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What Exactly is an Open API and Why is it Important?

Posted by Petra Geiger on Mar 1, 2017
Petra Geiger
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 Features and functionality abound in today's POS software solutions and as you evaluate your options you might come across the term Application Programming Interface or API for short. So, why is this important to you and what function does it serve? If you're a growing multi-store or omnichannel retailer, how easily you can interface with the software you choose can be highly critical. Solutions that offer an Open API (or Public API) can be the difference between growing with ease or being hamstrung by your software.

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First off let's define exactly what an Open API is. According to Wikipedia, what is often referred to as a Public API, "is a publicly available application programming interface that provides developers with programmatic access to a proprietary software application.  APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can communicate and interact with another. They also allow developers to access certain internal functions of a program. In the simplest terms, an API allows one piece of software to interact with another piece of software. They may be used by both developers inside the organization that published the API or by any developers outside that organization who wish to register for access to the interface."

Open API's are characterized by their free availability to developers, they are often backed with access to open data and they are based on an open standard that developers abide by. They allow developers outside of the proprietary organization to access backend data that can then be used to enhance their own applications or create new ones. Open APIs allow businesses to create new applications or connect applications without having to invest development time in starting from scratch. Not sure quite yet how it all works? Check out this cool video that explains how it works.

So, what does that mean to you? Well, at Springboard Retail we have always maintained an open POS software API and promoted our "developer friendly" approach. The end result is a growing list of key partners that we integrate with from ecommerce, marketing and loyalty to retail consulting and payments. It allows our customers to use Springboard Retail POS as a hub and connect all of the platforms they need to drive business.

What if you use a platform or software that we don't have an "out-of-the-box" integration with? Well, that's where having access to our API comes in. You could hire a developer to build a connection for you. Or build an app that streamlines a specific process. Imagine how critical this could become as you grow and need more specialized functionality. For instance, one of our Springboard customers used our open API to create an app that helps them identify items that are ready for distribution. Every time they scan an item, the app checks for website orders with that item that need to be fulfilled as well as in-store pickup orders that need a customer notification sent. Bam, they just saved themselves time and are keeping their customers happy.

So, now you understand a bit more about API's. As you work to qualify the right POS software system for your growing business remember to ask the "Open API" question. 

Topics: POS software

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