Last Updated: April 13, 2022.
Having a scalable shipping API for eCommerce sites is a must. eCommerce fulfillment has a lot of abbreviations, though, which can get a bit overwhelming, including the API acronym. In general, an API is an important one to understand.
An API can help your online business provide a seamless and transparent experience in terms of shopping and shipping.
The API acronym stands for Application Programming Interface. This means an interface that’s software-to-software. An API is a way for applications to “talk” to each other without intervention.
With a shipping API, an eCommerce brand can integrate the functionalities of their shipping provider directly into their store. The ability to do so eliminates the need to integrate an order management site or website individually.
An API works behind the scenes to direct communication between customers and shippers.
The primary benefits of APIs include that they offer an automated process for checkout and delivery.
The Functions of An API for Shipping
The specific functions of shipping APIs can depend on what the shipping service provides. For example, some shipping APIs have functionality for international shipping, but others don’t offer this.
While there are differences in features, some of the core features that tend to exist across the board with shipping APIs include:
- Creating labels—one of the core functions of an API for shipping is label generation. When the shipping company and the online store integrate with a shipping API, the data is sent to create the label. The shipping API sends the data to the carrier company, and then the label data is returned. A URL is sent that can be downloaded so the label can be saved or printed.
- Address validation—when checking out, once a customer enters their shipping address, the store they’re buying from sends a request to the API for address verification. This is also a way to learn of possible issues with delivery. The benefit of address validation is that it can prevent delayed orders or failed deliveries.
- Multi-carrier support—each carrier will have pros and cons of doing business with it. For most eCommerce stores, the best option is to use a few carriers to offer different shipping solutions to customers. When you have a shipping API, you can do that. A customer will get real-time rates and delivery estimates from multiple carriers based on what they purchased and where it’s being shipped.
- Tracking—there are a few reasons that the ability to track a shipment is critical for an eCommerce business. First, your customers want transparency. They want to be able to see all updated information and know when something is going to be delivered. Automated, real-time tracking also helps your business. When customers can find this information on their own, it reduces demands on your customer service team.
The Benefits of a Shipping API
While above, we did talk about some of the benefits, we focused primarily on the features of a good shipping API. More specifically, business benefits these create include:
- Shipping APIs let customers or your business compare shipping rates quickly so you can cut costs and reduce the time you’d otherwise put into manually comparing your options.
- A shipping API can offer lower shipping rates because they negotiate them with companies. Since an API represents multiple companies, sometimes the discounts can be extreme, reducing your operating costs which you can then pass on to your customers in the form of lower prices.
- You probably lose many customers at the checkout process, often due to shipping issues. Around half of the online shoppers abandon their cart if they don’t like the shipping options, and an estimated 60% will go to another retailer to find shipping options that are more appealing to them. Since you have more options and improved rates, your customers can find a better deal with an API.
- Automatic address validation is a big benefit of a shipping API. You can avoid sending something to an address that doesn’t exist, improving customer loyalty and trust in your business.
Finally, shipment tracking gives your customers peace of mind, which is something you can’t put a price on. A shipping API is shown to have an enormous impact on the customer experience.
That customer experience allows you to form long-term relationships with customers who return to do business with you time after time.
A shipping API gives you an easy-to-use interface with few opportunities for disruption, allowing you to put all of your attention on growing your business.