Small businesses are still bearing the brunt of economic and legislative changes brought on by the pandemic, with over 70% of them reporting negative effects from COVID.
Of those that weathered and emerged from the crisis relatively unscathed, it turns out digital maturity played a pivotal role in their survival story.
So, what tools are these thriving small businesses using that give them an edge? In large part, the answer is APIs.
According to the State of API Economy 2021 report, many organizations believe APIs are core to digital transformation efforts, with 56% recognizing APIs will help build better digital experiences and products.
But to reap the rewards means finding the right APIs that can help your business become more productive, deliver improved customer experiences, and pivot as new challenges arise. And it’s never too late to join the API party.
First, get to know APIs, how to use them, and how they can help you keep sales and rave reviews coming in.
1. Automate Processes to Do More with Less
Small businesses don’t have the luxury of big teams or infinite resources. And labor is only getting harder to come by—the “Great Resignation” saw 2.9% of the American workforce voluntarily quit their jobs in August 2021. And for small businesses, that means employees are going to be harder to find.
But APIs can help short-staffed small businesses by automating repetitive tasks.
For example, by integrating payment gateways with email automation tools, you can automatically email receipts and payment details to customers.
Using applications like Calendly means customers can schedule available appointment times or sales meeting slots and automatically add them to your calendar.
Additionally, by deploying eSignatures you can automate much of the contract signing and paperwork admin associated with sales and hiring.
Let’s zoom in on the eSignatures example. eSignature APIs, like the HelloSign API, can automate multiple time consuming tasks across your businesses, such as:
- Removing many print-scan-sign or third-party app upload/downloaded processes by allowing documents to be signed directly on your website.
- Auto-populating personalized contracts (up to 10,000 at once) by mail merging contact lists with existing templates and bulk sending them with a single API call.
- Getting forgotten documents signed by sending automatic reminders and notifications to signers.
2. Drive Better Customer Experiences with API-led Tools and Insights
On-demand sales and customer service have created a generation of customers that increasingly expect fast and seamless buying experiences, whether they’re buying from a global brand or a small business.
And many APIs can improve your customer experience simply and quickly.
Integrating chatbots into your website for example is a great alternative to hiring an entire support team to provide customers service 24/7, 365 days a year. Once trained and implemented, businesses can reduce customer service costs by up to 30% with chatbots.
But getting the most of any digital tool first starts by knowing what makes your customers tick.
Yet, many small businesses aren’t set up to collect the data and insights they need to truly understand their customers. And to be fair, terms like “database” and “SQL” don’t exactly signal an easy learning curve.
With APIs, however, small businesses can easily and affordably capture the customer insights they need to drive better customer experiences. API-enabled heat mapping tools, like Hotjar, track user clicks on your website so you know what’s working or where customers are stuck in the buying journey.
What’s more, many platforms are stringing these APIs together to help you gain a full picture of the customer journey.
Take Shopify, for example. It integrates with payment gateways, CRMs, email marketing tools, and social media platforms, via API, to automatically generate reports for sellers with one click. This way, small businesses can monitor and analyze important customer journey insights like repeat purchases, cart abandonment, marketing attribution, and more in one dashboard. Such platforms save time and effort in pulling disparate information from different systems together.
3. Extend Your Business Capabilities without Forking Out on Development
The common adage “don’t reinvent the wheel” aptly sums the leading advantage of APIs.
APIs allow businesses access to the best-in-class tools and services so they don’t have to spend money and effort to create them from scratch.
Rather than tasking developers with understanding and building new capabilities every time you have a new idea, you can limit the development load using fast-to-integrate APIs that take days to integrate, not months to build.
And APIs are not only faster but also cost-effective. Many API SaaS tools, offer “freemium” or low-cost starting points that don’t require any upfront licensing fees. That’s important when almost half ( 48%) of small business owners say they intend to keep investments in their business the same over the next year, with fewer ( 29%) planning to increase investment. But to capture the benefits of these low-cost APIs, it’s important to spot a good from a bad one before signing one up. Here are two key indicators of a well-built API:
- Easy documentation: A well-designed developer portal stocked with high-quality, easy-to-follow API documentation is essential. When you have clear, simple instructions, integrating an API is fast and simple even for inexperienced developers.
- Ongoing dedicated support: Dedicated API support is a must-have for API tools. The promise of APIs is that they’re fast and easy to implement. So if you do encounter a problem with API integration, there must be a dedicated support team behind it. That way if something breaks, you’re not left unsure when a fix is coming.
Make the Most of APIs for Your Business
Today’s APIs are more powerful, budget-friendly, and attuned to the needs of small businesses than ever before.
So, what’s stopping you from helping your team work faster, making your customers happier, and building a thriving business with an API right away?
HelloSign is powering small businesses’ shift to digital with secure, fast, and reliable eSignatures. Find out how SMBs are thriving with HelloSign.
This article, “Three Ways APIs Are Keeping Small Businesses Digitally Competitive” was first published on Small Business Trends