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Universal truth: The customer is always right. Well, at least that’s the mantra we all live by when developing a customer-centric web app. Sure, application programming interfaces (APIs) have been woven into the fabric of today’s technology for quite some time. But to master the art of customer attraction and retention in today’s competitive digital landscape, you need to get on board with third-party API integrations.

Whether it’s business, consumer, or personal activity, customers want simplicity and efficiency. They want to streamline and centralize their lives, not clutter them with an endless catalog of tools and app options. Third-party API integrations make for an impactful and convenient UX, one which allows customers to access tools that integrate with what they already use.

Hold Up. What is a Third-Party API, Anyway?

You’re probably no stranger to APIs. Need a quick refresher? If you want to get all technical, an application programming interface  (API) is a set of protocols or requirements for building software apps. It’s important to note from an interface standpoint, an API is software to software – not a UI. Prefer layman’s terms? So do we, and we’re hungry, so let’s go with a restaurant analogy. Assume an API is a restaurant with an extensive menu, like the Cheesecake Factory (you’ve probably read novels shorter than their menu). You tell your server what items you want to order, specifying ingredients, dietary restrictions, allergies, side dishes, etc. And boom – 15 minutes later, your meal is delivered to your table. You didn’t see how it was prepared, you were not invited to the kitchen, but you did provide the specs, and the finished product met your criteria.

Equivalently, an API offers a library of operations that developers can use and provides a description of what each does. The developers don’t necessarily need to know, for example, how an OS builds and presents a Chat function (just like you really don’t need to know how your shepherd’s beef pie was made). They just need to know that it’s accessible for use in their app, thus saving them valuable time and manpower.

Open APIs v5 1

A third-party API is developed by – you guessed it—a third party. For example, think of Internet behemoths like Google, Twitter, and Facebook as first-party APIs. They obviously boast a lot of native functionality, but they also allow developers partial access to their programs and systems so that they can build additional apps without having to start from scratch.  Why are these first-party and third-party collaborations so successful? In a nutshell, they allow for anyone – from small businesses and budding eCommerce sites to major brands – to enhance the customer experience by offering a broad scope of services without breaking the budget or disrupting web operations. Popular integrations include payment processing, social media, data tracking, and chat systems.

Join the (Third) Party.

Sure, there are common pitfalls to think about (e.g., security, customer-side issues, slow load time, etc.), but if thoroughly tested and executed, the advantages of using third-party API integration far exceed the risks. Some of the top reasons cited include:

  • Saves Money – Purchasing or acquiring an integration code is certainly cheaper than pursuing software that is tailor-made.
  • Saves Time – Soup to nuts, creating a web app is a time-consuming endeavor. With an “I need it now” customer base in mind, it’s no wonder so many businesses choose to integrate ready-made third-party APIs.
  • Easy-Peasy – APIs shed their rookie status among web users many moons ago and have established a reputation for ease of use with integrations and plug-ins.
  • Tailor-made – The majority of APIs are customizable, a helpful perk for your developers who may need to tweak code during integration.
  • Compatible – Teamwork makes the dream work. Apps developed for third-party integration jive with most development technologies.

It’s not hard to extol the virtues of third-party API integration for your website, but a smooth deployment is key. In other words, a trial-by-fire approach is probably not the best idea unless you don’t mind losing money, time, customers, and maybe your own sanity in the process. Thinking about enhancing your site and improving business with third-party API integration services? Give us a shout and we’ll help you get the ball rolling.