This week we look at emerging opportunities in the ecommerce space, and how having great data helps make it a reality.


Being an e-commerce solutions provider in this space is awesome fun. You get to work with some incredibly talented entrepreneurs with good hustle, brimming with fantastic new ideas to engage and delight potential customers

Last year we took a stock check of emerging trends in ecommerce and evaluated possible opportunities. This time, we’ve had the gift of hindsight, and lots of calltime with our customers and conference conversations to put together some new insights:

Affiliate sales is a strange beast. It used to be pretty simple: publish a few blogs, a few top 10 lists, hyperlink your products and wait for the revenue to come in.

Not anymore.

Affiliate channels (a.k.a. publishers) are fast becoming an alternative sales channel for brands, and one that is increasingly taking a larger share of e-commerce traffic. Start-ups can now create beautiful store-fronts showcasing a variety of curated or competitively-priced products for consumers to buy without actually carrying inventory

The advantages are clear: Affiliate stores have very low barriers to entry, and rely on novelty, taste-making and carefully curated shopping experiences for consumers.

Opportunities for good data are plenty. Affiliate networks are sadly behind the loop on getting fresh product data to publishers. They rely on archaic methods of data transfer (some feeds aggregators get data from retailers in the form of (gasp!) excel spreadsheets) — product pricing and data is so often outdated.

Here’s what a typical affiliate feeds data pipeline looks like:

  1. Retailer signs up with affiliate network
  2. Affiliate network asks retailer to upload their product feeds
  3. …extended thumb twiddling…
  4. Retailer finally uploads product feeds (possibly spreadsheets)
  5. Affiliate network makes retailer feed available online
  6. Affiliate network bugs retailer to update feeds
  7. ….more thumb twiddling….
  8. After many weeks, retailer finally updates feeds
  9. But product prices are out of date!
  10. Rinse and repeat
MRW waiting for the retailer to update their feeds

Here’s where an API comes in — e-commerce start-up signs an affiliate relationship with retailers or networks, then use a product API to get fresh feeds, converting product URLs into affiliate links.

Affiliate relationships can be incredibly lucrative. It allows you to monetize pretty much anything. Take cool pics? Hyperlink your photos with product urls or create buy buttons on them, as Pinterest recently did.

2. Logistics companies need product data more than ever

One of the more surprising conversations we had at IRCE15 was with logistics companies — many companies had challenges with international shipping and customs.

Turns out, navigating customs and import regulations in different countries can be challenging, especially if you’re shipping millions of packages every day. Properly categorizing shipments according to their tariff code (also known as HS-code) is incredibly important to avoid unexpected import taxes. Additionally, to please security officials, properly filling out shipping manifests is important.

This happens if customs is unhappy with your paperwork

Logistics companies often have little to go on about the parcels they’re shipping, apart from barcodes (a.k.a. UPCs).

Here’s where an API comes in useful: utilizing UPC look-ups, logistics companies can automate the filing process for shipping manifests and customs declarations and pick the correct HS-codes for their parcels, avoiding many logistics nightmares.

Additionally, by receiving important information like a parcel’s weight and dimensions, logistics companies have better visibility on packing and shipping costs.

3. Product inventory management can be a nightmare without a database API

Many retailers struggle in obtaining detailed product information for their inventory. They often rely on manufacturers to provide data points like specifications, images, and descriptions. Many retailers we spoke to often had large in-house teams to manually create product datasheets for their inventory.

This wastes time, and introduces errors (like manually entering a barcode into the system)

Sometimes, using an API can help here. Using inputs like barcode scanners, name, brand or model part number inputs, a good inventory management system can immediately pull in and pre-populate data fields from a product API, freeing up resources to focus on more creative tasks like creating product descriptions and product content.

4. Are you a homeowner? Insure your personal effects!

One of the major items people forget about is insuring their personal effects. Spilt coffee on your brand new Macbook? Good luck getting Apple to replace it. Had your house broken into and you find your $10,000 home theater missing? Too bad.

Having good insurance helps you dodge expensive accidents

Luckily you can now get insurance for that!

Apps like Trov now offer valuation services to help you properly appraise the replacement value for your personal effects — and get the right insurance to help you replace them. (Incidentally, Trov is a customer of our API)

Using an database API, you can immediately pull the latest prices for your purchases and create a comprehensive asset list.

5. Trying to float a subscription box start-up? Why not use a product API to find cool products to sell?

We’re big fans of subscription boxes like Bespoke Post and Birchbox. Every month, these companies send out a box of carefully curated items for sale. Most items are incredibly useful, beautiful, or tasteful. We love that.

But curating products is hard. You don’t want to spend hours copy-pasting data points from various retailers. Why not use an API to help pull product data for your research? You can even create your internal dashboard that pulls product information in real time to help you create product content and curation.

Bespoke’s latest subscription it!

Have any good ideas that could be better with an e-commerce API? Talk to us today!

Always lovingly made in San Francisco.