APIs: The Unsung Hero of Modern Marketing

APIs: The Unsung Hero of Modern Marketing

 APIs. Heard of them? Probably not, but here at Fuel we deal with them all the time.

In fact, the ‘Application Programming Interface’ is a core tenet of the services we provide, and of much more than that. It is in fact the glue that holds our interconnected world in place; be it a social media network, an app or a CRM database, most of the data transferred in the modern world is via an API. So, what exactly is an API? And why is it important that we, as marketers, know about them?

The computing phenomenon you’d (probably) never heard of

The API is essentially a way for two computers to talk to each other. A set of standardised procedures, if you like. They first appeared in 2000, when nascent Dot Com giants such as Salesforce and eBay began using them to help partners integrate with, and build businesses on, their ecosystems. Fast forward to 2006, and Twitter and Facebook released their own APIs, making it easy to access vast amounts of publicly available data (and not so publicly available – see: Cambridge Analytica). These launches were mainly in response to people building their own APIs and scraping the social sites themselves for data. Today there are over 19,000 officially in existence.

So, what on earth are they?

Put simply, the API is the messenger that tells a database what you want, and then brings the information back to you in a format you understand. A modern example would be an aggregator site like Trainline, for example. Once you type in your requirements, the Trainline API then goes out to the various databases of rail operators with your request, gathers the information, and then brings it back to you, all in a matter of milliseconds. That’s just one example, but of course there are many, many more. The API is the glue that holds our interconnected world together. Cool, right?

Why do I need to know?

The API is a Godsend for the modern-day marketer. Let’s use the Trainline example again. Let’s say I want to send a confirmation email when tickets have been booked online within 2 minutes of the order being placed. How do I get the data from Trainline, to the operator, back to Trainline and on to the customer in such a conveniently short space of time? You guessed it: the API. Real-time customer experiences, with data flowing seamlessly between systems and being used to personalise communications across various customer channels, are only made possible via the API.

So, the next time someone talks about data-driven marketing, spare a thought for the unsung hero of the modern-day customer experience: the Application Programming Interface.

Dan Watts
Senior Data Engineer, Fuel

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