What is a Customer API? Fueling Better Customer Experiences


What’s the role of APIs in the experience economy?

APIs are the building blocks for creating new experiences for customers and employees. They power mobile apps, web apps, IoT devices and are used to exchange business-critical information. They also enable apps to interact with each other. APIs play a key role in digital and customer experience initiatives. For example, APIs allow you to build new experiences that enable your customers to order online and do curbside pick up.

What common APIs are used to build new experiences?

There are many free and paid for APIs available for building new experiences. Here is a list of some of the most common APIs used today:

What is a Customer API?

A customer API puts the customer into the experience. When designing a new experience, customer data plays a key role. Developers need to answer these questions: 

  1. Where does the customer data come from to power these new mobile and web apps? 
  2. How will the login or registration process work? Will the customer be asked to create a new customer record or will they be asked to enter a select set of data that will allow for a real-time match with existing data?
  3. Will this experience be disconnected from other experiences or is the goal to use one set of customer data across experiences so they are connected
  4. What data is needed from the customer profile to make the workflow actionable? For example, where will the phone number come from if Twilio is used to send an SMS text a message that the customer’s order is ready for curbside pickup? 
  5. And, more importantly, did the customer give permission to SMS text them or would they prefer to get an email or phone call? Where do those communication preferences come from? 
  6. What other preferences are important to deliver a great experience? How do companies put the “customer” into their customer experience?

What is the value of a Customer API?

A customer API is the most efficient way to get value from the customer data you collect for consistent use across the enterprise. It allows you to connect systems together for the easy exchange of reliable customer information. A customer API provides a central source of accurate customer data that all operational and analytical systems can access rather than relying on point-to-point integrations with individual data sources. Customer APIs are increasingly being used to assemble new customer experiences and launch new revenue models. 

How does Reltio deliver a Customer API?

The Reltio customer API puts the customer in customer experience. Reltio provides a responsive data platform that ensures business agility to organizations by connecting data from all applications and systems, both on-premises and in the cloud with an API-led approach.

Many Global 2000 companies use Reltio Connected Customer 360 as their customer API. They recognize that their customer data is the most valuable, unique, and differentiating asset that can create a hyper-personalized customer experience. They power all of their experiences across digital and human touchpoints with unified, real-time, preference-rich, and connected customer 360 profiles. Reltio provides API scalability, performance, and resilience. 

99% of Reltio customers use our API-first approach to power their real-time operations with connected customer 360 profiles for their business customer and consumer interactions. 

Watch this video with Manish Sood, Reltio CTO, Founder & Chairman, to learn more about Customer APIs or read this transcript from the video below.

Can’t watch a video right now? Read the interview below.

Jakki Geiger: Reltio’s vision is to power the experiences of the future with the data that matters most to companies. From March 2020, CFOs and CIOs have been working together to make cuts to the IT budget. But there are two initiatives that continue to get funding:

1) digital transformation 

2) customer experience

We know that companies are setting themselves up to thrive in the experience economy. Let’s talk about what you’re hearing from our Global 2000 customers. How are they thinking about customer data differently for the experience economy?

Manish Sood: One thing has become very clear in my conversations with customers about digital transformation and customer experience outcomes. They have a customer API to stitch together new experiences. For example, one restaurant franchise we work with launched a mobile app that enables customers to order sandwiches without stepping into the store. You go to your mobile phone, find the store location, pick the particular sandwich combination that you want, and they have it ready by the time you go into the store.

To build an app like this, developers need the mobile app framework and a payments API to process a credit card transaction. They need a messaging API because once the sandwich is ready, you want the customer to receive a text message or an email that alerts them when their sandwich will be ready. A customer API connects to all of the customer information needed to deliver that experience to the customer.

At Reltio, we are not just cloud-native. We are API first. We put the customer in the “customer experience.” Companies use our customer API to power their experiences with connected customer 360 profiles. We enable companies to launch new experiences faster by providing that foundation of unified, real-time, preference rich and connected customer data that can be reused across digital and human interactions to create a connected rather than a disjointed experience across touchpoints. 

Jakki: The needs for customer data have grown exponentially. Can you share the business requirements for a customer API?

Manish: A customer API has to deliver in three key areas: 

  • Enables hyper-personalization Do you have the information about your customers to tailor the experience to their needs? What are all the attributes and details you need? Do you need to understand their relationships? If so, which ones? What about their interactions? A customer API should deliver a connected customer 360 view to tailor the customer experience.
  • Meets the needs of real-time operations at scale We can no longer wait for a 24-hour look back. That type of rearview mirror analysis is a non-starter for the experience economy.  Now you need the information in real-time at the point of engagement. You need to be able to respond with an offer that can be attractive to a customer within 150 or 200-millisecond timeframes. You have to ask yourself, what is the information about the customer you need at scale and in real-time to make this possible?
  • Simplifies compliance with privacy laws, consent and communication preferences Customers have to be enabled to manage their own privacy and consent information. Unfortunately, at most companies, the privacy and consent information is gathered through multiple applications that support multiple experiences. In the experience economy,  your customer API should deliver a unified approach to managing consent and communication preferences across touchpoints. And, you should be able to surface it to the consumer to update it.

