Surprise, it’s Another Acronym! What You Need to Know About APIs
The marketing research industry loves abbreviations and acronyms. It is difficult to make it through a single conversation without using some sort of jargon to save a few precious seconds of our day. Whether it be IDI, MaxDiff, OBB, LOI, IR, N, or NPS, we are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient – LOL!
One acronym that has become popular recently is ‘API’, which stands for Application Programming Interface. At its basic level, an API is a middleman between programs and applications, typically so companies can share information to be more efficient. One company allows another system to have access to their software, all for the sake of efficiency for the users or to present more relevant content or information. A familiar example would be the API relationship that exists when Google maps is accessed within a Yelp search.
In the marketing research sampling, we see APIs being used primarily in two ways:
- APIs connect sample buyers directly to sample suppliers. A researcher can input demographic or other targets for a given study and the API would then communicate seamlessly to the panel database and deliver feasibility back to the buyer. The sample buyer may then administer the survey to the proper panelists. This can all be done simply by the buyer’s and the seller’s systems talking to each other, without a live person being involved to slow things up.
- APIs allow sample suppliers to connect to 3rd party sources to enhance profiling of respondents. This method is mainly used either to validate a respondent (LinkedIn, voter records, etc.) or better target survey invitations demographically (Facebook, gaming communities, etc.).
- Speed – using an API, a sample buyer is able to input targeted demographics to provide pricing and feasibility to its clients, as well as deliver sample seamlessly across multiple databases and panel partners.
- Cost – An API can reduce the number of humans needed to touch each step of a project which allows the sample provider to lower its price
- Accuracy – An API puts the onus on the technology, which can reduce the potential for error that is normally introduced by humans.
- While APIs will save time and cost once up and running, the construction of an API can be expensive and take considerable time to implement.
- All systems are different and use varied language, so each relationship will require custom code in order for the machines to communicate and react effectively.
- Machine error can cause significant delays in launching, fielding, or troubleshooting issues throughout a project (there is no such thing as ‘set it and forget it’).
- Once an API is set up, it will need maintenance over time.
As with all technology, APIs are only as effective as the users/implementers. We benefit from APIs that are built well and operate between quality-focused research partners to improve respondent experience and lower costs or time needed to field surveys. Just remember, the technology itself is not the answer. It is the team that develops, sets, controls, and ultimately utilizes the API that will determine whether or not it is truly effective.