2016.01 | retailer api for shoppers

LCBO appThe number of channels through which shoppers can access their retailers has been growing quickly for years now. Those channels are going to be expanded even further, as another set of retail interfaces are being developed by people who are not retailers. Entrepreneurs, hobbyists and even fans of a particular product, brand, segment or retailer are recognizing that data is available online and people are hungry for that data.  These individuals will make that data available in a format to reach a specific audience for fun or profit.

A fascinating example of a non-retailer developed channel is found in Ontario. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is the one of the largest retailers of alcohol in the world. They have a broad spectrum of products and an even broader spectrum of consumers. The LCBO have attractive and busy stores, and do an excellent job of running their retail business, including the availability of a very useful and functional LCBO branded mobile app that provides timely inventory and pricing information to allow their shoppers to find their favourite products.

elsie appBefore that mobile app was in place, an enterprising individual built a crawler to gather the data hosted on the LCBO.com eCommerce site and made it available to mobile app developers via an API at LCBOAPI.com.   The API had almost 100 keyholders that were accessing the data as of February 2015, and the service has 60,000 to 80,000 requests for data on a daily basis.  The API presents all of the current data of the LCBO’s pricing and inventory by store from the e-commerce site gathered on a daily basis.

While this alone is commendable as an interim step since the LCBO didn’t have an app at that point, the really interesting part is what the 100 different users of the API are doing with that data.  It’s all the same data, but the way it is used and presented can vary widely.

Users who prefer a different look and feel from the LCBO app can leverage the elsie app on their mobile device to check on pricing and availability.   The UI is an elegant and simple affair, and it provides picks at LCBO from kwaf as a side benefit for wine lovers.

searc2h6oGoing in a completely different direction, the website searC2H6O allows users to quickly sort and search through any products at the LCBO in a simple and yet information rich user experience in a web browser on a desktop or mobile to validate pricing and availability before they go out to shop.  The focus here is more based on price, with a per serving cost provided.

wine alignWinealign is another website that leverages the data.  With a focus on wines, including in depth articles, ratingsand reviews, users can peruse all types of wine and then immediately see the availability and pricing before they leave home to shop.

I searched for the same product on all of these services and the images make it easy to see that they all provide a unique experience.  This data could certainly be leveraged further, with apps or sites for whisky lovers, for craft beer aficionados, or whatever other unique subset of products is out there – enabling direct access to inventory and pricing information as a link from their content to the products.

The last few years has really been all about the standard channels in retail – the store, the eCommerce website and the mobile application. While these examples are really just a variation on that theme, they are an indicator of more sophisticated interactions to come as third parties connect to this data and use it in new and unexpected ways that retailers or vendors could may not have the time or budget to justify.   Embracing these channels as an opportunity is the best way forward for retailer and shopper alike.

Retailers like Best Buy have been embracing this for a while. Got any great examples of leveraging retailer APIs that makes something amazing? I’d love to hear about it.  Contact me or leave a comment!

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