We’ve all heard the terms API product or API-as-a-product. The terms themselves seemed to be used quite freely, leaving some of us with an assumption of what is meant but without a really solid grasp. As joining and contributing to the API economy becomes more desirable, API products are a crucial part of any business that is looking to tap into it. So asking “what is an API product?” is a really relevant question with many different angles.
An API product is no different than any other product: it delivers value in some way, shape, or form. In the context of an application programming interface (API), we are essentially saying that we have created and packaged an API that can bring value to internal and external organizations. You may decide to build an API product from inception or you may choose to productize different APIs as part of a new business model spurred by digital transformation.
A few examples of API products you may be familiar with are:
The google maps API is probably one of the widest used APIs out there. Most websites and mobile apps that require any type of location lookup, geo-tracking, or any other location-based functionality are likely using the Google Maps API. Easy onboarding, usage, and great documentation are some hallmarks of this product strategy.
Moesif customer Tomorrow.io is also a great example of an API Product with their Weather API. Used by organizations big and small, this API enables a true API Product approach with an abundance of developer docs, multiple pricing tiers, and the ability for an API consumer to sign-up and self-serve/onboard.
As you can see, API products usually focus on a specific core functionality, such as location lookup or the current weather. These companies have found a way to create APIs that deliver value to other developers and their organizations. This is what it truly means to build an API product.
What makes a successful API product?
Since any API that provides value to a developer could be transformed into an API product, it’s important to look at what makes a good product API for both the developers and the company that built it. Creating a comprehensive API product strategy requires knowing where your API product fits into your overall business vision.
The ability for developers to move from sign-up through to actually using the API in a self-serve fashion is crucial. Most developers do not like complex onboarding or an onboarding that is led by the sales team. A developer should be able to register and subscribe to your API and integrate it in a very “low-touch” manner, only reaching out to support if they have a unique situation or an error that they are unable to move past after going through your API reference library. This could also be improved by using an API gateway or API management platform to ensure API integration and API access is uniform across all of your API resources.
Since APIs are highly technical, good API documentation is paramount to supporting a good product. Developer docs to help API consumers should be relatively diverse and include tips on integrating, how to use features, general product information, and even how to troubleshoot common scenarios that developers may face. You may also think to enhance your docs further by adding in comprehensive written and video tutorials that show an API consumer how to achieve common outcomes.
To develop a product and keep it afloat, you need to drive revenue. With an API, this means figuring out what to charge RESTful API developers for and how you are going to implement that process. As an API provider, usually, you will need to determine if you’ll have a free trial or free tier if you’ll be doing pre-paid or post-paid billing, and which billing provider you will use. These considerations are key aspects of your API monetization strategy. Of course, API monetization can be very complex but making it easy to checkout, manage charges, and collect payment is key to a good customer experience.
Ability to gather user feedback
As you build your product, you’ll want to constantly improve and add value in key areas that customers are using. This means that you’ll want to gather critical operational data, user data, and usage metrics for API calls. Combining these factors together will help you to develop a more stable API product that is performant and delivers on all the areas that customers use the most. It’s also a great way to dive deep into your onboarding experience and uncover challenges that customers may be having in the early stages of adopting your API.
How can Moesif Help?
Moesif can help companies build great API products by leveraging some of the platform’s core features. These features can help to enable some of the points we made above which are part of a successful API program. Moesif can help with streamlining onboarding, API monetization, helping developers navigate the product, and much more. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics below.
Using Moesif’s user funnel analysis, you will be able to see certain trends and conversion rates throughout each step of the user journey. This can be very revealing if you point the spotlight at onboarding. For example, you may have a user funnel which goes like:
- 1st API Call
- 2nd API Call
- 1000th API Call
By tracking this you’ll be able to see a few key insights:
- How many people sign up and never make an API call?
- How many people make their first API call and no subsequent ones?
- What percentage of developers make their 1000th API call and beyond?
You’ll also be able to see the time it takes to move between phases of the customer journey and ideate possible ways to improve it. For instance, you may believe that from the time of registration to their first API call, users should only take about 5 minutes. But, when looking at the data you see that it is actually taking more than an hour on average. This could hint that you need to improve your integration steps or perhaps just simply add some better documentation.
As you make these improvements, you can continually check for improvement in conversion and the time it takes between steps. This will help you to determine if you’re moving towards optimization or away from it.
Moesif Billing Meters allow you to easily monetize your APIs. This is possible because Moesif allows you to dial in your billing criteria and Moesif will then send API usage statistics to the provider of your choice, such as Stripe, Recurly, or Chargebee. A big hurdle to making your API available as a product is the step of actually implementing an end-to-end solution to implement your API monetization model. With Moesif, this is no longer an issue. As an example, check out this ready-to-go API monetization example using Moesif, Stripe, and Kong. Billing Meters also pair well with API Governance Rules that can be created in moesif. These rules could be used for something like blocking an API request to an endpoint based on an unpaid invoice.
Whether it’s a “Welcome” email, a “Next Steps” email, or an email to assist developers who are stuck, creating a proactive line of communication to the customer is essential. These types of email can keep customers engaged and can also help them to solve issues without having to reach out for support.
With Moesif, you can create specific criteria for when to send an email. This could be when the users sign up for your API when they receive more than five 401 responses within 30 minutes from an endpoint when they use a newly added API feature or a multitude of other scenarios. Setting up these emails is extremely simple and can add value to your customer’s experience with minimal effort.
Instead of actively monitoring developers in a manual way, Moesif allows you to set up conditions in which your team will be alerted to things such as new customer sign-ups, onboarding issues, consistent errors, and more. These alerts can be sent to many different channels including email, SMS, PagerDuty, Slack, or a custom webhook.
By setting up alerts, your support team (and others) can proactively take steps to help customers before they come to them, or worse, decide to give up on using the API.
You may build a custom dashboard for users to view things such as a live log or a time series of their usage. Moesif can help to expedite this with the embedded templates feature. With embedded templates, you can take your favorite charts or product data and make them available even for those who don’t have access to Moesif. For example, you could have a time series chart embedded in your APIs dashboard that has a quota line added to it to show how close developers are to reaching their quota and how their API request volumes are trending over time.
API products are no different than any other product, all of them require users to have an easy and enjoyable experience using the product. Like most products, analytics can help ensure that you are moving in the right direction in terms of adoption and customer satisfaction. Moesif can help with digging into those analytics, gaining insights, and allowing you to take action through features like behavioral emails or alerts. To up your API product game, sign up for Moesif today and unlock deep insights coupled with features to help grow and improve your platform.