Technically speaking, API is an acronym for application programming interface and is considered a set of protocols for building application software. Practically speaking, APIs are the basis of much of what keeps people digitally connected.

From apps on our phones to complicated flight control systems, APIs bring otherwise disparate systems together to create single platforms. They allow applications or IoT devices to access data and create gateways to interact with external systems.

They’re the connective tissues to bind the digital world together and can be inserted through simple HTML without needing to know a programming language like python.

For eCommerce businesses, APIs, and, specifically, web APIs, is an opportunity to use your platform to get better customer insights, provide additional purchase opportunities, and more.

Companies have the opportunity to turn their entire business into a holistic platform that expands what existing architecture can do.

How APIs are Used Now

The connectivity that we take for granted now is powered by APIs. Many of the apps on your phone, including IOS, that you interact with daily are APIs with a user interface.

Virtually every operating system or webpage you visit includes some sort of API. API use is now commonplace and all the end user needs is a web browser.


  • Transferring funds from bank-to-bank online.
  • Viewing bank accounts from different institutions on one platform.
  • Using a smartphone to pay at retail stores.


  • Searching for the best hotel price on a single website.
  • Using your phone for your boarding pass.
  • Getting real-time status reports on delayed flights.

Searching on Facebook.

  • Able to search by name, including incomplete names.
  • Searches are prioritized by physical location.
  • Images with a specific person tagged are included in the search.

Finding a New Restaurant.

  • Reviews from multiple sites are consolidated on one site.
  • Make reservations through a third-party application.
  • Find a restaurant closest to you, listed by the kind of food you’re looking for.

Staying up to date with social media.

  • Viewing tweets associated with a specific topic.
  • Easily sharing a news article on Facebook.
  • Embedding a YouTube video directly into a page.

Ecommerce Sites are Using APIs to Grow Customer Bases

API development is opening up new avenues — and in some cases new revenue streams — for sites that properly leverage them. They’re helping customers find what they’re looking for and offering them related products that they weren’t necessarily looking for.

Brands are growing with connected social media accounts. Single products are being sold across multiple marketplaces, significantly expanding a company’s reach without minimal investment. The most successful eCommerce sites are using service APIs to their greatest potential and enjoying the benefits.

So, why should your site use APIs?

Move at the speed of business.

Modern customers are accustomed to getting information immediately. They don’t want to call a brick-and-mortar location or a customer service number to see if you have the shirt they want in their size. They’re more likely to choose your platform if they can easily access inventory and buy directly from their phone.

Automating this process provides a superior customer experience and also relieves staff of an additional burden.

Quickly scale to meet changing needs.

The eCommerce market moves quickly — really quickly. Businesses need to be able to adjust to changing demands on the fly all too often. Many don’t have the programmers to properly meet a surge in interest.

If an eCommerce company has an item that goes viral on social media, they don’t have the time to create, test and deploy a code update. The sales opportunity will have long passed if that happens.

An API, however, allows sites to scale up, on demand. Internal APIs connected to cloud computing providers keep sites up and running when traffic surges would normally knock them offline. APIs can mean more sales.

Keep data safe.

Most feature strong API security that keeps data safe, whether in transit or at rest. Strong APIs take on the security burden and keep data – especially customer and payment data — safe from bad actors.

Technically, eCommerce sites aren’t even connected to third-party servers. Your site delivers data to the API and the API connects to the server, minimizing the risks associated with backend server vulnerabilities.

The catalog API streamlines catalog creation.

Creating and managing catalogs has never been easier than using Big Commerce’s catalog API. It’s simple to integrate into existing sites and simplifies inventory management by:

  • Automatically syncing large and complex catalogs.
  • Connecting brick-and-mortar and online stores.
  • Taking advantage of analytics and reporting to get better customer insights.

The login API connects Big Commerce accounts with preferred logins.

Our login API simplifies identity management and makes it easy to connect user accounts on Big Commerce sites with other preferred identity management systems. The API improves the customer experience by:

  • Enabling customer logins using sources like Active Directory, Google Apps, Microsoft, Amazon, or Facebook.
  • Inserting Big Commerce sites into non-commerce content management systems, like WordPress.
  • Allowing single sign-on access to stores through identity provider integrations.

The cart API brings new insights into buying decisions.

The cart API gives owners actionable data and a unique understanding of customer buying habits. Get a better handle on the why of customer decisions and make smarter, data-driven decisions to improve sales.

The cart API does this by:

  • Providing full access to cart data, including items added and removed.
  • Adding bespoke tools as needed, including analytics, pricing, and checkout functionality.
  • Customizing carts to provide personalized shopping experiences.