There’s no arguing against the efficiencies APIs have brought to the consumer experience. But the API movement has recently taken on the look and feel of an unwieldy and expensive third-party ecosystem.

Companies that have become too reliant on third party APIs — as a way to optimize their businesses and connect with customers — are no different from fashion victims. They think they look good because everything they're wearing is in vogue, but without careful pairing and an eye for what works, they just look like a hot mess.

Beaming Offline Data

The trend now is moving beyond collecting ALL online data through APIs, to implementing specific filters that help narrow the audience focus and understand “the emotions and behaviors that drive your customers and prospects, [to] enable much deeper segmentation. It’s basically relationship building, but it’s happening with information you can access and act on in real-time. No lines, no waiting. And room to grow.”

But what can be done beyond real-time APIs access? Layering it with data captured offline. In the Harvard Business Review, Chuck Martin predicts most consumers will be aware of beacon technology and be willing participants. But there’s an educational aspect to combat first.

Beacon technologies, which Business Insider says “are among the most important new mobile technologies,” are now being deployed by brick-and-mortar stores as a way to recapture the market share lost from online sales. But what are they, exactly? It’s a low cost device that transmits data via Bluetooth technology that can provide competitive intelligence to businesses around where consumers are shopping and what they’re looking for. It’s akin to a consumer GPS. And retailers such as Macy’s and Target are already using them.

But this NFC technology isn't just for retail — and it isn’t limited to beacons.

There’s also eSkin technology delivering offline customer data through wearables. VivaLnk has a thin skin, flexible circuit called eSkin Tattoo that is used for event admission, or can be programmed to make safe and secure cashless payments. Imagine waving your forearm over a sensor to register at an event or pay for something while there. It’s like we’ve finally taken the QR code concept and made it useful, right?

But beyond tracking and gathering data in ways that may raise privacy concerns, there’s another permission-based option to consider when it comes to gathering powerful offline data: Hackathons.

Another increasingly excellent trend that top companies are tending toward is hosting crowdsourced hackathons. A hackathon done right can capture offline data, offer in-depth insights, and actually turn customers into brand ambassadors that are invested in your success and will refer others to you. The experience of being involved in the process of innovating new ideas and products for a business often makes clients feel that much more invested — and loyal.

Are APIs Going Away?

No. They’re great, but they’re not everything. And there are technologies being developed and deployed that could make APIs even more powerful. The only potential roadblock to the marriage of the physical and the digital world would be the overarching consumer privacy concerns and potential for overreaction as government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission tighten their grip.

But in time, as consumers get more exposure to the technology and the public is more educated about these tracking technologies, people will likely feel comfortable engaging and participating in the process. The responsible use of the technology has a benign impact on privacy and can only enhance customer experience, unless dystopian novels predicting otherwise are correct. Guess we’ll find out!

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Tsar Kasim