API computing image - shorter

Access APIs - Making All Our Lives Easier

This is the API that Access built.

This is the data that’s easier to share
Because of the API that Access built.

This is the member who is saving today
Thanks to the data that’s easier to share
Because of the API that Access built.

This is the client enjoying the loyalty
Of the happy member who is saving today
Thanks to the data that’s easier to share
Because of the API that Access built.

This is the website (with exclusive deals)
Run by the client enjoying the loyalty
Of the happy member who is saving today
Thanks to the data that’s easier to share
Because of the API that Access built.

This is the coupon with the unique code
Found on the website (with exclusive deals)
Run by the client enjoying the loyalty
Of the happy member who is saving today
Thanks to the data that’s easier to share
Because of the API that Access built.

Thank you, Mother Goose, for illustrating the ripple effect benefiting so many Access Development clients, members and merchants. All because of the API that Access built.

In case this nursery rhyme doesn’t fully explain why we’re so excited about our API here at Access, please allow me to explain further.

Wait, What Even is an API?

Have you ever searched on your phone for a funny gif to text your friend and brought up hundreds of options with a single key word search? You can thank an API.

Have you ever researched a restaurant online and been automatically presented a handy map to lead you there? You can thank an API.

Have you ever viewed an item on a shopping site and then later (rather creepily) been presented an advertisement for that same product on a completely unrelated website? Yep, you can thank an API for that too.

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are handy little tools designed to help different software components communicate with each other. When they’re working right, consumers will never see them or know they are there. But programmers sure take notice, since APIs make their jobs a lot easier and, let’s face it, a lot harder to mess up.

APIs are especially useful for sharing information between companies, when IT departments are unlikely to be familiar with each other’s software functionalities.

New call-to-action

Access Needed an API… or Three

As a loyalty program and member benefits for associations provider, Access Development specializes in connecting organizations, their members and local businesses together. As a result, we work with a growing number of each: hundreds of clients, millions of members and over 300,000 merchant partners. And each one requires an exchange of data.

Not too long ago, those data exchanges required the direct oversight of our IT team. As you can imagine, the more growth Access enjoyed (a great thing!), the more manual labor was required to keep things running smooth (not such a great thing).

And that wasn’t even the biggest hurdle Access faced. When partners came to us with certain technology requests, our best solution was inadequate – or worse, non-existent. Ouch.

Our processes definitely needed an upgrade.   

We didn’t want to be “good enough” anymore, so we made a plan to revolutionize our software development and make America’s largest discount network more accessible to more organizations. In 2014, our Software Development team started programming three strategic APIs to address our biggest pain points:

Offers API

Historically, clients have had two primary options for delivering Access discount membership programs to their members. The first is our ready-made, white-label discount website and mobile coupons app, which many prefer because of how easy they are to get started.

However, some choose to build their own “delivery systems” because it allows for robust customization on behalf of their unique users.

We’ve long had a solution to help clients integrate the Access deals into their own platforms, but it wasn’t always easy. We could send our base program information, but it was up to them to rebuild the structure from scratch. This often took hours (and hours) of work. Only clients with large technical departments would even consider this option.

James Reynolds, VP of Software Development at Access, worked extensively on the Access Offers API. Using the API, clients can now quickly integrate our deals onto a site they host, along with the extensive search capabilities we’ve spent years refining.

“With even one developer, they can start writing code for an app that works with our APIs,” says Reynolds. “Before, having one person try to implement our system would have taken forever. It just wouldn’t be practical.”

Imagine Access as a catering company. Under the old system, Access would send over the raw ingredients and a recipe, letting the client figure the rest out. With the Offers API, Access sends a fully cooked meal, complete with the table settings and wait staff. All the client has to do is arrange when, where and how they want to consume it.

New Call-to-action

Member Management API

Access discounts are private, meaning every member must have a personal profile and login permission.

In the past, clients sent lists of members and waited while our teams processed them. It doesn’t sound so bad until you consider how many organizations have a continual flow of members in and out of their database. Not only did this often mean a substantial wait time before members could start saving, it also meant Access employees were continually processing incoming lists.

Thanks to the Member Management API, clients can now upload members themselves, even one at a time, gaining them near-instantaneous access to our deals.

The API speeds the process for them, while freeing up our team to perform other tasks on behalf of clients.

Offer Redemption API

Out of necessity, printable coupons used to contain promo codes that were essentially the same for every member. While not ideal, most merchants were okay with this solution.

However, some big brands were unable to work with Access until we could provide the security of serialized coupons that keep them from being shared on public deal sites (and potentially diminish the "special" nature of the offer). Sadly, our members were losing out on deals we knew they would love.

The Offer Redemption API opened those doors. Now every time a member redeems an offer, the API automatically builds a customized one-time use coupon with unique code and/or barcode.

“Even cooler from my perspective is that it gives us the opportunity to innovate our services centrally without requiring additional development from our partners,” says Reynolds. “We change a coupon and it doesn’t break anything that they’ve written.”

Already Paying Off

If the whole thing sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it was. And while just being able to serve our partners better would have been a worthy goal by itself, Access is able to benefit from the work too.

“There’s a saying in the software development world: You have to eat your own dogfood,” says Reynolds. “We use the APIs to serve up information for our applications too. So it’s become the backbone system of record for all our discount and rewards offers.”

New Call-to-action

It may have taken over a year of dedicated effort to build, but in the long run it’s already saved more time (ours and that of our clients) than it took to create.

For tech types seeking a more complete explanation, we’ll be more than happy to provide one. But for now, Reynolds says they’ll probably be most excited to learn that “it’s a RESTful web service that returns in JSON or XML and includes HATEOAS navigation.”

Whether you understood that or not, hopefully you can see how much everyone benefits because of the API that Access built.

New call-to-action

Topics: Customer Engagement, partnership marketing, Discount Programs, private discount programs, customer loyalty, Membership Organizations, IT, loyalty programs, API

Written by: Kendra Lusty

For over a decade, Kendra Lusty has been a writer for Access Development, and currently focuses her research and writing on topics related to loyalty and engagement.

Share your Comment.