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The inside scoop on the Best Buy API

A few months ago, I spoke on a panel about brand APIs put on by Mashery with the heads of Open API programs at PayPal, NetFlix and Best Buy. I learned a hell of a lot. 

Kumar Kandaswamy is the API chief at Best Buy. He's also a friend. As I've written quite a bit about brand APIs on this blog and on Mashable, Kumar has been generous enough to answer some questions I had about the realities of brands and APIs.

What got me so excited about Kumar's presentation and the conversation we had over lunch a few weeks later was an understanding of how much Best Buy's API could improve the customer experience. 

I had just gone through a four months process of redeeming my American Express points for a flat panel TV for the office. I ordered it, it got back-ordered, it got delayed. It finally showed up four months later and I wanted to return it—but that wasn't an option. 

Both Citi and Chase, however, use the Best Buy API for their loyalty programs. Hop online and not only see what flat panel TVs you want to redeem your points for, but see which ones are in stock at the Best Buy in your neighborhood and go pick it up that afternoon. 

That is a significant business differentiator. And it's all made possible by Best Buy's Stores API.

That is also the reason Kumar is a rock star at Best Buy. Here's my interview with him.

1. What do you do at Best Buy?

Senior Director at Best Buy heading up their Open API platform business

2. Why are you excited to be working on Best Buy's API program?

The most exciting part about working on Best Buy's API program is truly revolutionizing the way we deliver on our brand promise i.e., solving customer's technology needs. API is a concept that emerged from the pure Web/ecommerce players and we are truly at the leading edge to put it to meaningful use in Best Buy's multi-channel experience.

3. What is the value of APIs to Best Buy?

APIs provide a whole new distribution channel for Best Buy by creating an external partner ecosystem. The APIs powers 100s of those customer experiences outside of the Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com. This is very critical in the connected world we live in to make sure Best Buy is able to connect with customers wherever they are. We have seen amazing innovation done both internally and externally using the APIs

4. Who is using Best Buy's APIs?

We have a wide spectrum of applications using Best Buy APIs - spanning internal teams, small and large affiliate sites, small startup companies powering shopping apps and large companies such as Citi for their rewards program fulfillment.

5. How do you think APIs will impact the future of retail?

APIs are already fundamental to the new retail experience and will continue to be a significant driver for future innovation and growth in retail. 

6. What are the biggest challenges to being successful with APIs?

The first challenge to being successful with APIs is to ensure you are opening up relevant set of data and capabilities that others would care about to build something on top of. The second challenge is to provide a meaningful business model which is win-win for both the platform provider like Best Buy and the partner using the APIs. Finally, the challenge to keep in mind would to provide a robust infrastructure that is reliable, scalable and available for external partners to build a business on top of. 

7. What do you recommend to brands struggling to justify where and how to invest in innovation?

Innovation is a fundamental to survival and growth in this global, competitive marketplace irrespective of what industry you are in. Brands have to embrace it.

Thanks, Kumar!

Adam Kleinberg CEO

Adam is the CEO of Traction, an interactive agency broadly recognized as one of the top small agencies in the US. Kleinberg plays a hands-on role for all agency accounts and keeps his team at the leading edge of emerging digital channels. He is also a regular contributor to Ad Age, Forbes, Mashable, Digiday and iMediaConnection.