So, generally, our Behind the Screens series features one team member discussing a new feature or aspect of Stitch the app. However, our Partner API launch was never just a one person feat. It was a full-company effort and we couldn’t be more excited. I sat down with our co-founder, Jake Gasaway, product manager, Mike Lomboy, and backend artisan, Mike Curry (whom, to avoid confusion in the office, and this interview, go by their last names) to discuss this epic release.
Alright, guys, who are you? Tell me some quick facts.
Jake: I'm a new dad and a co-founder of a startup so those are the two things that take up most of my time these days. In my free time, I like to work out and write. I'm a recent Netflix subscriber because watching shows when they happen is impossible and I am left out of too many conversations about what's good on TV.
Curry: I’m a ginger, and so is my dog, Aleigh. I used to teach Percussion and Colorguard at a high school for five years before becoming an engineer. Also, I am an avid Magic: The Gathering player in my free time outside of Stitch.
Lomboy: Much to the chagrin of my neighbors, I spend my free time playing the flamenco guitar at all hours of the night. I also spend an unhealthy amount of time writing meticulous notes, eating hot dogs, and non-ironically singing karaoke.
First off, let’s review API basics for the folks at home.
Jake: Well, API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s essentially a way for one system to talk to another system.
We’re really excited about this API launch. Why should our partners and customers be just as fired up?
Jake: We’re giving our customers and partners the ability to do more with Stitch and their own applications. By working together using our API we are all, Stitch, partners and customers able to do more (and faster). In general, an API is very important to a business’ development and it’s even more important to do it extremely well. We focus our efforts on very few things and we want to do them well. If we did everything, we’d be great at nothing. With the API now are able to grow in ways we can’t on our own. This echoes for our partners, we mutually benefit.
This sounds great for our customers, how will this change their business operations?
Jake: The first thing that comes to mind is there will be increased flexibility for customers to add à la carte services to their Stitch account. We will also no longer be the only ones creating integrations and add-ons to Stitch; our current and future partners now have the option to create their own. Because of this, we’ll grow our platform faster which translates into our customer’s having more functionality.
Lomboy: To grow our platform, Stitch is carefully selecting partners to enhance our customers' ability to augment/automate their companies' operations. This often means collaborating with best-in-class partners with services outside of Stitch's core competency.
Jake: This will accelerate what is available, and while we’ll continue to integrate with what makes the most sense for our customers, there will be outside integrations available at a faster rate.
There are many API options out there, why is Stitch the one partners are choosing?
Jake: One of the main reasons is that working with businesses that sell inventory is extremely challenging. We spent the past five years doing the heavy lifting managing multichannel inventory that partners are now able to tap into that data and satisfy our mutual customers’ needs.
Why is multichannel data so important?
Jake: Our API gives them the ability to look at the relationship of not only inventory, sales and customers, but also how inventory connects with suppliers. This results in a complete, holistic view of the inventory process rather than only one side of it.
How ‘ready-to-wear’ is our API at the moment?
Curry: Because the Stitch application is built on the same API that will eventually be open to the public, it is ready to use today! All validation and functionality of the endpoints is exactly the same internally and externally, which allows our partners access new features as soon as possible.
From a technical standpoint, let’s fire up the API DeLorean and go back to how we reached this point.
Curry: We had to figure out helpful validation. Internally, we were debugging issues without returning human readable error messages. We have since added error messages to help the process of using our API. Secondly, we had no way of differentiating between internal and external API requests. We implemented 3Scale, an API authentication gateway, to help with this issue. We can now detect if an incoming request is from an internal or external source. This allows us to track usage and debug issues that we or other people may be having whilst using our API.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of preparing for the API release?
Curry: One of the most difficult things to understand when releasing an API is how people will use it. One of these pain-points is the relationship between the amount of data requested and the time it takes to collect that data. We are working on making these requests as fast as possible.
We chose Lokad as one of the first partners for the API. Who is Lokad?
Lomboy: We believe that better business decisions start with using data. And Lokad is an advanced forecasting analytics platform that uses your Stitch sales and purchase order information to inform when and how much to order when replenishing inventory. It also provides great insight into pricing to ensure that your products can out-price competitors while maintaining margins. Lokad then presents all this information in an easy-to-digest highly customizable dashboard.
They’ll be using us for a unique reason, can you describe a little about why their integration is crucial.
Jake:Lokad is able to apply even more advanced analytics to our data to help our customers with more sophisticated forecasting challenges. They will gather sales, product and purchase order data to help customers make better decisions with regard to reordering and lead times, among other features. They were able to dive into the API and be up and running in just a few weeks.
That’s awesome, especially how data is now the crux to business decisions. Let’s talk about ShippingEasy, who seems to be using the API in a completely different way.
Lomboy: ShippingEasy automates the operational overhead of order fulfillment. Stitch helps retailers generate more orders with a multichannel strategy, but fulfilling those orders in an cost effective and efficient manner is key to growing a profitable business. While data is being synced to ShippingEasy it is used to automatically populate shipping labels and packing slips. Once shipped, tracking numbers and delivery status are synced back to Stitch providing great visibility into order status across both platforms.
Jake: Because the API is flexible, we can have such different and varied use cases between Lokad and Shipping Easy.
Do we have plans to have other partners integrate through our API?
Jake: We do! Several other partners are currently in active development. We hope to announce these over the next few quarters. One of our biggest goals in 2016 is to release a completely public API.
How can partners get involved with using the Partner API if they are interested?
Jake: I’d love to hear about what you have in mind. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our Partner API.