, API integration is the process of combining two applications so that they can share information.

Integrating two APIs is the act of connecting two applications together in order to provide users with a seamless experience. The applications can be built by the same organization or by different organizations.

The integration might come “straight-out-of-the-box” if a software company integrates with another. For example, Slack has integrated over 2,400 apps that allow its users to “pull reports, start calls, file tickets, and more – right within Slack.”

Nevertheless, that is not to say that you must wait for your software provider of choice to integrate with the other software you use. Since most SaaS products have an API, it’s possible to connect any that you can imagine. These are called 3rd party API integrations. So long as they have provided an API, it is just a matter of coding them. Hint: We are experts when it comes to API integrations.

Why do businesses integrate and use APIs?

Business use API integrations because it provides a seamless user experience and allow software to communicate with each other, give commands or send a request/order to another platform to perform certain actions.

This can save time – and time is money - and by integrating various software, businesses minimize the risk of losing leads, have a more robust system, and simply, it makes users’ lives easier.

APIs power today’s software automation. Office work, whether tedious, simple, or even requiring deeper numerical analysis, customization, and thought can all be automated. As long as it is a repetitive process or a logical one. If it can be coded, it can be automated. 

Very few people care about API integrations in their own right. What matters to businesses is the bottom line and the ways they can benefit. Businesses integrate APIs to help them facilitate or automate:

  • Accounting
  • Scheduling
  • emailing 
  • project management (Asana, Trello, Monday.com, ClickUp, etc.) 
  • invoicing 
  • messaging and automatically replying
  • generating quotes 
  • creating contracts and agreements 
  • onboarding clients 
  • pulling off data from the web routinely 
  • and even analyzing and evaluating it 

Examples of API integrations

  • A web browser that uses the IMAP or POP3 protocol to retrieve email from an email server.
  • Accounting software automatically gets transaction data from your POS system to save time
  • Sending an invoice or an invoice reminder when a purchase is made or when an invoice is overdue
  • Businesses sending automated replies on WhatsApp and other platforms
  • A mobile app that uses an API to get data for display to the user, like sports scores, news headlines, maps, and weather reports.
  • Facebook: When you like a page outside of facebook.com e.g. on a news article, it is via Facebooks' API
  • Deliveroo: When you pay for a meal, your payment is processed by Stripe through APIs
  • Slack is able to instantly change permissions on Google docs with a click, to allow all that are in the channel to be able to view the document you sent
  • Calend.ly creating a Zoom meeting and adding an event to your calendar when somebody books a meeting
  • Sharing an image through a phone’s share feature to messenger, Instagram, Slack, Google Docs, etc. is all done through each app’s API
  • Apple News: They retrieve the information they need to display news from a huge list of publications through APIs.
  • Google Maps uses the Google Maps API to communicate with the Google search engine.

Examples of custom API integrations

WhatsApp and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system

A business communicates with leads primarily through WhatsApp. They face 2 issues:

  1. They lose some customers because they do not reply fast enough
  2. Their CRM does not track most of their business conversations. Sending reminders is tedious, fuzzy, and manual.

Native integration was not possible. Through code, they can integrate WhatsApp and their CRM. This allows them to track all the conversations they are having, be able to pull up all the relevant data when getting on a call or before going to meet the client on-site.

Automated replies mean that they can instantly reply, 24/7. Moreover, they can more easily score their leads, avoid wasting time, answer commonly asked questions, and keep their clients updated on delivery information and times without having to click anything.

They can instead focus on expertly answering questions, selling, and providing their service.

Accounting/bookkeeping

A yoga studio would spend 10 hours a month doing their accounting. Not only was this taking up the owner’s time, but it was also incredibly tedious; he did not enjoy it at all. 

By integrating their accounting software, Point of Sales systems, and automating various reports, they barely spend any time at all now.

On top of that, the likelihood of human error was reduced, and they were able to report in much finer detail.

Scraping Amazon data

A client uses Amazon’s API to keep an eye out on competition. They instantly know if they have been undercut, if new players enter his niche, or if others start offering 1 day or free delivery.

Being able to get regular reports, as well as alerts when competitors activate various triggers, allows the competitor to stay ahead of the game, make better business decisions, and be proactive instead of reactive.

The sheer amount of data that computers are able to comb through, using APIs, is something that the business owner or an employee would not feasibly be able to go through in the first place.

Instead, they have entirely automated the process, keep an eye out regularly, and stay sharp. All of this is only possible, and cost-effective, through APIs and their custom integration.

Key takeaway

At a time when companies with 100-250 employees have 99 different applications and programs, being able to integrate so many applications means that employees can work faster, better, and with less error.

Integrating APIs – connecting your various software to speak and interact with one another - is one of the easiest ways to immediately speed business, provide faster service, and free up employees’ time. The applications are endless, and almost any modern software can be integrated with another. If not natively available, through expert code implementation.

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