“I love APIs because they allow someone like me, who is really out there as a radical innovator, to innovate quickly, and with multiple different types of customers. I could hire a couple kids in a garage somewhere and they could start building products for me that are going to make a significant difference for my customer.”
Mike Debnar, senior director of digital guest experience at 7-Eleven, sat down with us at I ♥ APIs 2013 to discuss how APIs are creating new value and experiences for customers of the world's largest convenience store chain operator and retailer.
Debnar runs a team that is responsible for digital innovation at 7-Eleven. The group developed a new customer relationship management system and used APIs to “liberate data from the enterprise” to make it available for the company’s mobile app.
The hard work of digging up relevant store location and real-time inventory data had an unintended but welcome effect, Debnar said. Because it was far more accessible and usable than abstracted database entries, the data that was freed for external facing apps drew internal "customers" to the API. “This is what is really awesome about APIs,” he said.
For the customers that frequent its stores, 7-Eleven is using APIs to create new experiences, Debnar said. For example, making it simple for customers to find a nearby 7-Eleven location, and exactly what each store carries—down to the flavors of Slurpee drinks—is something the company “can drive from this omnichannel strategy.”
Many thanks to Mike for a fascinating discussion about digital transformation in retail.