Jakki: Let’s talk briefly about the ability to respond fast. In our conversations with Chief Data officers CDOs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), enterprise architects, they want to have speed, agility, and fast time-to-value. How does Reltio’s customer API live up to that?

Manish: The responsiveness has to be measured along three dimensions:

    1. How quickly are you able to get it up and running, so that you can start leveraging it and getting value out of it? 
    2. Can your customer API respond fast enough to support real-time operational use cases
    3. How flexible is your customer API? Customer data is not static. It’s dynamic. And, in most Global 2000 companies, the amount of customer data is growing and the need for real-time customer data is exploding. In fact, that was the inspiration for Rob Fuller, Customer Data Orchestration Practice Lead at Accenture Interactive, to write this blog, The Need for Real-Time Customer Data is Exploding. There are always more data sources, more attributes, more relationships, more transactions and interactions that can augment this connected customer 360 profile that you’re creating. Your customer API has to be flexible enough to accommodate all those changes, without bringing the system down. Availability is key to supporting your business 24/7.


What are some examples of business value from a customer API? 

Having a responsive data platform that connects to other systems using an API approach delivers significant business value. 

  • Accelerate Real-Time Operations: 
      • Enables real-time operations and connected customer experiences across digital and human interactions. 
      • Gives customer-facing employees the confidence to know with certainty who they are interacting with, if they’ve interacted with them before, when the interaction took place, what was discussed, and the outcome of that interaction. They no longer have to check multiple systems, because they have access to unified, real-time, preference-rich connected customer 360 profiles to support their interactions.
      • It allows employees to respect the communication preferences of customers: (SMS vs. Email vs. Phone)
      • For marketing teams, it allows them to understand the true lead to conversion rates. 
  • Gain Actionable Insights from Analytics: Powers EDWs and analytics platforms with unified, real-time, preference-rich connected customer 360 profiles to gain actionable insights.

What types of apps are being built with a customer API? 

A variety of apps are being built using a customer API. Some typical examples include:

  1. Subway Mobile App: This app allows you to order your favorite meals and access Express Pickup. Customize your order. Save your favorite sandwich. Find a restaurant near you. Get personalized digital coupons. Earn on purchases. Pay for your sandwich ahead of time or scan to pay. Add and manage your offers and rewards. It now supports curbside pick-up!
  2. Clienteling App for a Luxury Retailer: This is an app for 5,000 store associates. To make up for the customer data limitations of clienteling apps, some retailers are building relationship apps that are powered by a customer API. With Reltio’s API-first approach, you can inject intelligence and enrich data for any user, any application, across all touchpoints. In addition to internal apps that help employees, they also use this customer API to power new customer experiences. Rather than creating another customer data silo, they connect these apps to their responsive data management platform that delivers unified, real-time, preference-rich and connected customer 360 profiles wherever they are needed and tailored to the business need.
  3. HCP Finder for Life Sciences Companies: This is a mobile app for 1000s of pharma sales reps who spend most of their time on talking to healthcare providers (HCP). Medical reps use it to know where to drop off or send literature and samples of medicines that can help their patients. It allows sales reps to identify all the HCPs in a particular area of a particular specialty. They can access contact information as well as the relationships between HCPs and their Healthcare Organizations (HCOs). They use it to suggest changes to HCP information. For example, if an HCP changed locations, or changed their specialty from pediatrics to family, they use the mobile app to submit a data change request. 
  4. Mortgage Lending Experience: Using a customer API for all customer-facing interactions including digital, marketing, and sales and systems such as Salesforce to foster meaningful client relationships and provide the speed of certainty to clients. This resulted in 70% higher conversion rates than without customer API.                                                                                                


Think of Reltio Connected Customer 360 as a recomposable Customer API that can support any use case. Here are some stats about Reltio’s performance and scale just in the last 30 days. You’ll see the data under management as well as the number of API calls. 

Data Under Management at Reltio

What are the data orchestration capabilities of Reltio C0nnected Customer 360?

Learn more about Data Orchestration in the API economy and the Reltio API for customer data.  Find out more about how we lead with an API approach with Real-time APIs and Event Streaming. Reltio provides API support for many other data operations for Entities, Relationships, and Transaction/Interaction data:

  • Search
  • Data Change Requests (DCR)
  • Lookup codes and reference data
  • Data as a Service
  • Export

Download the white paper to learn more!

Reltio Whitepaper: Data Orchestration in the API Economy


For Reltio customers, read the updated Customer APIs section in Reltio Documentation.


Related Posts