Should You Build an Open API? 3 Benefits for Your Business (Part 1)

by Jonathan Tarud
Blog Post

Welcome to the first post of a two-part series dedicated to explaining the potential benefits of having an open API.

What exactly is an open API?

Open API (often referred to as a Public API): a publicly available application programming interface (API) 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.

You may still need some clarification on what an application programming interface (API) is in the first place. Essentially, it’s code that allows two software programs to communicate and interact with one another. If a business software has an “open” interface, it means that third-party developers can use the code and data from the software to create or integrate other software that will interact with the original program.

Still not fully up to speed?

To help you fully understand what an open API is, the ultimate example is probably in your pocket. Cell phones have to be one of the biggest benefactors from having an interface that is open for third-party developers.

Imagine if your iPhone only had apps that were developed by the Apple team. Crazy to think, right? Instead, they’ve opened the doors and allowed developers to create some awesome stuff.

This example is just one facet of a huge opportunity. In this post, we will share the 3 best benefits for your business (in part 2 we’ll discuss the benefits for your customers). Here we go.

 

Benefits for your customers

Number One: Open APIs Establish Authority

While Apple is an incredible example of how a business can benefit from opening up your interface, our prime example in this post is the search giant, Google. Their growth is exponentially and third-party development could be considered a huge part of the rise to prominence.

As of this post, Google has right around 100 different APIs (you can check them all out here).

Everyone knows that what started out as a simple search engine now has several “irons in the fire”. Some include Google Mail (Gmail), Android, and Google+. The company has been able to establish authority with each new leg of their business in large part due to partnering with third-party developers.

Example of Google Integration: Webmasters are able to integrate a Google Search bar directly into webpages. Doing so increases the functionality of a site and increases Google’s brand authority.

Google was one of the first 100 companies to open up their interface (before their largest competitors). This early adoption attracted talented developers that made useful additions to their brand which continues to help them move into new categories and establish authority quickly.

Utilizing Your API for Authority

Opening your API is a great first step, but attracting (or even partnering) with developers to create awesome integrations will be necessary. Google was one of the first to have an open API, but now there are close to 15,000 available. This crowded market means fewer developers ready to pounce on your opportunity. Here are a couple of ways to draw them to you.

Reach Out: Let both other companies and developers know that your product can be integrated. Take time to “sell” your interface to talented developers. Companies like GitHub have seen huge success by targeting the development community directly instead of large businesses.

Reward Well: Another tactic many popular software companies implement is sending a T-shirt or other swag to developers just for taking a look at the product (GitHub uses this method to their advantage as well).

Number Two: Open APIs Can Draw Crowds

Allowing integration can help you gain traction and experience rapid growth. Some may even call it a “growth hack”. If your products are software or use software (IoT devices), you understand the importance of engaged users.

However, constantly developing new features, or even related products, can be costly and time-consuming.

With an open API, other developers make your product more useful to current users while attracting others with added value (maybe even from the competition). Getting a leg up while others help make your product more attractive may seem too good to be true, but it is possible by making your interface available.

Example: The email game was just as crowded as search. Big names like Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL dominated the space. Gmail hit the scene, but has since become the largest email provider. It’s pretty easy to see why. There are so many third-party plugins (that were created with the open API). Here’s a list of 22, and that’s not all of them.

Utilizing Your API for Growth

Gaining users is often the most important goal for software products and app creators. Rapid growth is often achieved through the experimentation of various elements within a company. However, opening your API may significantly add users if done correctly. Here are some tips:

Promote Success: If another tool or third-party developer takes the time and effort to make your product work well with others (or adds something to it), you should reward that behavior. Let the world know that your offering now has more value.

Listen to Customers: Just because you didn’t develop a certain integration doesn’t mean that you pass concerned users along to the actual developer. Listening to the users and passing that information along to the creator can help with future iterations and make the overall integration more useful.

Number Three: Open APIs Give You Ideas

Open APIs are valuable for your business. We know just how valuable it is, having developed Saasler, which allows your products to integrate with others (or even create entirely new extensions for your product).

Think of it as free market validation.

Other developers integrate your products with theirs and you see how your users respond. Third-party options often charge a recurring fee (SaaS business model). The fees are generated by a unique selling proposition, but it could be worth developing your own solution for the same problem being solved by your pseudo-competitor.

Example: Sticking with Google, a popular extension emerged (Boomerang). The third-party software allows you (primarily) make your emails return to your inbox at a later date (hints the name). It is a useful feature that struck it big with Gmail’s users. While Boomerang is still going strong, Gmail has since created a “snooze” button. Not as robust as the third-party software, but enough to save users the fee.

Important Note: Keeping up with your own integrations and extensions may be necessary. If there are too many options that cost money, your product may be passed by due to excessive costs for all of the third-party options.

Adding Your Own Value

While picking up on the integrations and software that is resonating with your user base isn’t all that difficult, developing based on a third-party option can be time-consuming. Even though creating more “in-house” value will strengthen your brand, you may not have considered it as an option.

Here’s the good news:

Our new product, Saasler, is a turnkey integration solution for your app, helping you integrate with other third-party apps, with virtually no coding required on your part.

You will reap the benefits of increased value to your users without getting distracted from your core product. You’ll reduce churn, fast. To find out how to make your product more powerful with intelligent integrations, click here.

Integrations are a hidden gem for business growth, but they are also incredibly beneficial for your customers. Read my article next week to find out how to get your users hooked on your app forever.

Have any questions? Contact us if you want to discuss integration opportunities for your app.

by Jonathan Tarud
Blog Post