June 5th, 2014

The Need for Secure APIs in Retailing

Secure API RetailApplications in today’s retail industry are highly distributed and are generally connected by proprietary protocols. But trends toward expanding geographic distribution are driving increased demands for integration — and these demands are driving a greater use of application programming interfaces (APIs) in retail.

Retailers worldwide are under tremendous pressure to innovate faster and cycle through inventory as quickly as possible. Also, aggressively managing inventory supply chains is increasingly challenging because consumers have online access to competitive retail Web sites and can easily purchase products elsewhere.

“Showrooming” — the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail store but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item — is placing increased margin pressure on retailers, particularly in countries like the US that have relatively low shipping costs.


Read more: 5 Simple Strategies for Securing APIs


Retailers are responding by accelerating inventory churns by gaining product visibility on partner Web sites and maximizing exposure of available inventory. The ability to quickly implement secure APIs that enable innovative merchandising opportunities and aggressive supply chain management can make the difference between success and failure in a highly competitive market.

Customers expect retailers to always have items they want in stock. For example, a customer who wants a sweater in a certain size and color will just shop elsewhere if that exact sweater is not available when he or she wants to buy it. Brand loyalty and repeat business are hurt by a failure of any link in the supply chain. APIs and the ability to accelerate integration with partner systems help retailers not only to increase merchandising opportunities but also to gain greater visibility over purchasing patterns and supply chain demands.

APIs can have an even greater impact on retail markets with products that have shorter shelf lives. While the clothing markets are aggressively deploying APIs, so too are retail markets that rely on perishable products, such as the food industry. Obtaining food products when needed and minimizing spoilage requires an information-centric approach to supply chain management. Food service retailers and grocery stores both depend on real-time information about product availability. In this context, innovative APIs into third-party applications can provide a competitive advantage.

To see the long-term potential of APIs in retailing, I think we can take a look at industries such as online gambling. The gambling industry is a tremendously aggressive consumer of APIs. In locations where it’s legal, large bookmaking organizations compete to quickly introduce opportunities for people to bet on everything from sports to political races or the national budget. Online betting companies develop games or set up innovative new betting scenarios to captivate retail customers and APIs allow them to retail new services out very quickly, to keep customers engaged.

For multi-channel retailers, it’s only natural to want to give customers immersive shopping experiences across not only brick-and-mortar storefronts but also Web, mobile and social media channels. These online experiences are increasingly location-specific and contextualized to each shopper’s identity and buying history. APIs provide the means for ensuring consistent shopping experiences across multiple retail channels.

Retailers are increasingly seeking to engage buyers everywhere they might be, whether online or in-store. They are looking for ways to deliver immersive commerce experiences — including consistent content, promotions and rewards —  across multiple channels. Retailers want to tailor these experiences to buyers’ enhanced identity information. Achieving all this requires the ability to:

  • Expose content, commerce, loyalty and promotion functions as APIs
  • Integrate APIs from third-party affiliates, mobile apps, social networks, geolocation services, customer data sources and ad networks
  • Resolve and reconcile a buyer’s identity across online channels
  • Simplify mobile notifications.

Having the toolset to manage APIs is essential. The CA Layer 7 API Management Suite provides all the API creation, integration and orchestration features necessary to meet context-aware, multi-channel retail merchandising objectives. By adopting proven policies and procedures for ensuring secure APIs, retailers can aggressively scale their online merchandising initiatives and potentially reach more customers with innovative offers of products and services.

June 2nd, 2014

The Consumerization of Retail

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Consumerization of RetailOver the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a couple of solution briefs that talk about “the consumerization of retail”. Odd turn of phrase, right? After all, isn’t retail all about consumers? But don’t shoot the messenger because this isn’t just a term I’ve dreamt up – it’s been lurking around for a while but now it’s quickly emerging from the dark corners of the Web.

