The eCommerce sphere experiences a new challenge every day. Running eCommerce operations or maintaining online business continuity can be a challenging task. However, multifaceted technology keeps providing the right solutions to business problems.
The advent of automated eCommerce operations using various software and applications has developed many online businesses, leading them to high returns.
The concepts of API and eCommerce API integration truly serve the purpose of automation and productivity, allowing eCommerce companies and software vendors to excel in their respective roles.
Read on to dive deep into the world of API integration and its essence in the eCommerce sphere.
What is an API?
An API (Application Programming Interface) is a machine-readable intermediary between two software or applications that allows them to communicate with each other. It enables the exchange of data between the connected applications.
API is a messenger that takes a data request from one app, delivers it to another app, and returns with a response. API aims to develop such a connection between two apps to interact with each other, and developers can use one of them to add certain features to the other app. Therefore, when the APIs of two apps are connected to each other, it is called API integration.
For example, the connection established between a particular software and the APIs of a shopping platform is known as an eCommerce API integration.
The development of eCommerce API integration between software or applications and the shopping platforms Shopify, Magento, Hybris, WP e-Commerce, etc., allows the software developers to access the data of these platforms. Most of the eCommerce platforms have their APIs. The developed integration with them provides software and applications the ability to manage data related to customers, products, orders, categories, etc., from the stores built on these platforms.
Main API Types
There are two main types of API — REST and SOAP. Each of them has its own specific features and peculiarities. So let’s explore them in detail.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer and is a set of architectural constraints. REST API is a web API that allows applications to interact with RESTful web services.
When a request is made through a REST API, it transmits a representation of the state of the specific resource to the endpoint or requester. The info can be delivered in one of the following formats over HTTP: JSON, XLT, Python, PHP, HTML, or plain text. The most popular and widely used format is JSON.
SOAP is a protocol that triggered the emergence of web services, also known as APIs. For organizations that prefer structure, data type control, and defined standards over flexibility, SOAP API is a good solution.
SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol, a message standard that uses XML format for its requests and responses. It is popular among both public and private APIs.
SOAP, in contrast to the REST pattern, only supports the XML data format. XML or Extensible Markup Language is a specific text format that specifies rules for structuring messages as both machine-readable and human records.
SOAP API uses Remote Procedure Call (RPC) to facilitate data transfer. In RPC, functions are passed as parameters to return an answer. Most importantly, SOAP APIs are independent of programming language.
API Requests and API Responses
An API request is a process of making a call to the server for needed data. It is also referred to as adding an endpoint to a URL. So, in an eCommerce API integration, data can be retrieved from eCommerce platforms by making an API request.
For instance, if the eCommerce software needs to retrieve customer data from Magento, the software needs to send an API request to Magento to pull the data from it and the permission to work with it.
In simple terms, an API request is “sending a call” for required data using methods such as PUT, GET, POST, and DELETE.
The API response is the “answer to the call” in the form of a message. The response to the API request is sent in XML or JSON format. The server sends an API response after the request is placed on it. The returning data depends on the API request and comes with standard response status codes:
- 2XX — for successful responses (200 — OK, 202 — Accepted, 201 — Created, 204 — No Content)
- 3XX — for redirection
- 4XX, 5XX — for errors (Not Found, Forbidden, Bad Request, etc.)
Therefore, in eCommerce API integration, the API request is answered with an API response in the form of one or more status codes mentioned below.
For example, API2Cart service provides a unified API for integration with multiple shopping platforms like Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce. To get some data from these platforms, API2Cart customers have to use one of API2Cart API methods, and then they can receive the information they need. If it is required to get order data, it is necessary to use the order.info method. After that, it is possible to get an API response in JSON format that looks like this:
"comment":"Make Payable To: \nFrost\n\nSend To: \nAddress 1\n\nYour order will not ship until we receive payment.\n"
Development of Integration with eCommerce Platforms
As mentioned earlier, eCommerce API integration development is the process of integrating any software like inventory management, shipping management, marketing automation system with shopping platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, PrestaShop, OpenCart, Loaded Commerce and more.
Such integration allows software developers to improve their software with advanced functionality due to the data retrieved from eCommerce platforms. The data is related to customers, products, orders, prices, categories, etc., allowing software and apps to perform their core functions. Without such data, the software is not helpful for the e-retailers, and the software vendors won’t propose their solutions to them.
APIs of eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc. even allow software vendors to manage the entire client store using data access from these platforms. Hence, eCommerce API integration is a win-win strategy for both e-retailers and software vendors to scale their business.
The eCommerce sphere will keep evolving with increasing customer demands and expectations. The need of the hour is to keep up with these demands by adopting technology to the fullest. eCommerce software solutions allow e-retailers to automate their business operations. However, they need access to data that forms the foundation of their core operations. Such information is accessible only with the help of eCommerce API integration development.