API Love It: A Digital Marketer’s Guide to Using and Evaluating APIs

On your site, to display an offer just to valuable customers, you need to know who has purchased the most. To target new prospects on Facebook or Google who resemble the loyal ones, you’ll need to sync an evolving high-value-customer list with these ad networks. Once a new user browses without buying, how do you turn those signals into a meaningful follow-up?

It goes without saying that modern marketers rely on a wide range of data to accomplish their myriad strategies. In many cases, your marketing platform consumes this data from a variety of sources — users’ site sessions, your ecommerce platform, your content management system, and CRM, among others.

Enter the Application Programming Interface (API).

API - data sync

What Is an API, Anyway?

You use an API when you want the same data synced across multiple systems. Think of it in terms of a phone call. You dial a certain number and connect to a person. Once you’ve verified who you are, you’re both able to get and receive information.

If you’re a marketer, APIs likely factor into your day-to-day all the time — even if you don’t realize it. APIs sit at the heart of all customer data. They enable marketers to automatically pull large sets of the data they need from multiple platforms. Examples include creating and updating a user profile, managing a content library that maintains a repository of your site’s products or articles (titles, URLs, other metadata), getting stats out of Sailthru, or kicking off any custom-defined events, such as a user leaving a review or updating a subscription.

At the same time, many APIs can also handle a continuous series of small transmissions of data in real time. For example, when a user makes a purchase, you can send the details about that small group of items and its attributes to Sailthru via an API, every time.

They’re equally important because an API integration is what makes marketing emails timely and dynamic, and most importantly, personalized. The API connects the dots between the consumer’s email address, which often serves as a unique identifier, and the various systems where that user has been active.

One common misconception around APIs is that they’re only for developers. While marketers generally don’t need to be in the weeds, they should understand them enough to ascertain how easy they will be for engineers to implement.

Evaluating a Marketing API

When evaluating APIs, there are many factors to consider: the strategies you want to enable and the data required to do so. You also have to consider where that data comes from and which data your marketing platform collects on its own. Your platform may collect data via JavaScript on-site during users’ browsing sessions, and it may generate unique information on its own based on other data, such as a set of products each user is most likely to buy. This can also all be done safely, dependent on the API. And Sailthru’s only allows authorized users to connect, keeping your data secure.

Coding

Equally important is the documentation. Data resources described by good API documentation — referred to as endpoints — will be within the realm of most marketers to understand, not just developers. For example, repositories of data about users, and your site content and purchases, among others. The docs should explain what features this data enables.

Regarding Sailthru’s user profiles, data typically goes in both directions. Our API serves as an entrypoint for that data and ensures that information is requested in precisely the right format. There is standard metadata for describing content. But retailers can also add custom fields that are client-specific, such as Sephora segmenting their VIP customers. We can also sync content updates automatically. For retailers, if a price changes, Sailthru knows right away. For publishers, that means that if they change an article title, it will automatically sync everywhere. Additionally, publishers can easily track when a user started or ended their paid subscription.

That’s a crucial factor in deciding which vendor to work with. There should be good documentation, as well as a human touch that communicates that documentation to people.

Working with Sailthru

Sailthru’s APIs are designed for ease of use. How?

  • You can optimally leverage our platform in conjunction with your other resources for customer data. We even offer prewritten code libraries in several programming languages, so you can hit the ground running with minimal custom code.
  • We maintain a database of every client’s users that contains all available data on each user’s interactions with your brand across email, web and mobile. Those “profiles” encompass everything you need to engage them with personalized communications.
  • Sailthru has an API that seamlessly integrates with both Google and Facebook, allowing you to sync user data automatically. This frees you from having to manually export the lists from Sailthru, log in to the Facebook or Google marketing interface and upload contacts.
  • Our API provides a JavaScript function for collecting user data such as signups and purchases. These can be implemented without touching your site’s template code if you have Google Tag Manager or a similar product already integrated.

How else can we help? Click here to see how you can work with us.

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