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API-First eCommerce Integrations

March 31, 2020

Categories: B2B eCommerce, Headless eCommerce

Historically, eCommerce platforms were built with traditional monolithic architectures, where the components, functions, logic and user interface are all “prepackaged” and tightly tied together. 

Many vendors – like SAP and Salesforce – built or bought software applications to integrate, and create these “eCommerce suites,” containing features and capabilities for many business functions (think eCommerce, ERP, CRM, CMS – all in one). 

Unlike traditional software, API-first eCommerce platforms harness the power and agility of APIs to allow you to create a tech stack unique to your business. 

When you decide to go with an API-first eCommerce platform, you’re investing in what’s called a “best-of-breed” technology strategy. Through integration, you’re able to create your own “virtual suite” of best-in-class software. 

Your virtual B2B eCommerce suite may include integrations to:

  • An ERP that handles accounting and invoicing
  • A CRM to pull customer data
  • A CMS to manage your complex content management requirements
  • Tax management software to handle state-specific tax requirements
  • The list goes on…

The beauty of a best-of-breed approach is that you’re not relying on the capabilities of an all-in-one suite option. You have the control to choose the best-of-the-best capabilities across the board so that your software does what you need it to do for your business. And you can switch applications out as your business needs change or as the software changes.

This is an ideal approach for businesses with unique integration requirements. For example, you may have a legacy, homegrown ERP that has been with your business for 20 years, and having to rip and replace that system is out of the question. 

An API-first eCommerce integration strategy makes it possible to keep that homegrown ERP in place while still integrating with a best-in-class eCommerce platform.

So, how do API-first eCommerce integrations work?

The Four51 OrderCloud platform, our API-first eCommerce platform, is able to seamlessly and efficiently integrate with almost any back-end system thanks to the user-configured webhook functionality of the OrderCloud API. 

If you’re not familiar with webhooks, it is a way for an app to provide other applications with real-time information. A webhook delivers data to other applications when an event is triggered and the data is available immediately.

During an integration, a webhook can be configured to pull or call information out of a database when a certain condition, or “trigger”, is met. 

Using webhooks, there are many ways to complete integrations. Here are two ways Four51 completes API-first eCommerce integrations:

1. API-first eCommerce Integration via API-to-API calls:

Integrations via API-to-API calls take place when a business’s back-end system – like an ERP – has an API. Webhooks are configured to fire when relevant triggers are activated. When those triggering conditions are met, the webhook sends an API call that is read by the ERP’s API. Finally, the ERP’s API retrieves that information from its own database and presents it to the OrderCloud platform.

2. API-first eCommerce Integration via API-to-Middleware calls:

On the other hand, some businesses have back-end systems without an API, so they use Middleware to enable their integrations. Middleware is software that provides an integration layer between different systems. In this case, the OrderCloud API would communicate with that company’s middleware to accomplish the integration.  After understanding how the customer’s back-end system uses their middleware, developers can then enable the OrderCloud API, through the use of Webhooks, to move appropriate data to and from the customer’s database. 

When a customer comes to us with multiple critical back-end systems and asks if we can integrate with them, we can confidently answer “yes”. 

The API-first nature and modern technology of webhooks allows OrderCloud to integrate seamlessly with any back-end system that a customer might need. This allows our customers to have a truly unique, custom, and best-of-breed application that is built for their business.