Building a Unified Commerce Ecosystem With API Integrations

October 9, 2023 - 11 minutes read

APIs are the workhorse behind seamless and flexible multi-channel commerce.


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The concept of the Application Programming Interface (API) has been with us since the 1950’s, putting it decades ahead of the modern computing era. Even then, experts realized we would need to develop standardized methods for computers and applications to interface with programmers, and each other. Flash forward 70 years, and APIs are now indispensable as they ensure all manner of services and applications communicate with one another effectively. 

The digital commerce landscape we experience today could not have been imagined in a time when computers were simply a data crunching tool with no tangible interface, but advanced API integrations are now binding together elements of the unified commerce ecosystem in new and exciting ways. APIs allow consumers to enjoy a seamless experience as they go from physical stores to websites and apps.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic concepts and best practices for unified commerce API integration with inventory control software and other important systems.


What is the unified commerce ecosystem?

Unified commerce is defined as the practice of connecting backend processes with customer-facing systems over a single platform. Along with fostering a more consistent experience for customers, unified commerce allows retailers to track real-time business performance more effectively while making better and faster decisions.

Unified commerce is sometimes confused with omni-channel commerce, but the two concepts are very different. The omni-channel approach includes a multi-channel interface with frontend alignment, but unified commerce takes the concept a step further by consolidating inventory, payment processes, E-commerce, and customer interactions within a single platform. The benefits of unified commerce include:

  • Inventory management: Visibility into inventory levels is an important benefit of unified commerce platforms that can prevent over-selling, under-selling, and other issues stemming from inaccurate inventory data.
  • Customer experience: With unified commerce, customers have consistent shopping experiences regardless of the platform they are using. This can foster higher satisfaction and loyalty levels from appreciative patrons.
  • Efficiency: Employees can spend more time on value-added tasks with critical backend processes automated. A unified platform also reduces errors by creating a single source of truth.
  • Forecasting: Consolidated data feeds into more accurate forecasting. Cross-channel visibility into customer behavior also makes it easier to devise effective promotions and sales events.


What role do APIs play?

That brings us to the magic ingredient behind the unified commerce ecosystem: APIs.

Unified commerce APIs provide points of integration between the various backend and frontend elements. With the help of APIs, businesses can integrate existing systems with new ones or create portals to third-party services like payment processing without disrupting or inconveniencing the customer. APIs also contribute to the unified commerce ecosystem by: 

  • Authenticating people and machines
  • Creating new user experiences
  • Enabling seamless, secure transactions
  • Sharing information between applications
  • Enabling new service offerings

“If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likable person.” Alan Cooper


6 key considerations for unified commerce API integration

There is a reason 85% of IT decision-makers are using APIs in most or all of their innovation projects. Customers are looking for (and sometimes demanding) intelligent, consistent interactions, and APIs help deliver them consistently. By contrast, poorly planned and executed API integrations can slow systems down, prevent you from scaling, and harm your brand reputation. 

Reviewing some key API considerations is a good way to ensure your present or future integration project will lead you to sustained unified commerce performance.

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1. Selecting APIs

Before you can establish your API requirements, a complete assessment of sales channels, data sources, systems, and interfaces must be completed. This also includes a review of cross-channel systems like payment processing. A detailed, top-down view of the entire ecosystem makes the API integration points evident and helps you decide on the solutions that will work best.

  • Outsourcing: Do you need to develop unique solutions in-house, or does a third-party API solution already exist that will work well for the interface? Third-party APIs are a cost-effective alternative when less customization is required.
  • Scalability: The API you choose might be sufficient for your current needs, but will it still be appropriate in the future? APIs must be selected with long-term growth and scalability in mind to ensure data-handling capacity is not exceeded quickly.
  • Documentation and support: When third-party options are considered, comprehensive documentation, customer support, and a strong industry track record are essential. This focus on API documentation should also be extended to custom in-house APIs to facilitate changes, troubleshooting, and compliance.

2. Configuration management  

Once the API building blocks are selected, configuring the integration is the next important step. Like the APIs themselves, integration platforms can be developed in-house or outsourced (iPaaS). When many different API functions and pathways are integrated, the addition of an API gateway allows you to direct traffic and manage security functions more efficiently.

The complexity of API integration for unified commerce is driving innovation and consolidated integration tools. An API mesh can be applied to E-commerce applications to create a network of interconnected APIs communicating with one another. The mesh can improve interoperability, scalability, security, and regulatory compliance.

3. Inventory management API integration

API integration with inventory management software is a vital component of the unified commerce ecosystem. Without this important linkage, real-time availability, pricing, lead time, and other important information cannot be propagated throughout the system effectively.

Your inventory management software has well-defined endpoints and authentication practices that provide gateways to API integration. Connecting this data source to E-commerce platforms and other frontend interfaces may require a combination of pre-built and customized APIs. These important connections underscore the need for pre-release testing to ensure all systems are “go.”


Agiliron’s pre-built APIs make it easier to integrate common tasks like vendor management, sales, client relationship management, and inventory data retrieval. Find out more by perusing our API references and guides.


4. Vigilant API testing

API testing both in development and after release verifies that APIs can perform under a wide variety of circumstances. Testing practices for APIs encompass performance, reliability, and security. During an API test, requests are sent to the API and responses are monitored to verify the system is behaving as expected. After integration, APIs are tested at the system level so interactions between APIs and other elements are accounted for.

API test practices include functional testing, load testing to gauge how the API handles high data volumes over time, and fuzz testing to verify error codes and responses.  

Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!” Edsger Dijkstra

5. Optimize API error handling

No matter how much testing is completed, errors may still occur. Establishing meaningful error codes allows you to interpret and prioritize these errors faster. Plain language error codes remove the mystery associated with technical jargon and can be localized depending on the region.

A well-designed error handling system minimizes downtime by accelerating troubleshooting activities. Error tracking practices help you focus on recurring problems and foresee future issues through data trending and analysis.

6. Focus on API security

APIs are portals for volumes of sensitive data, which also makes them targets for cybercriminals. API security must be a top consideration, and all appropriate web and cloud security protocols should be followed. Security testing to identify and correct vulnerabilities is at least as important as performance testing. Strong authentication and authorization practices help restrict unauthorized access while rate limits can negate many common hacking tactics.


Unified commerce and APIs: Final thoughts

Unified commerce and multi-channel commerce are wonders of modern computing that could never have been imagined when the API concept was first established 70 years ago. Today, API integration is the glue that binds together the elements of a seamless customer experience. The importance of API integration means detailed planning, selection, testing, and security best practices should never be compromised.

If APIs are the connective tissue of unified communication, inventory management software is the brain providing consistent data and quality of experience to each customer and platform. The right integration strategy keeps the real-time inventory data flowing unabated.    

The unified commerce ecosystem demonstrates the importance of advanced inventory management software and real-time data. APIs are making the integration process more accessible than ever before. To learn more, schedule a consultation and let our solution experts explain how advanced inventory management technology can benefit your business.