B2B manufacturers are heavily dependent on their partner network for their success. Often their partners (dealers, distributors, resellers) have a tighter relationship with their customers than the manufacturer themselves. Hence sharing its digital capabilities with the partners can help a manufacturer multiply its returns from its own investments in eCommerce implementation. An API-First approach is essential for manufacturers embarking on this path.

What Is An API-First Design Approach?

API-First Design approach has been a hot concept in the past few years. This can be credited to the success of the likes of Stripe and Twilio. It is very clear that an API-First approach is essential for technology products that are expected to be integrated with several other products across a wide range of industries. How does it relate to a manufacturer who is building its B2B eCommerce capabilities?

Let’s first understand what differentiates API-First architecture from being simply “API-Based.” Any application that makes its functionality available via a set of programming interfaces can be classified as API-Based. This is the “Inside Out” approach where you are doing your best to make the functionality internal to the application accessible to the outside. Your consumers will need to spend time and effort to decipher how to use your APIs, and build their own extensions to make the API truly meet their use case. With an API-First approach, the intent is “Outside In.” You are driven by what your consumers need. You will define and build APIs in a way to make the experience of your consumers the best possible. 

API-First Approach Benefits

This elevated experience for the consumers is typically demonstrated via:

  • Intuitive end points
  • Industry standard terminology and taxonomy
  • Tools to aid developer adoption

Once the consumers - or rather the teams that own the consumer applications - find it very easy to use the APIs thanks to this elevated experience, they have more bandwidth available to build innovative applications leveraging the APIs. This triggers a cascaded chain of innovations. This is the impact that API-First pioneer companies like Stripe and Twilio made.

A B2B manufacturer building their eCommerce capabilities could adopt an API-First design approach to make available to its partners an intuitive, relevant set of APIs. Here are a few examples of APIs where an API-First approach could benefit the partner network.

# API provided by the B2B manufacturer Consumer application’s intent for using the API
1 Product catalog API Allow customers to search or browse for the manufacturer’s products
2 Order placement API Intake orders from customers and send them to the manufacturer for fulfillment
3 Product-parts schematics API Allow customers to identify product parts that they need to purchase
4 Product specs chat API Allow a chat interface to resolve customer’s queries related to product specifications
5 Product lookup API Allow customers to lookup a product based on the serial number

Depending on the digital landscape of the partner, there could be mobile and or web applications with relevant use cases to benefit from these APIs. And of course the same APIs can be used internally by the manufacturer to build out user experiences for its direct customers.

In short, it makes tremendous sense for B2B manufacturers to embrace the API-First approach as they build out their eCommerce capabilities.

About the Author

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Lakshmi KP

VP Customer Success

Lakshmi KP is an experienced Digital Product Manager with a diverse background in eCommerce, financial services, insurance, healthcare, and data analytics. She has successfully led several of Object Edge’s client engagements for building digital products. Lakshmi has also been instrumental in setting up frameworks and guidelines for the Object Edge Product Team to be efficient and successful in their client engagements.

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