How Essential Hub’s API can turn your clunky shoe of a shipping process into a sleek glass slipper that won’t disappear at midnight
What is a shipping API?
An API (application programming interface) is a software program that enables communication between separate apps. Any time you use Facebook Messenger, search for a hotel on Travelocity, or use PayPal to purchase something from a website, you’re using an API.
Shipping APIs are magic wands that let ecommerce businesses automate and uncomplicate their shipping processes by allowing their website or shopping platform to interface directly with shipping carriers’ systems. Properly installed, shipping APIs can:
- Validate customer addresses
- Generate shipping labels for multiple carriers
- Shop for the best carrier rates/support features for each package
- Track shipments with real-time updates
If you’re looking at those bullet points and thinking “I spend so much time on those things,” then Essential Hub is ready to be your fairy godmother.
As a premier shipping aggregator, we have a proven track record as domestic and international ecommerce shipping experts who are committed to providing our customers with transparent, easy-to-understand shipping management services.
Keep reading to find out how our API is the magic bean you need to grow your business.
Alakazam vs. Presto Chango: the differences between a shipping API and a shipping software platform
Businesses that haven’t fully automated their shipping processes often use the terms “shipping API” and “shipping software platforms” interchangeably, but they aren’t quite the same thing.
A shipping API is made up of unique code that exists solely to connect existing software platforms. Because APIs work behind the scenes to move information between your selling channels and your preferred carriers, there isn’t a portal or user interface where users do their work.
By contrast, shipping software platforms have to be opened to access their features.
Here’s a non-shipping example of the difference between the two:
Say you live in Chicago, but you need to go to Dallas for a convention in two months. Here are two possible ways your could end up booking your flight:
- OPTION 1
Using Google Flights, you type in your travel dates, select your preferred airports, and choose departure and arrival times. Almost instantly, Google Flights will show you flight options on Delta, United, American, and Southwest. You pick the outbound and inbound flights that work best for you (they’re both on Delta) and book them without leaving Google Flights.
- OPTION 2
You have a Delta voucher from a flight you had to cancel a few months ago. If you use the voucher, your flight won’t cost you anything, but you have to book directly through Delta’s website. After searching their site for options, you login to your Delta account and book the ticket directly with them.>
This example is a little oversimplified, but it gives you a good idea of the principles underlying APIs and platforms.
In this scenario, the first option (Google Flights) is an example of an API. Google Flights’ API searches multiple travel websites for selections that match your parameters and brings all the information back to you on the same page. After you book the ticket, the API sends your personal and payment information to Delta to complete the booking process.
The second option, booking directly with Delta, is an example of a software platform. You might end up on the same flight as you would have if you’d used Google Flights, but all your information stays within Delta’s system the whole time.
Knowing which option—a shipping API or a shipping software platform—is right for your ecommerce business depends on multiple factors including the size of your company, the number of packages you ship, whether you ship internationally, what your budget is, and how much time you have to get your system up and running.
The following chart can help you make your decision:
|SHIPPING APIs||SHIPPING SOFTWARE|
|Works best for mid-size to large shippers (but can absolutely help small businesses)||Any size business|
|Work completed in existing workflows||Work completed inside the program|
|Developer-led installations||Quick, easy installations|
|Immediately functional||Requires extensive employee training|
Making it work—integrating a shipping API
To be fully functional, shipping APIs have to be installed by a software developer. They have the spells, er, technical skills needed to successfully connect platforms that may be built using different programming languages.
EHub’s shipping API has over 200 existing integrations, including for major carriers such as UPS, FedEx, USPS and DHL and for shopping platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, and Magento.
You can find our full list of integrations here, but know that if we don’t have an integration for your platforms, our talented developers can build one in a snap.
Whether you work on a platform we support or need a custom integration, EHub’s expert team take pride in guiding you through the entire implementation process so that your processes are as efficient as possible.
Don’t believe us? Check out what our client Sean Clark, CEO of Black Label CBD, says about our implementation process:
“The EHub team was really on top of the implementation processs. The team was incredibly helpful in pushing us to get things done and were very available.”
Ingredients in the potion: shipping API features
APIs aren’t “programs” like Microsoft Word. They are more like the spell check, word count, and design settings within Word itself.
When you are looking at shipping APIs, you should be looking for a company whose API enables multiple features, including:
- Discounted rates for domestic and international shipping
- Order aggregation
- Rate comparison capabilities
- Multicarrier support
- Address verification
- Label generation
- Package tracking
- Returns management
- Inventory management
- Options for insurance
- Analytics reporting
EHub’s shipping API offers all the features above and then some. We’ve negotiated global discount rates with all major carriers (USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.) that are lower than their published discounts. We can help you track and insure your packages or use your performance data to drive new efficiencies.
But the biggest difference between EHub and our competitors is the personal touch we’ve made our calling card. Instead of relying on automated chatbots or outdated FAQ pages on a website, our customers know they can call our in-house support team or reach out to their sales representative before, during, or after they implement EHub.
Not to brag or anything, but we’re basically a crystal ball that can answer all your questions.
Mastery is its own form of magic
Okay, this may surprise you a little, but EHub isn’t actually magic.
But we are a company of shipping experts and developer pros that are so good at our jobs we make it look like magic. If your shipping management program is ready for a little abracadabra, let’s talk.