The ‘business experience’ of APIs in on-boarding: food for thought for API business leaders

Most digital companies have moved towards the business of APIs; that is by transforming their products or services into an information offering through APIs. For instance, Uber — in addition to their digital transport service, offers their business information through APIs to their immediate ecosystem (i.e. businesses, riders and drivers) to be able to provide enhanced services to their customers. The benefit? Both parties receive additional revenue through value added services and/or monetization.

Well.. a large portion of revenue generation depends on how well the business value of your APIs are understood by the audience and how easy it is to adopt the APIs by the intended audience. It is not a secret that a Portal plays a vital role in this aspect of facilitating evaluations, API exploration and on-boarding for adoption. But how well does it convey the business value of APIs? This is one important aspect that I often derive value for in API strategy consultations.

In this blog, I take you on a ride through the business experience of APIs as seen through the eyes of a strategic business leader like an Innovation/ Product Manager and highlight how a Portal is designed to deliver APIs along with a smooth ‘business experience’ in the on-boarding process, and also rationalize the thought process of why you need the business experience.

Why offer a business experience for APIs?

If your API Portal is backed by a strong API business strategy, obviously you would have given thought to the audience of your APIs. Unlike in the past where the audience was merely limited to the developer, the new paradigm of business APIs welcome the attention of ‘Product Managers’ and ‘Innovation Managers’. A newer line of hybrid audience is also emerging as ‘business developers’.

Their objectives for the business are clear; they are constantly looking for opportunities to enhance the value their products and services and in turn to increase revenue through their offering. With the evolution of APIs, most Product Managers are well versed with the opportunities of APIs in the current digital economy. However, their approach to identifying such opportunities may be hindered by how companies present their APIs to the public — completely technical and no/ little business perspective.

But there is also another perspective — that of the API provider. Like I mentioned before, the enterprise exposing the APIs may also have a purpose fo building their APIs with specific applications in mind for their users. Do they match expectations of their users? Are they communicated well to their audience? How do they need to be presented to fuel the business-decision makers? What are their revenue potential?

These are two of the key reasons why a business experience would be an immense opportunity to communicate the real value of your APIs.

So what’s a business experience?

Here comes the interesting part of this blog! A business experience is self explanatory, but let me break it down for you — that means it ideally provides a consumer (Product Manager in this instance) the same experience that a store front/ enterprise gives to an enterprise customer (B2B), when it’s taken online—in this instance via the API Portal. Let’s take a story to illustrate the journey.

Let’s say that there’s an Innovation Manager at a worldwide sea-fish based restaurant recommendations app called ‘FishAdvisor’! They have lots of foreign travelers and food explorers coming to the mobile app for recommendations. However, when they are in certain countries for instance like Japan — of course they can figure out where to go, but they have no idea how to get there, or even how to ask for directions.

This is an issue for the company in terms of converting the customer footprint to actual revenue through the existing business model. This boils down to customer experience through the app with the thinking of generating more revenue from the ecosystem. After analyzing the issue, and evaluating options, the Innovation Manager figures that the best solution is to offer a transportation service which is on-demand, economical and easy to reach for their customers! And of course, as the recommendations app is global, it’s more suitable to partner with a localized transportation network, but globally available transportation services also offer competitive benefits. To cut to the chase, we will not elaborate the decision making process in detail but we take the latter option for obvious reasons.

Now, when it comes to implementation it is a requirement to have a digital service as the app is on a mobile platform. Obviously, Uber and other similar local services become a natural option because of their mode of operation and availability worldwide. But how do I figure if they are the best fit and if they offer what I need in a digital sense? I visit their website to explore options on how to partner and stumble across the API Portal too! This process takes place after the evaluation of several options but remember.. we take a shortcut here.. So here are my two options of which I select the second..

  • Partner with Uber Eats and bring food to my consumers — this needs some enhancements to the app and/or the ecosystem to be connect with UberEats etc. However, the API given by UberEats focuses on merchants at the moment — so let’s go to option 2:
  • Offer Uber rides to restaurants to consumers — easier option as I can incorporate the ability book a ride for consumers without having to insert details of the place, route or price. Everything is provided. Click a button, hop on a car and way to eat!

Now, in the next section I show you how Uber helped the Innovation Manager to discover and evaluate their second option.

Let’s start by visiting Uber’s API Portal. They offer several use cases for businesses like FishAdvisor!

Figure 1: Business Scenarios on Uber API Portal Landing Page (Uber, 2021)

They show three business scenarios through which Uber’s APIs can be used to provide value added services and generate revenues.

