As e-commerce grows, ePayments and mobile payments become the norm around the world. Innovative companies understood that data feeds and financial software APIs can be monetized, and be used for example to process payments more efficiently. Industry leaders – as PayPal and Amazon, or rising stars as Stripe.com, AcceptEmail.com or Boku.com are mastering the use of financial APIs to their business advantage.
First Things First – What is an API?
APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces are specific “languages” that define how two separate software applications can talk to and understand each other. In more technical terms, APIs are a set of programming instructions and standards allowing data exchange.
A company can provide an API to a public or private group, so that other applications can easily perform a software integration and build new services on top of the original solution. Estimates place the number of private APIs to tens of thousands. Similar numbers are on public API’s.
API’s were first used in commercial products by Salesforce in 2000, and until 2010 companies like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Google already launched their own API sets.
In past years, a number of financial software providers have been developing or teaming up to provide innovative solutions across platforms and services. Financial APIs are second largest in numbers, but the market just started monetizing them, and the result is the rapid growth of the Fintech sector.
Let’s move on to a few case studies and look at how they are driving business through API’s.
Betaalvereniging & the iDEAL scenario
Not only Fintech companies and startups disrupt the sector. In its core it is a protocol built to support online payments directly from a bank account. Owned and developed by the main Dutch banks organised in Betaalvereniging, it can be seen as their response to digital wallets. iDEAL is the fastest growing payment method The Netherlands has seen, processing more than 18M monthly in national transactions alone, with 99% of the local banks supporting it.
In 2013, iDEAL was upgraded to support and integrated SEPA credit transfers, and the banks prepared the solution for scalable growth throughout Europe.
In this case, the integration API’s are private. However the business strategy is not different than Fintech companies. For example ING created a set of integration libraries that merchants can plug in their systems and have the payment method running in production systems within days. The development time to integrate iDEAL is limited, and the timeframe from integration to launch is mainly due to validation of the integration itself.
In 2015, the banks prepare to launch eMandates using the existing iDEAL technical basis. To ensure adoption, Betaalvereniging works with Maxcode to develop a set of integration connectors which will be distributed centrally for all banks. On top of these connectors, Payment Services Providers and Merchants can build their own services and solution for eMandates.
PayPal – Bank accounts for the 21st century
PayPal has become so popular with online customers that it’s virtually a household name. The online payment service is known for its commitment to perform safe and simple transactions. Even more, merchants have access to comprehensive reporting, with all the facts and figures they need to tweak their cash flow and monitor sales.
PayPal’s Direct Payment API provides enhanced payment software. It allows developers and website owners to easily add and customize checkout pages without redirecting clients to the PayPal site. PayPal works in the background to process payments while the customer is able to view special offers or other content related to the merchant’s website.
MyBank – connecting European payments
In Europe, MyBank.eu developed a European level payment platform following the SEPA movement. Similar to iDEAL, the solution is based on the 4 corner model: Buyer, Buyer Bank (Issuer), Seller (Merchant) and Seller Bank (Acquirer). The product is based on a set of authentication, payment processing and authorization protocols. To leverage the potential for growth across Europe, MyBank’s solution is a set of integration API’s that allows banks and merchants to easily integrate.
Even more, having a set of good API’s in place, the adoption model of MyBank became independent of the company itself. Acquirers created merchant libraries or plug-ins to make integration easier for merchants. This grew the reach of the solution without any development effort. As example, Banca Sella, onboarded 4.000 merchants alone by June 2014 through its own libraries.
Due to the structure of the protocol, MyBank’s financial software already supports eMandates and eIdentity. This allows the company to capitalize on the opportunity of building a product once, and using its API’s to create several business cases. The service was launched in Italy, and in just under two years all Italian banks support MyBank. Next step is rolling out throughout the European Union. The API enabled approach allowed Preta S.A.S, the company behind MyBank to acquire to date more than 12 million customers across Europe and integrate 143 Banks and Payment Service Providers.
Amazon Payments – selling experience
Amazon.com is a veteran in handling millions of web transactions from visits to processing payments, handling refund requests, and managing sales and cash flow data. Their team have good insights on building a business as well as technically managing millions of transactions requests throughout their system.
Recently, Amazon decided to use their experience in online commerce and launch a FinTech product – Amazon Payments.
Amazon Payments customers can now integrate payments via the website’s secure payment portal, which promises to boost sales and conversion rates as it draws Amazon.com customers to their websites. By offering website owners a little piece of their existing customer base, Amazon has developed a unique product offering in the financial API landscape.
Stripe.com – Credit card payments across platforms
The simple yet effective idea behind stripe.com is that it allows mobile app developers to integrate a credit card payment solution into their final products, in virtually every popular developer’s platform. This focus on accessibility has allowed the company to make serious inroads into the market as its product can easily be used by a large number of software or internet companies.
The API that powers Stripe’s payments processing, allows for fast software integration, reducing the time a company can start accepting payments. The system itself enables transactions to be processed fast and simple through a few lines of code, while adding full reporting functionality in the backend. The impact is found even in financial admin staff and customer support agents as they can track payments and resolve billing queries with ease.
Acceptmail and Cloudbilling – joining forces for invoice efficiency
Receiving invoices by email may be convenient, but paying them is just as difficult as it was when they arrived by post – at least, it used to be. AcceptEmail streamlined and unified electronic invoice distribution with electronic payments into a single solution.
AcceptEmail has delivery and payment as part of the business model. It makes sense to look for companies that provide invoice/bill management services to partner with. Cloudbilling.com was one of these partners. The two companies teamed up and integrated their software, to produce a seamless invoice payment system and settling monthly bills for business and personal expenses. The API strategy allowed AcceptEmail to develop once, and virtually signup hundreds of new customers. For CloudBilling the integration meant less work, more gain as AcceptEmail handled the delivery and payments processes.
Integrating parts of the billing process that complement each other – like invoice management, invoices delivery and payment collection – is just one example of how APIs can be used to build up added value. Next example shows how a company can go even further and reach a global market through one simple API.
Boku.com and BlueVia – One API, worldwide reach
Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have made an in-app purchase at some point. From business calendars and project management apps to hugely popular freemium games that are so much easier to win if you hand over a euro or two, most apps offer users the opportunity to make purchases. Processing these purchases is a heavy process for the developer and for the user.
Responding to the need for easy and fast in-app purchases, boku.com partnered with BlueVia – one of the world’s biggest telecoms providers, to allow purchases made – while using almost any app – to be charged directly to the customer’s mobile phone bill. This offers Boku a unique advantage as an API company, as they provide merchants not only a simple integration, but easy access to a global market.
By skipping the process of authentication, app users are even more likely to open their digital wallets and finish the payment process.
Successful financial software companies are building APIs in their business model
Each of these companies have a unique approach when it comes to incorporating APIs into the business model.
Whether it’s optimizing invoices for instant payment, offering access to an established market of online shoppers, or opening the payment landscape to developers working on every platform, there’s no doubt that APIs are an effective strategy for boosting sales, adoption and conversion rates.
If you’re considering to integrate API’s as part of your strategy, speaking to a developer should be your first step. If you do not know where to start, Maxcode has the expertise to help, so drop us a line. Also consider investing in your own API’s to enable your software solution to integrate easier with applications that complement your offer, and increase your market reach and adoption.
Salesforce and Expedia, two of the major API companies on the market, are each totalling more than 1.5BN USD in revenues from their open integration strategy.
As this article points out “a company without API’s is like a computer without internet”.
With the number of API solutions out there, you will be able to consider your options and weigh up the investment you’ll be making in the future success of your business – but it’s time to use APIs to your advantage.