Using APIs to be Data Driven to the Last Mile

By Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General manager, Axway

From TikTok to the last mile

Retailers’ biggest priority is allowing customers to shop wherever they are. When the world shifted online during the pandemic, linking online to offline was critical for retailers to deliver outstanding customer experiences. In-person shopping still has its draw, with younger mobile shoppers showing a strong preference for more hybrid off-and-online shopping experiences. Yet social commerce spend has been driven up by the rapid rise of fashionable product influencers, with almost a quarter of shoppers in the UK finding products first on social media.

Retailers realise they need to invest in technology to ensure seamless synchronisation between in-store, online, fulfilment, and last-mile delivery. It’s critical to have an omnichannel strategy which centralises data across disparate physical and online systems to obtain that single customer view, from marketing through to delivery.

With increasingly efficient store-to-door services during the pandemic, the retail world is fixated on creating efficiencies for converting orders. This means moving from marketing a product as a mere idea on TikTok to fulfilment and delivery to the door within sometimes hours.

Using APIs to deliver what customers want

Retailers are investing in application programmable interfaces (APIs) to bridge the gap between the virtual world and the last mile by connecting to third party applications. For instance, click and collect, same-day delivery through partner services, and real-time delivery tracking. In connecting market intelligence from social media sites with supply chains, brands are assured their last-mile services will quickly and easily deliver stock to customers’ doors.

APIs and API management platforms enable retailers to create the seamless and frictionless shopping experiences today’s consumers expect. They optimise the delivery of relevant and personalised product information to customers, wherever they are on the customer journey. Customers need constant reassurance and guidance through the delivery process, which means that ensuring successful receipt is vital. It could mean linking product pages to social media platforms, giving personalised suggestions, or providing a ‘find in store’ service for when, frustratingly, it’s out of stock online.

Using APIs in three key phases of the customer journey can build a strategy for remarkable customer experiences:

Pre-purchase – relevant and timely customer targeting

Shoppers need information and support from retailers at multiple contact points, and retailers are tactically using APIs to be able to provide this information. They might link product pages to social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, keeping these up to date with product information. APIs can also be used to link shoppers with detailed product information, for instance on sustainability credentials, such as whether a retailer will recycle your old sofa when bringing the new one.

Or a retailer may use API-enabled access to a real-time inventory for shoppers to discover if their preferred size and colour is available at a local store. It could be to offer ‘low-in-stock’ alerts about items they have previously browsed and are yet to purchase.

By allowing customers to create profiles and store wish-lists during shopping, retailers gain valuable insights from this data for cross-selling and up-selling.

API-powered apps can enable local branch managers and staff to submit insights and surveys which builds a rich data source, enabling intelligent business decisions, such as regional inventories.

Purchase – streamlining fulfilment

Each unique customer journey might involve browsing on social media before checking price and product features on the website or checking availability in store to see in person. But there are other key factors affecting a purchase decision.

Shoppers want to be able to choose how they receive the item, opting from a selection of Ship from Store, Click and Collect, Reserve and Collect, and Order in Store. They value regular communication updates during the delivery journey. APIs perform the vital role of linking disparate offline and online channels so customers can buy anywhere they choose and receive products by preference too. Customers expect no less than rapid delivery. According to McKinsey, 90% of consumers expect a two to three day delivery minimum and 30% expect same-day delivery. Utilising APIs can streamline order processing for in-store pickup or delivery. It can also give customers reassurance by connecting, retrieving and passing on delivery updates from logistics partners to customers, keeping the flow of communication as a package moves through different stages of its journey.

Post-purchase – becoming memorable

The post-purchase experience is paramount, as building satisfaction with customers might send them straight back online or into a store. Returns matter, and retailers that do it well can boost long term customer loyalty. A process that is easy, fast, and free and makes the customer’s life easier, will make a retailer memorable - whether it’s returning online purchases in store, printing a returns label, or using a home collection service.

Retailers can invest in APIs to streamline their returns process. This keeps customers happy and turns around stock fast for resale. Through empowering store assistants with the right customer information, retailers can leverage this data to address issues and reduce future returns.

Omnichannel all the way

APIs enable retailers to make more intelligent business decisions through their omnichannel strategies. It’s vital to allow a customer to shop from anywhere and receive consistent personalised communications, whether they are on social media, the website or in-store; the brand experience should be the same. Retailers using tech like APIs will engage more effectively with customers, build a seamless shopping experience and make better business decisions.

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