Why you need an API
As a Bluepark customer you are probably aware of the existence of the Bluepark Application Programming Interface (API) but I doubt
you are aware of everything that you can do with it. The Bluepark team have done an amazing job in giving every Bluepark customer
the chance to not only access your own back-office data but the 'glue' to connect it with numerous others.
Let me explain....
There are two broad processes that you can use an API for.
1) You can retrieve records from your own Bluepark site(s), do something of value to them
and possibly send them back to Bluepark in a better format than you retrieved them.
2) You can connect to one or any number of third-parties that also have their own API and
pull/push their data with Bluepark.
You need some software in the middle to talk to Bluepark and possibly the third party. This is API software. If you have more than
one Bluepark shop then you have even more incentive to connect. I can think of maybe a dozen things that I could do with 1) and there
are at least a dozen processes we have yet to do with 2) , but these will be the subject of a future article.
No business can be unconnected today. If you have re-keyed an invoice into Bluepark, exported a CSV file to another system then
you are effectively the API. You will be loosing a battle with competitors on accuracy, speed and your own opportunity cost.
Do you make mistakes? Is it laborious and an unsatisfying waste of your precious time? I expect it is because I have been there too!
If you are selling on channels other than Bluepark; how do you keep your stock levels synchronised. How do you get data out of
Bluepark into a printed label? Getting purchase orders via email and still typing them into Bluepark? Each of these interactions is a source
of friction for your business.
An exercise to find your first or next API
Draw a circle in the middle of an A4 sheet of paper and write your business name inside it. Now write all the suppliers, agencies,
distributors, shippers and websites that you interact with around that circle. This could also include social media and marketing sites that
you use daily as part of your business marketing. Connect them with a line, showing the direction of information flow,the frequency, the
format of the data and possibly its size.The pipeline metaphor is useful here because pipelines have bottlenecks, valves and flow rates.
We are simply substituting data instead of water. An API is simply the physical 'connector' for many of these pipes.
Next, find the most painful, vulnerable or business-critical flow that you interact with. See if the company has an API.
Even if they don't, you may still be able to integrate better than you think with scrapers, bots and a variety of other automated processes.
If you are happy with the status quo consider the lines on the paper that are not there. What could you do? Some examples...
- Send SMS to the customer when an order status changes.
- Add the tracking number to your order from your shipping company.
- Retrieve your suppliers stock position and ensure that you never over-sell.
I hope that you can now see the liberating possibilities that an API could bring to your business. I guarantee that you will see a high
Return-on-Investment (ROI) should you wish to use one in the future. How do I know this? We use the APIs that we have wrote every day
in our business and could not cope easily without them - we do not employ anybody in either business and our focus on APIs are the
Back to software.
Before having my own small online business's on Bluepark I spent 20 years connecting large companies to smaller companies
using Electronic Data Exchange (EDI). I started Europe's first Internet document exchange service and sold it in 2000.
It is still thriving 16 years later sending thousands of Invoices, Purchase Orders, Shipping Advices electronically between
companies in demanding Just-in-Time manufacturing and retail environments. I have connected hundreds of companies from
one-man window cleaners submitting invoices to national fast-food restaurant chains to 9 figure amounts in electronic invoices
between bonded warehouses and HMRC.