API is short for Application Programming Interface and allow programmers to integrate various solutions. API is hot, and it has a lot of advantages. Not ALL web-to-print solutions offer an API, and most have a relatively limited API. Yet, other solutions have integration points already integrated as part of the solution. Quite a few web-to-print solutions offer integration directly to i.e., PayPal, UPS, USPS, MailChimp, Dropbox, and other well-known applications. This is, of course, great, and for most, maybe all they need.
Some of the web-to-print solutions offer APIs that make it possible for other solutions to exchange data.
I believe that most see web-to-print APIs as a solution to how the web-to-print solution can be integrated with i.e., workflow solutions, ERP/MIS systems, etc. However, comprehensive APIs allow printers to offer services that take advantage of the web-to-print solutions infrastructure without the need for the user-interface (storefront).
Solutions like CHILI publisher, Tilialabs Phoenix, and Enfocus Switch have comprehensive APIs and can automate many processes without the need to access the user-interface.
You may argue that you can automate the processes without the web-to-print solutions, but as you may have read in one of my other articles this week, everything depends on where your product creation starts.
With more and more online-based solutions in general, the need for users to automate and integrate solutions without the need of a programmer is evident. An online service called Zapier.com connect zapier-enabled applications - and we talk comprehensive integrations in an easy to use drag and drop way.
An example could be to automate billing. Another to add contacts in your CRM. A third could be to automate dropbox actions, and so forth. Some web-to-print solutions are integrated with zapier.com. Some, however, have only limited integration points, and most don't have any at all.
APIs are for programmers, so again regardless of what solution you invest in, you will need to have people that can support your development needs. The advantage of the APIs is, however, that you don't need developers to make custom-development - making life easier and considerably cheaper.