7 Remarkable Ways APIs Revolutionize Logistics
06 May 2015 by Tom Bond
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Help your systems talk to each other...
Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are an increasingly important way for different programs to ‘talk’ to one another. They’re the ‘connector bits’ that allow one program to ask another questions, tell it what to do, access its data, and use it as it sees fit.
As you can imagine, in logistics, the ability to have your inventory program talk to your shipping one makes things a damn sight easier. No more cutting and pasting information, just cutting out the middle man (in this case you or your staff) and letting technology do its thing. Perfect!
And that’s just one example (and not a very detailed one at that). APIs can help all sorts of logistics programs talk to both Shopify and Magento and to each other, making life considerably easier for your average ecommerce entrepreneur. Not convinced? Here’s a few examples to wet your API appetite!
There are some fantastic APIs available that can integrate and automate many aspects of ecommerce, and inventory is no exception.
Some of these are particularly useful if you’re a multi-channel retailer, and allow you to link together the software you use in your online and offline stores. By doing this, you’ll be able to create a master inventory that updates in real time, eliminating the problem of double selling.
As well as connecting your online store with your offline inventory system, for example, the use of handy third-party apps is also made possible by the humble API.
Sticking to the inventory theme, there are several apps available that will alert you when your inventory levels have fallen below acceptable thresholds (set by you) so that you’ve got advanced notice of when to resupply…
… in fact, there are even apps (made possible by APIs, let’s keep the focus here) that will connect your inventory directly with your supplier and generate purchase orders for you. But if that’s a little scary, there are also APIs that will allow your master inventory to tell your store to hide products as they go out of stock.
We talk a lot about remarketing on TheGenieLab blog, and that’s right, you guessed it, APIs can help with this too.
Some third-party apps can help you avoid lost sales due to sold-out items by allowing customers to quickly sign up for a back-in-stock alert. The moment their desired item is available, your customer will be sent an email with a ‘buy now’ button to make things even easier. What’s more, these nifty programs also help you measure demand as well as just sales, so you know what your customers want to buy as well as what they actually do. This is fantastic in helping you figure out exactly how much to order or to produce, if your business is that way inclined.
Printing and Postage
A whole host of shipping carriers have developed apps that integrate with Shopify for your convenience. They’re able to sync orders from your Shopify store in real-time, calculate shipping costs and allow you to print (often discounted) shipping labels with only a few clicks. They even go as far as automatically updating the item’s shipping status to ‘fulfilled’ and triggering the sending of tracking number emails to you and your customer.
Once these tracking emails have been sent, your customers can then track their packages, get an estimated delivery time, and verify their arrival.
Or, if your enterprise is a little larger, and all of this sounds far too involved for your liking, then there are lots of apps that integrate Shopify with whatever warehousing pick and pack solution you might be using (as long as they have a platform that allows this).
For example, Fulfillrite Order Fulfilment gets Shopify to automatically send over orders that are paid for, then will, similarly to the shipping apps above, mark orders as shipped. Perfect for hands-off drop shippers.
Don’t Forget Accounting
We’ve nearly gone through this whole piece without mentioning the reason you’re in ecommerce in the first place (apart from the love of it, of course) – brass tacks! Guaranteed you’re using an all-encompassing accounting solution to manage your business, and without the power of the API, are probably updating it with sales and purchase information by hand. The API can help you sidestep this time-consuming and often confusing process too. Shopify talking to Xero for you? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Get in Touch
As if all of the above benefits weren’t enough, APIs can also help with a heck of a lot more than just logistics. In fact recently, we wrote another post devoted to their wonderful capabilities.
And as you can probably tell, at TheGenieLab we’re passionate about developing API integrations that reduce admin and make Shopify and Magento more powerful. If you want to integrate Shopify, Magento or Brightpearl with a system that we haven’t mentioned here, we can help. We get a kick out of simplifying your life – so why not let us give it a try?
Contact us today for some initial advice – it’s free and without obligation.
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