Application Programming Interface (API) – had enough already? Why would you want to use something that makes no immediate sense, does not make it clear what it does and in any event sounds geeky? Forget trying to understand what an API is, does or means – concentrate on what it could do for you instead, try to visualize the result rather than how it gets there. Accept for a moment that using an API is easy, integration straightforward and that help is available if you only ask for it and you are already well down the road to improving your courier booking. Imagine this. A customer comes to your site, browses your products and likes the look of your latest product. They need the goods to be delivered but they are concerned that arranging for time off to accept the delivery is going to be difficult.
Your website tells them that there are various options for delivery and invites the customer to make the purchase and book their own delivery. They take your advice and are presented with the various options – most cost effective, 48 hour delivery (5.99 pounds), next day (8.99 pounds), next day guaranteed by midday (10.99 pounds) – or any number of delivery options. The customer makes their choice, confirms everything within one checkout and makes the final confirmation. This customer's next task is to sit back and wait for delivery. What about the retailer? Well you have already pre determined the cost of the services to your customer – you may prefer to charge less than you pay for the service to attract custom (still delivery for example, but still give the customer the flexibility of choosing a service) or have Included a premium over and above the price you pay for the service to cover the cost of packaging and time spent on logistics.
When your customer completed the checkout process the collection is automatically booked with the courier company – you have nothing further to do, no logging into an account, no cutting, pasting or re typing. Print off the labels, stick them onto the box and hand over to the driver. You will have an account with the company running the courier booking software, they in turn have accounts with all of the major carriers – ensuring that you always have access to the most cost effective prices. Not ready for this amount of automation. Well that's OK, an API is not only powerful but also very flexible. You decide how much of an interface there is between your site and the courier-booking software.
The customer can be given the various service options, allowing them to simply indicate a preference, leaving you to confirm and make the booking. An advantage here is that your customer is given real time prices for their delivery, based upon actual locations and parcel dimensions and weight, and it gives the customer real options if they choose a more expensive but more appropriate service for them. Surely this is the level of service to your customer would expect if they were stuck in your shop – so providing this on-line makes perfect sense.