Each scenario is explained in terms of the business value it offers, for instance:

“Get a ride for your users: Increase your engagement with your services from Uber. Available in more than 450 cities with millions of riders each day. Quickly get your users moving with an Uber Ride Request button etc. Also, build a custom integration with the Ride Requests..”

It seems appropriate, so the Innovation Manager selects the first option — ‘Get a Ride for your Users’ because that’s the business solution we are looking for.

He/She wants to explore more on the scenario, so they hit ‘learn more’. Figure 2 shows what this page looks like.

Here’s what this page offers for the Innovation Manager:

Figure 2: Learn More Page for Ride Requests Scenario (Uber, 2021)

A small description of the business scenario, its business value, key statistics of its availability in countries — 70+ and it also shows the app engagement through this option having a 11% increase. These are indicators of how useful the API has been and how much it is growing in the recent past.

Next, the ‘button’ section shows what implementation means from a business sense — basically it introduces a ‘call-to-action’. Consumers don’t have to enter any info; it provides real-time fare estimates and pickup ETA information for users.

The ‘deeplink’ shows what you get in the integration — basically tapping the button opens up the Uber app with a pre-set pickup, destination and product information, for an instant, full-features ride experience.

Under client libraries you can see the availability of SDKs for mobile apps. FishAdvisor is available on iOS an Android so seems appropriate. In case that’s not adequate, I can use the REST APIs to create a unique customer experience from scratch here.

If you’ve noticed, subtopics in the page are organized from the external experience to the internal and there are information points like development effort and customizability shown in each of the steps, to show the effort towards implementation in each aspect, and the ability to customize each aspect which is useful information to get an understanding at a higher level and what kind of expertise is required for this implementation — pretty useful information for an Innovation Manager.

On the top of the page in figure 2, there’s a button called ‘view showcase’ which leads to the page shown in figure 3 below. Here, Uber takes it a step further by presenting real-world scenarios of implementing the ride requests by other companies.

Figure 3: Business Showcase of real world implementations (Uber, 2021)

Feel free to dive into the ‘FourSquare’ business case, as it’s quite similar to what the Innovation Manager of FishAdvisor is trying to implement. This aspect is quite important because our Innovation Manager wants some confidence of how other companies trust the APIs of Uber, and to understand how these capabilities are used in business-critical scenarios.

There are so many other interesting examples of business experiences offered by other companies. One of the Portals I love and find exciting is by VISA!

Key takeaways for business leaders of API providers

Now, this whole walk-through of the Innovation Manager’s experience brings out several important points for business leaders who are involved in API strategy programs. Here’s how I would like this blog post to be of use to you:

  • If you are a business organization trying to expose your APIs to your customers, partners or public, think about your audience carefully. Who are they? At a high level, there can be two types, business users and technical users (now there is an emerging market for business developers as well). Very few organizations focus on their business users when it comes to APIs, but they are an important stakeholder in the whole process.. they fully or partially may be involved in making the decision of whether to adopt your APIs or not.
  • Secondly, what do you want them to do with your APIs? Are there specific business scenarios you want them to implement? One reason why API programs come into play is to create value for their customers, partners or public and in turn gain some return. In these cases, I believe that APIs must be purpose-built, at least to a certain extent. You may argue otherwise, but if you don’t think of the possible use cases beforehand and communicate them, they may not deliver the value you expect. Then what good are your APIs? It’s mutual, you must understand what the market needs, and match them with your expectations.
  • If you got here, you may agree that you need to address the business needs through your API program. In that case, what must you communicate and how do you do that? Here, you need to understand what information you need to present to satisfy your business audience and how that information needs to be organized to drive them down to a call-to-action.. that is to ‘adopt your APIs’! This is often overlooked in many API programs and is a key contributor to the success of the API program.
  • Further, do you offer enough information to aid the business decision making process? Notice how Uber has use some small information points throughout its pages to enable a business user evaluate its feasibility, effort and return-on-investment in both monetary and non-monetary terms.
  • With that being said, something more that you can add to this flow is to present the different business models for your business user so it explains how to create direct monetary value as well, if that is something you offer directly/ indirectly.

In summary, I illustrate all these points through the above-mentioned FishAdvisor scenario and as a business leader I hope you learned something new while enjoying reading it.

As a business architect/ strategist (as I like to think of myself) my job is never done. In my next blog, I plan to present what components you need from an API Portal’s perspective to bring this experience to live! Till then, sayonara!

Passionate about business-side of tech. Advocate of education, wo/men in tech & mental health. In love with baking, travel, fitness & books. Mum to my pets.