How APIs Facilitate Open-Source Branding [Future of Retail]

By opening their APIs to outside developers, brands and retailers are keeping pace with the changing marketplace.

Many of the best ideas on the web have been built on a culture of remixing: pictures, text, video and digital files can be altered to such a degree that they take on a life of their own. Application programmer interfaces or APIs work much in the same way. This source code, which has been created by an initial programmer enables subsequent software developers to work from to create their own programs and interfaces. As the value of this third party innovation becomes more apparent, we’re witnessing a loosening of the reins on the part of retailers and brands as they make some of their programming and data assets available for others to leverage.

In a trend from our Future of Retail report, we’re calling we are calling Brand API, the PSFK Labs team looks at the mainstreaming of this practice. Whether it leads to the optimization of existing platforms or developing an entirely new set of tools, this open-source access creates opportunities for companies to remain relevant, while staying ahead of the evolving needs of their customers and internal stakeholders. Continue reading below to see how forward-thinking companies are using their data to tap into the power of the crowd.

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In-vehicle communications service OnStar and parent company General Motors released a public API to allow customers to use the data gathered about their own cars to build new tools, as long as they meet accompanying privacy standards. This openness was inspired by one Chevy Volt owner’s ‘illegal’ use of his car’s data, which he used to create ‘Volt Stats,’ a leader board where over 1,800 Volt owners compare their car performance statistics with each other. Impressed with popularity of the site, the companies moved quickly to launch an API, eventually working with the Volt Stats creator to make improvements. A simplified system has made it easier for DIY programmers to connect their own web applications to OnStar’s vehicle database.

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The Nike+ Fuel Lab is an initiative that will mentor and fund ten technology companies to innovate an expansion to the FuelBand SE, the latest version of the brand’s wearable device that tracks movement all day in increments called NikeFuel. Building off the sport company’s Nike+ Accelerator program, a small-scale incubator based in San Francisco, the initiative will provide the tools, resources and support to companies with an existing digital offering to integrate the FuelBand API into their product. At the end of the 12-week program, each of the ten partner companies will launch an optimized digital product with NikeFuel integration.

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The Open Bank Project is a public API and app store for banks that empowers financial institutions to securely and rapidly enhance their digital offerings using an ecosystem of third-party applications and services. The project provides an open-source, developer-friendly ‘API for banks’ that developers and companies can use to build innovative applications and services based on the account holders’ transaction data. Services may be offered via an app store and the best ideas can be cherry picked for use in branded interfaces. For example, Open Bank built an app for visually impaired bank customers which has voice recognition and can speak their balances.

Brand API is part of a larger theme called Data-Driven Commerce, where sophisticated information systems can enable any organization to dynamically respond to changes in the marketplace, develop better tools for customers and staff and add efficiencies into the shopping experience.

In the fourth edition of the Future of Retail Report, PSFK Labs brings together two interconnected themes and eleven key trends that provide a foundation for the modern shopping experience. The findings are brought to life with best-in-class examples, actionable strategies and leading questions to inspire leading retailers and brands. Join us at our San Francisco conference on Nov. 21st to hear talks from retail innovators that will bring the report’s key themes to life.

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