One API to rule them all...

3rd Dec 2015
How API orchestration works
Red Ant

By now, retailers are used to being told that they have to break down business silos and start sharing data if they want to be truly omnichannel. Most of the major retailers agree that ‘something must be done’ - according to the latest Retail Systems Research Omnichannel Benchmark Report, 51% of retailers believe that their greatest challenge lies in the fact that a good experience in one channel is no longer enough to maintain customer loyalty. And around a third acknowledge that they are struggling to integrate into the store new processes driven by cross-channel strategies.

Now that retailers have accepted why they must integrate data, systems and processes across the business to ensure they’re giving their customers what they need, the issue facing them is how to achieve this without committing themselves to an expensive, time- and resource-consuming restructuring project.

The answer lies in application/service orchestration – bringing multiple business applications together to automate processes and synchronise data without the complex tangle of dependencies which can arise when trying to make one system ‘talk’ to another.

How it works

Like the different parts of an orchestra, each system/process/API can be separated into a discrete entity, divided into relevant subsections.

Each part has its own data set, for example:

  • EPoS, either the retailer’s own or a third party platform
  • Customer profiles
  • Product information
  • Orders
  • Stock details
  • Email
  • Social networks

Any business system - legacy, third party or specifically developed – can be broken down in this way so that its data sits in its own space.

The orchestration part involves joining these sections together in a way which connects systems and touchpoints into a single, unified flow of information which can be used by anyone (customer, sales staff, head office) on any device.

The beauty of this approach lies in its simplicity:

  • Once the sections of data are set up, they can easily be integrated into any process – it’s possible to quickly and easily build a library which can be drawn on whenever there’s a new journey to be built
  • Advances in flow-based architecture and visual editing mean that anyone can understand and build customer journeys, from marketing to fulfilment – they don’t need to be developers or translate their ideas into technical language. They can just drag and drop the parts they need, add and move them as they wish to create new experiences
  • Because the data is already in a useable format, the perceived headaches involved in retail innovation no longer exist – it’s possible to build experiences and processes, try them out and make changes as you go for relatively little cost, with turnaround reduced to a matter of weeks
  • Collection and integration of a wealth of data from each section means that analysis is much easier and incredibly accurate – real-time dashboards can pinpoint the most popular products, what customers are saying on social networks, how many people have redeemed vouchers, speed of service, value of sales – everything can be measured for more effective business planning

This is where the heart of the retail revolution lies – making the complex simple, making the inaccessible accessible, and opening the door to customer experience innovation in a way which makes all things not only possible but achievable.

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