Examples of Consumer Product Experiences Extended by APIs & Integrations

“Digital Experiences” are an important way for modern brands to interact with their customers. Much of the writing out there about the design of these experiences is understandably focused on the “user interface” layer, whether it be desktop, mobile, voice, VR, AR, etc. Less discussed is the API or integration layer, however it plays just as critical a role in a successful user experience as the interface the consumer actually “sees”.

I was asked by a colleague to provide examples of ways brands have reached consumers using APIs to create experiences that deepen the relationship between the consumer and the brand’s products. Nowadays almost all modern software development uses APIs, so even something as simple as a survey or lead capture page might use APIs to build an experience between the brand and the consumer. However, what we’re looking for here though is something deeper: An integration between the brand’s product and the consumer experience.

To come up with this list examples, I created three loose filtering criteria:

  1. Assume any product + app is using an “API” for integration, broadly defined. This list is not looking for verified examples of a particular integration pattern, ex. “REST APIs”, rather we just want to find things where core product experience is extended to the digital realm. 

  2. This could be their own app, or partner-built apps. Knowing that many consumer brands engage agencies to build apps, a loose definition of “partner” is used here. We don’t need to see a massive app ecosystem — one-off examples are eligible for this list.

  3. Evidence of a more robust API program such as a developer portal or PR / news discussing the integration is a bonus that I’ve attempted to find and call out, but was not a requirement to get on the list.

Without further adieu, here is a selection products from retail, foodservice, travel, home hardware, personal care, and agriculture that have extended their consumer’s experience via APIs & integrations. For a few items, I’ve included examples where controversy and security issues created by these integrations illustrate the reputation risk to these brands as well.

The List

Light Bulbs

Door Locks

Your Toothbrush

Farm Equipment

Sandwiches

Grocery Shopping

Pharmacy

  • Walgreens Developer Program including APIs for Print Photos, Rewards Points, Digital Coupons, Prescription Refills, and Store Locator

Plane Tickets

Door Locks (hotel)

Luggage Tags

LEGO

APIs are like LEGO building blocks, it is often said. Many API talks start off by explaining that APIs are like these bricks. They can be combined in innovative and creative ways beyond their originally intended purpose. What are APIs like for LEGO though?