The consumerization of retail is all about retailers transitioning to provide a single face to you, regardless of how you’re viewing them. A great example is Amazon. When I put something in my shopping cart via my desktop browser (yes, those do still exist), then grab my iPad or my Nexus 7, my shopping cart is intact – as is any list of favorites or even recent searches. So no matter what channel I use, I see a single face. Millions of smaller companies partner with Amazon, recognizing that this kind of capability means that their products might get put into a shopping cart that they might never have had access to if Amazon didn’t offer such a great partner program (exposed through APIs, of course). BTW, when I say millions, I’m not kidding. According to Amazon, there are over two million sellers in the Amazon Marketplace – 65% more than a year ago (not a bad growth rate).

eBay is another online retailer that “gets” the omni-channel approach which consumers are beginning to take for granted (an approach that will discussed in detail during our upcoming webinar). According to eBay’s 2013 Annual Report, eBay Stores did $6.7 billion in 2013, an 11% increase over 2012 – and 40% of those purchases had a mobile touch (meaning that the consumer may have viewed the items multiple times and that at least 40% of those times, mobile was involved).

Certain brick-and-mortar stores, such as Best Buy and Walmart, also understand this approach. With these retailers, you can now use your computer and/or mobile device to browse, place an order and pick up your purchase at your local store (and you can seamlessly switch from computer to device).

Why would a retailer want to allow that, instead of “trapping” you in their store? Easy: in the mobile age, consumers don’t want to be forced to continue using the retailers’ paradigm. They want the freedom to choose how they view items. How they buy items. How they take ownership of items. Consequently, retailers are finding that they have to offer this level of freedom, to stay competitive. That’s why it’s called “the consumerization of retail”. Retailers are having to accept that mobile consumers want – and increasingly expect – to take control of the shopping process.

Those retailers that adapt to the consumerization of retail paradigm are the ones that will survive (if you don’t believe me, look at the roadkill on the consumerization highway – Borders, Circuit City and Blockbuster are three examples of brick-and-mortar operations at the top of their game that refused to adapt and failed to survive the transition to the Web, which was just the first step toward the consumerization of retail).

The consumerization of retail is a rising force. Brick-and-mortar and conventional Web shopping sites that don’t embrace this are doomed to become niche (or non-) players in the next generation of online retail.

April 16th, 2013

The Emergence of Hyper-Personal Commerce

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Omni-Channel CommerceAdvances in commerce are on my mind today for several reasons. First, I am attending the RAMP Advanced Commerce & Mobile Retail Services Summit. Second, Layer 7 just announced an exciting new partnership with Elastic Path, the first commerce platform to unify the commerce experience through a common API access point. And finally, I have noticed a recent surge of demand for Layer 7’s API and identity capabilities to deliver new omni-channel, hyper-local functions to retailers, consumer marketers and payment/credit providers. It’s clear that eCommerce is undergoing a sea change.

Mobile devices and social media have multiplied the number of touch-points available for engaging buyers. The line between retail and “eTail” has grown blurry as location increasingly defines all shopping experiences. Big Data now makes it possible for marketers to tailor promotions to every shopper, based on buying history and inferred intent. And API-driven architectures provide a way to tie all online channels, data sources and cloud services together in an event-driven, context-aware network that can engage buyers wherever they are.

All these elements assembled together suggest a new era of personalized commerce. This will place the buyer back at the center of a commerce universe of disparate data, mobile, cloud and social elements that will converge to deliver him or her a more exact shopping experience tailored to his or her choice preferences at that point in time and that place in space.

For Layer 7, this convergence of trends that puts the shopper at the center of an API-connected ecosystem plays to two particular strengths. Firstly, it leverages Layer 7′s leadership in networking enterprise, mobile, social, cloud and partner services via APIs. Secondly, it cements a concept of enhanced identity, where a fuller user profile can be built around an ID to deliver a more complete view of that subject. Both will be essential for delivering on the vision of highly-personal commerce that spans online channels, is location-aware, leverages multiple data sources and can determine a context-specific action across mobile, payment and Web services.

To learn more, read the API-Driven Omni-Channel Commerce solution brief >>