The world of business is rapidly becoming digitalised. We’ve heard the term digital transformation thrown around the boardroom countless times, (and possibly received with a glossed understanding.) But why is it so critical to go digital? The answer is simple; it’s all about the customer experience.

Today’s competitive business environment demands exceptional customer service. Brand value and customer loyalty does not just come from a customer using a product or solution. It is earned throughout the customer’s journey as they discover, evaluate, purchase, and continue to use the product and interact with the company. In today’s landscape, businesses must manage multi-channel interactions with their customers across physical and digital channels to achieve exceptional customer service and retention, and do so at a lower cost.

One barrier many businesses face is what to do with their existing legacy systems, which are deeply embedded into their organisations’ operations and delivery. In many cases, these legacy systems can get in the way of a business heading down the journey of digital transformation, as a significant amount of money would have been invested into these legacy systems.

However, digitally transforming your business to provide exceptional customer experience does not mean you need to eliminate existing architecture. In fact, there is a proven, sensible approach. Companies have been able to expose their legacy systems as application programming interfaces (APIs) through a properly designed integration layer, and let others use these APIs as components of new services.

APIs when designed properly are capable of exposing the core functionality of legacy systems, and the existing channels they support, while improving security and scalability, even handling any billing or monetisation all while abstracting away any associated complexities.  By reusing existing systems, companies can maximise the ROI of their current assets, something that is often overlooked.

Why businesses need to integrate APIs

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital channels within businesses, which has been led not only out of necessity, but out of customer demand. More and more, we are seeing businesses realise the increasing value of APIs as they provide the simplest way to expose data or systems. The power of APIs comes from their increased reuse. You can build new services much faster if you are able to do so by composing them out of existing APIs and services. APIs are even more powerful if you can turn that data into information and insights about each customer, and tailor a process to each customer’s needs. This is exactly how you increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

Let’s look at an example from a Regular Public Transport Business (RPT). Deploying APIs using an API-first approach within transport is the backbone for allowing their customers to seamlessly plan their trip, make bookings, request on-board assistance, book connecting travel arrangements, and ensure a seamless trip for the passenger. While many RPTs have legacy systems in place, APIs bring these legacy systems up to speed to cater to the higher volumes of customer interactions and tailored experiences desired by today’s customer.

As you can see from this example, the customer can easily take control of their needs and use the service without limitations. Having a well-visioned API-first strategy helps you to continuously improve your customers’ experiences and improve customer loyalty and retention.

The opportunities provided by APIs are creating a voracious demand for API-related technologies. According to MarketsandMarkets, the API management market is projected to be worth $5.1 billion by 2023, as more industries embrace the technology. But this is not simply about solutions for managing APIs. There is a strong demand for technologies to help build, compose, host, scale, and secure APIs as well.

Importantly, existing systems cannot be exposed as APIs without integration, nor can they be composed without the right tools. For this reason, companies will put in place a combined “stack” as their internal digital platform, which is usually implemented as a centrally managed service that supports the “digital apps and APIs” of several internal teams. You can build your own digital platform, or you can sign up for a digital platform as a service, which lets you focus on your apps and APIs instead of the supporting technologies.

When done right, a digital platform provides the ability to quickly compose and reuse APIs. This translates into having greater agility to address customer demands or create new experiences that drive customer engagement, loyalty, and long-term value.