Since 2014, retail e-commerce sales have increased by over 70 percent, amounting to over 10 percent of the share of total retail sales this year. In fact, when e-commerce first began to gain traction, most people believed this was unequivocally the future of retail. However, we’re beginning to realize that the future for retail is actually a lot more complex. Consumers are looking for a seamless experience, one that feels personalized and relevant to their needs and values. Consider the following:
- 59 percent of shoppers would like it if store associates knew the items in their online shopping carts;
- 31 percent of customers would like their shopping experience to be more personalized than it actually is; and
- 74 percent of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.
Connecting with customers is essential to survival. In a market where brand relationships are stronger than ever, understanding each customer on a deeper level is the catalyst for success in the long run. Capturing value at each digital touchpoint means mapping out current and potential user journeys and aligning those with an omnichannel strategy.
To deliver personalized experiences in-store and online (web and mobile), many retailers rely on APIs to connect point of sale, ERP, marketing and legacy systems. Whether it’s supporting embedded e-commerce offerings, integrating digital channels, exposing product catalogs, location services, using payment wallets, or simply relaying consumer preference data, APIs power complex, real-time interactions that help retailers collect data that’s indispensable for immersive and contextual experiences. APIs open the door to the creation of a variety of advanced digital commerce services without a colossal upheaval of current systems. What previously would require custom, complex point-to-point integrations can now be replaced with a simple API call.
APIs are a fantastic way to implement omnichannel strategies, but often APIs go unmonitored. Why does this matter? Well, relying heavily on APIs without monitoring them is much like building a house of cards — it looks beautifully constructed, it meets your needs, but when something is amiss, everything comes crumbling down.
Imagine your customer is searching for a shirt on their phone, and they want to pick it up in-store today. The API that powers that inventory and location check is available, but it's not functioning correctly. Unbeknownst to the customer, they continue with their order and make their way to the retail store only to find out that they’ve now purchased the shirt they need from a store 10 miles away. Now they’ve not only wasted their money, but they’ve also wasted their time. They make the decision not to return to your company. Irritated, they tell their friends about the awful experience and tweet about it.
You’ve just lost a customer, and maybe more if the twitterverse perceives your brand as unreliable. Since this API transaction isn't being monitored, the retailer is relying on customers to notify them when something in their omnichannel experience is broken. By that point, it's too late. The retailer has failed to deliver, and as a result, their brand has been negatively impacted, with the potential for even more failures if they don't remedy the problem in time.
Unfortunately, this isn't a rare occurrence. While APIs have great potential, like most technologies, they have to be monitored to ensure they're delivering the experience envisioned in the retailer’s omnichannel design.
How can retailers develop a monitoring strategy to protect and optimize their omnichannel initiatives? Follow these five steps:
- Map out key user journeys and understand what APIs fuel these interactions.
- Monitor for API performance and functional correctness (not just availability).
- Leverage a synthetic monitoring tool to find and fix issues before users do.
- Make sure to choose a tool that monitors API transactions.
- Track API performance and quality for continuous improvement.
While a house of cards may look intricate and well-constructed, it's foundationally not built to last. To ensure you’re delivering unparalleled user experiences, it’s essential to understand how your digital assets are behaving to find and fix issues before they impact your end users. Build an API monitoring plan that roots your omnichannel strategy.
Saoirse Hinksmon is the digital content marketing manager at SmartBear, a provider of software quality tools.
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