Sears: Fostering innovation with managed access to public APIs
Sears Holdings Corp. operates 4,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. Founded in 2005 by the merger of Sears and Kmart, the company ranks as the tenth-largest American retailer in terms of annual revenue.
Challenges and Opportunities
Like any leading retailer, Sears is striving to meet the customer on the customer's terms— regardless of location, time, platform, or device. An extensive API framework can meet that challenge by giving internal teams, partners, and 3rd parties the opportunity to build innovative shopping experiences around the company’s data.
“Over the past few years, Sears has led the transformation of the retail industry through technology adoption,” says Kandarp Bhatt, director of ecommerce product management at Sears Holdings Corp. “We recognized early that embracing APIs as an organization-wide glue for building applications could enable unprecedented scalability and flexibility.”
The Sears API program serves both internal and external developers. From an internal perspective, the company relies on hundreds of APIs to operate its hugely successful multichannel operation, driving everything from member-facing mobile apps to affiliate-facing tools.
Meanwhile, the public APIs focus almost exclusively on product and store information, enabling external development partners to access product catalogs, determine real-time availability of products, obtain store information, and access the latest ads for upcoming online deals.
“Our developer portal is built on Apigee,” Bhatt says. “The portal enables easy registration and access not only to our APIs, but also to a broad range of tools based on those APIs. That helps us make the user experience as simple and hassle-free as possible.”
Developer portal: Sears’ online content for affiliates
Apigee solutions drive digital success. For Sears, that success is measured by increased API adoption among external development partners, Bhatt says.
“We track the number of developers who are using our APIs, the number of apps they build, and the amount of revenue we’re generating as a result. Apigee is helping us achieve success on all those fronts,” he says.
The company’s digital initiatives have yielded impressive benefits. For example, the Sears team can now develop and maintain stores on a variety of platforms (online and mobile) and properties (including Sears, Kmart, and ShopYourWay). Perhaps most promising of all, the team can actively harvest feedback from the external developer community. That input helps Sears push the boundaries of innovation by, for example, taking full advantage of newer media like Google Glass, Samsung Gear, and other small form-factor devices.
"Our primary goal is to delight our customers," Bhatt says. “With so much collaboration happening on so many fronts, I have every confidence that we’ll be introducing some truly great applications in the very near future—and delighting our customers more than ever.”