Blockbuster Video is launching an API called "Blockbuster Everywhere." The new cross-channel API is designed to deliver films, reviews and real-time inventory to devices that include phones, set top boxes, gaming consoles and other point-of-sale locations such as gas stations.
The Blockbuster story is another example of how companies are re-architecting through open API's to reconfigure their businesses. A point of sale can be in any number of places. It may be a store, the Web or through a platform like Tivo.
Open API's are lightweight, flexible and relatively affordable. And that's just what Blockbuster needs. Blockbuster has been close to bankruptcy. The company plans to close 20% of its stores by 2011.
An API strategy gives Blockbuster the leverage to give the customer a unified experience across multiple channels. It also opens new ways to sell products, as the API can present the right information at the right time on the platform of the customer's choice. For instance, that may mean doing a check on the availability of a film at local stores. It may also mean accessing Blockbuster through a smartphone or other devices. Blockbuser is limiting the API to its partners but may open it up in the future. Partners include Tivo, Samsung and HTC.
The new API strategy comes after two years of work to consolidate Blockbuster's multiple channels to represent its new philosophy: "One Customer, One Blockbuster."
The time was right to make the transition. API's were on the rise. But for a while it looked like it would be a massively expensive, heavyweight integration.
In 2008, open API's began to appear in enterprise environments. But for the most part, customers received pitches like Blockbuster did from the big technology companies to "blow up the databases," said Mike Debnar, Blockbuster's VP of retail systems.
And the cost? Some bids came in at $1 million.
In 2009, a convergence came. CEO James Keyes became a strong partner in a customer focused strategy. The company started aggregating its legacy data to integrate into an API that it built with Sonoa Systems.
Sonoa worked with Blockbuster to develop an API that is built on RESTful Web services. It can be easily managed by a small team. The API is integrated with back office systems.
Blockbuster is also updating its iPhone app to reflect the new cross-channel efforts.
Sam Ramji of Sonoa puts it this way. The API gives Blockbuster greater possibilities to reach across a number of varied channels.
It may seem far away but retailers are preparing for the holiday season. And where may customers be shopping?
Perhaps in the store or from their desktop. But it's also likely they will be on the couch using their iPad to buy their holiday gifts.