All Things Shipping
Jun 8, 2023

Shipping API: What Is a Shipping API and When to Use One for Your E-commerce Business

In today’s e-commerce climate, offering fast and reliable shipping options is one of the best ways to build brand trust and loyalty. According to one survey, 46% of consumers reported reliability as one of the most important attributes they consider when choosing a place to shop. That means initiatives like preventing lost packages and meeting expected delivery dates are vital to success.

Shipping APIs can help you more accurately and efficiently ship orders. Today, we’ll discuss what a shipping API is and what it can do for your business.

What Is a Shipping API?

A shipping API is part of a family of codes, called application program interfaces, responsible for allowing web applications to communicate seamlessly. Shipping APIs simplify and streamline the shipping process by allowing you to access shipping capabilities from one platform within your own platform.

In other words, shipping APIs put the logistics process at your fingertips. Whether you need to generate shipping labels, compare carriers, or track packages, an API can transform how you approach shipping.

Who Are Shipping APIs Made for?

Shipping APIs are ideal for logistics providers, e-commerce platforms, and online marketplaces. Put simply, if you deal with moving goods, being able to create, manage, and track shipments can make a positive impact on your business.

Let’s take a closer look at how shipping APIs can make a difference for:

  • Logistics providers: Offering competitive rates and top-of-the-line customer service are some of the most important goals for logistics providers. Shipping APIs give you the visibility into the shipping process that you need to focus on these areas.
  • E-commerce platforms: If you want to stand out from the competition, you need to ensure that each interaction your customers have with your brand is a positive one. A good API for shipping can help you offer the shipping functionalities your customers are looking for directly from within your own platform. With a proper API like Shipping Elements, you can also make sure this native shipping functionality looks like the rest of your UI.
  • Online marketplaces: Selling platforms like Etsy and Deepop can attract many merchants, but with shipping APIs, those merchants can generate shipping labels and keep track of their shipments directly within the online marketplace. For marketplaces looking to attract more merchants, offering them shipping functionalities within their platform could be the difference.
  • Large e-commerce merchants: For online merchants who are at the enterprise level or nearing it, oftentimes they’ve built their own internal logistics systems. In those instances, they can still integrate with a shipping API to offload the shipping process while still operating in their own system.

How Do Shipping APIs Work?

Shipping APIs are designed to create a line of communication between programs that wouldn’t otherwise be able to work together. When integrated with an e-commerce website, for example, they work in the background to pull information from external servers and translate it into a format that your website can understand.

One of the most common methods of shipping API is called REST API. This method works by obtaining information from an external server and transferring the data to your website. The result is a seamless shipping experience that saves time and money.

APIs also provide information for your developers to ensure you get the most out of your experience, such as:

  • How APIs access and convert information
  • How many requests can be processed within a timeframe
  • What information an API provides

Common Shipping API Features

To choose the right shipping API for you, you’ll have to consider what features you need. Here are a few examples:

  •       Address validation: Shipping carrier APIs make it possible to quickly and easily validate shipping addresses when orders are placed. API technology cross-references carrier databases to ensure the right address is entered on the order every time.
  •       Shipment tracking: It’s no secret that customers want to stay in the know about their orders while they’re in transit. API for shipping software can send customers automated messages when tracking is available, send status updates, and more.
  •       Multi-carrier support: One of the best ways to offer flexibility and value to your customers is to offer flexible shipping options. APIs can help you compare shipping rates and transit times to strike the perfect balance between cost and speed.
  •       Shipping & return label generation: With a shipping API, you can create shipping labels instantly and virtually eliminate pesky mistakes like generating duplicate shipping labels. APIs can also generate return labels to provide customers with quick and convenient ways to send packages back.

Benefits of Using a Shipping API

Using a shipping API can have an impressive impact on your business. They help increase customer satisfaction and employee productivity, and can also put more money in your pocket.

If you’re looking for ways to ship more efficiently, using an API for shipping is a great solution. By integrating this technology into your arsenal, you can simplify the shipping process so that it’s fast, easy and convenient.

Shipping APIs can also help you cut shipping costs. APIs that offer multi-carrier support allow you to instantly compare shipping rates across reputable carriers. That means you can strike the perfect balance between cost and shipping timeframes every time. Some APIs, like the Shippo API, even give you access to exclusive discounts that can cut costs even further.

Visibility is a cornerstone of running a successful e-commerce business. APIs make it effortless to manage and monitor orders from warehouses or fulfillment centers to their final destinations. This enables you to provide excellent customer service while ensuring customers stay informed about their orders.

Additional services like scheduled pickups, international shipping, and shipping insurance allow you to operate more efficiently, reach new audiences, and enhance the customer experience. Shipping APIs make it painless to extend some of these options to your customers.

When to Use a Shipping API

If you’re looking for strategies to aid in growth, shipping API integration is always a good choice. This goes for online selling platforms, marketplaces, and even growing e-commerce businesses. As you start to need to fulfill orders daily, the flexibility, visibility, and value that APIs offer will make a positive impact on your business.

Growing e-commerce businesses can’t afford to ignore the customer experience, which includes the shipping experience. This is because fostering positive customer interactions builds brand loyalty and earns repeat customers. Championing a painless shipping experience is a great way to do that.

Businesses focused on growth need integrations in place that streamline processes while minimizing costs. Shipping APIs make the shipping process painless while providing increased visibility.

Best Shipping API in 2023

It’s important to make the right choice when it comes to selecting the right shipping API for you. You’ll need to consider what features are most important to you, which options your website supports, and what price point you can afford.

If you’re looking for the best mix of cost and value that offers value-added services, multi-carrier support, and exclusive shipping discounts, Shippo is the best solution for you!

To learn more about what our Shipping API can do for your business or how to integrate your business, contact one of our friendly sales reps today.

Shipping API FAQs

What is the difference between an EDI and an API?

Although EDI and API are both designed to exchange data between programs, they are not the same. EDI establishes a connection between two EDI systems. API, on the other hand, integrates with other systems and allows them to communicate. APIs also process the information in real time.

How long does it take to integrate a shipping API into my business?

Some shipping API integrations can take upwards of 180 hours. Shippo’s integration, by contrast, only takes an average of 4 to 6 hours to complete.

How much do shipping APIs cost?

The cost of using a Shipping API will depend on which API your business is trying to integrate with, you’re shipping volume, and what you’re trying to ship. To get a more accurate quote, contact our sales team.

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Sarah Gage
is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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