By Ali Cameron
Today, APIs are everywhere.
Companies of all sizes, across all industries and sectors, are making APIs a central part of their business strategy, and adoption is the highest it’s ever been. In fact, according to Salt Security’s latest trend report, their customer data showed an 82% growth in the average number of APIs in the year leading up to July 2022.
As small businesses look to become more agile and strategic within their own spaces, leveraging APIs will be important. To guide you as you make the decision to invest in this technology, we’re sharing some of the key ways that APIs help small businesses scale and evolve.
What Are APIs?
Before diving into the benefits, let’s start with defining APIs. Short for application programming interface, APIs are technologies that facilitate communication between two or more digital entities (e.g. applications, programs, servers, or computers). Each API leverages a set of code and standards to transmit information between these two entities. APIs are not user-facing and operate behind the scenes.
From a practical perspective, this can look like incorporating a piece of an application (e.g. Google Maps or Calendly) into your website. Here, your website is using APIs to leverage data from the Google and Calendly services. Below are three examples of how APIs can help your small business grow.
1. APIs Help You Automate Tasks
Regardless of their size, businesses need to move quickly if they want to stand out against their competitors. Automating certain tasks and processes can be useful to reduce the time spent on manual, repetitive workflows — especially for smaller businesses with limited access to talent and resources. This is where APIs can help.
For example, leveraging the Calendly API to integrate their technology into your website can make it easier than ever for customers and partners to schedule meetings with your staff, without having to go through the back and forth to find a suitable time.
Leveraging an automation tool like Zapier can also be helpful here. Zapier integrates with multiple applications via APIs to automate processes across your systems without you having to migrate information from one tool to another.
2. APIs Help You Improve Customer Experiences
As a small business, spending time and money trying to reinvent the wheel doesn’t make sense — especially when it comes to the technologies you use to deliver great customer experiences. Leveraging APIs lets you offer up tried and tested user experiences that were built by tech companies that specialise in that tooling. The benefit? You get to offer seamless customer journeys that encourage customers to return and become brand advocates.
For starters, you can use APIs to better capture customer data and deliver those insights to the right people and systems within your business. This will allow you to make better data-driven decisions as you determine how to take products to market, which products perform best, and the types of marketing messages customers respond to.
Some tech platforms are doing the work of connecting all these various APIs and functions under one offering, simplifying the process even more. Take Shopify, for example. It provides an e-commerce site for your business and then integrates data with various tools, including payment gateways, email marketing tools, and social media platforms via APIs. Ultimately, this approach saves time and effort, provides customers with a familiar and seamless experience, and lets small businesses focus on their core capabilities.
3. APIs Help Enhance Your Business Capabilities
You’ve created a business that focuses on one key area, so it should be. But depending on the problem you’re addressing, that may mean your team doesn’t have expertise in building payment platforms, scheduling systems, or even geographical tracking. Rather than asking your developer(s) to spin their wheels learning new technologies and systems (which can take a while), adopting and integrating APIs can make things much easier and faster. By leveraging readymade technologies, you can set up your dev team to focus on what they do best and continue building your own technical offerings.
APIs are also typically a more cost-effective option. There are a lot of API software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools that offer low-cost starting points for their technologies that don’t require licensing fees. For small businesses, this is an ideal entry point into leveraging best-in-class tools without having to make a significant investment. Beyond the low point of entry, these tools will also have existing documentation for their APIs and some degree of support from their teams. With all this in place, you can adopt these APIs without adding any additional burden to your own team.
Embracing the API Economy
Today, you don’t need to be an enterprise business to make the most of the API economy. APIs are more accessible than ever and ideal for small businesses looking to accelerate their business strategy and stand out against the competition.
Ali Cameron is a content marketer that specializes in the cybersecurity and B2B SaaS space. Besides writing for Tripwire’s State of Security blog, she’s also written for brands including Okta, Salesforce, and Microsoft. Taking an unusual route into the world of content, Ali started her career as a management consultant at PwC where she sparked her interest in making complex concepts easy to understand. She blends this interest with a passion for storytelling, a combination that’s well suited for writing in the cybersecurity space. She is also a regular writer for Bora.