Webhooks are different from APIs, which allow for communication between different applications but work in a different way. An API is a set of protocols and routines for building and interacting with software applications, whereas a webhook is a way for one application to notify another application when a specific event occurs.
In other words, an API allows you to retrieve data, while a webhook allows data to be pushed to you. This means that instead of having to poll for new data, you can receive data in real time through webhooks.
Webhooks can be useful for a variety of use cases, such as automating various processes and improving workflow. However, it is important to note that setting up webhooks can be a simple process, but it does require some technical knowledge.
Read on to learn more about webhooks and how to leverage them for your website.
What are webhooks, and how do they work?
Small business owners use a lot of technology without even realizing it. Your website, customer relationship management software, live chat tools, and even your accounting application are all examples of technology you use daily to grow your business.
Unfortunately, you may notice some apps don't communicate with one another, which means having to use manual processes to enter data and ensure all your tools are up to date.
Luckily, there is a way for technology to communicate. Webhooks allow your technologies to talk to each other by syncing and sending data to ensure your records are up to date, no matter which technology you use. For example, webhooks are responsible for updating your inventory software anytime there's a purchase on your website
Understanding webhooks can be confusing, especially if you don't have a development background. Ultimately, they can automate several tasks within your organization to reduce the need for manual entry. Let's discuss the webhook definition and how webhooks can be used to improve your business.
Using HTTPS as your webhook URL is recommended, as all modern websites should have these security protocols in place. However, URLs with or without SSL certificates allow applications to communicate with one another.
Webhooks are sometimes referred to as push APIs or reverse APIs because instead of pulling data from one system to another, they push the data to update it in real-time. In either case, the webhook's meaning is the same; it enables you to share data. Webhooks work by making an HTTP request from one application to another.
An example of a webhook is when a customer makes a purchase on your website, and the information is immediately uploaded to your inventory management and shipping system, notifying you to start the order.
Instead of your inventory management system requesting information at a set interval, it will automatically receive the sales information from the website in real-time. Therefore, rather than requesting data from the website, the webhook immediately sends the details to another app.
Webhooks are created using a trigger system. You can configure an event and trigger for when the second application is sent the information. Anything can trigger a webhook, including user logins, purchases, and even Slack messages. After the triggers are configured and published, the webhook will send the event to the second application as soon as they happen, transferring the correct information immediately.
What is the difference between webhooks and APIs?
Websites and APIs are similar because they both enable you to send and retrieve data, but they differ in how they work and their efficiency.
Application Programming Interface (API)
Application Programming Interfaces are request-based and use polling, which means it sends an HTTP request to the server to check for new information based on an interval you set. Therefore, it does not provide real-time data because it polls information and looks for it periodically.
Webhooks are often called reverse APIs because they push data instead of pulling it. Webhooks send data as soon as an event occurs, allowing one app to receive information from another in real-time. Webhooks are not request-based, so they do not require HTTP requests. Instead, there's no waiting for one app to communicate with another to send the relevant data since the requested data is based on triggers and events.
What are the benefits of using webhooks for businesses?
As mentioned, webhooks allow applications and systems to communicate in real-time by pushing information or data from one to another.
Additional benefits of using webhooks include:
The most significant benefit of webhooks is that they allow you to automate workflows within your organization.
With webhooks, users can set up triggers to determine which events send data to a different application. Since the data transfer is instantaneous, automation is often seamless and effortless. There's no limit to what you can automate.
For example, you can have events from social media marketing recorded in a spreadsheet or set up alerts for employees when they receive an email from a client.
Deliver information in real time
Many applications support webhook integrations, allowing them to communicate live with other software. The information from one application is delivered to another in real time, reducing the time it takes to receive the correct information from another system.
With real-time data delivery, there's no need for human intervention; instead, the webhook will ensure the correct data is sent to the right place.
Webhooks reduce the need for the manual entry of data and allow teams to accomplish more work in less time without setting up complicated processes or human error.
Webhooks push data into other applications as soon as an event occurs instead of periodically checking for new information, making processes with webhooks more effective because there's no waiting time to receive the information.
Easy to set up
Webhooks require minimal setup than other processes because they use HTTP, which moves data between browsers and servers for many websites. Websites with established HTTP allow them to easily be set up without creating new code for a website.
Instead, you'll receive the webhook URL from the system where you want to send the data and use the code in the application section where you wish to receive data.
What are the limitations of using webhooks?
In the case of webhooks vs. APIs, you might wonder why anyone would still use an API since they're less efficient and productive. A few limitations of webhooks include the following:
Not always supported
Unfortunately, not all applications support webhooks. However, several types of third-party app providers can help you send webhooks by connecting apps that don't have integrations and allowing them to pass data.
Less functionality than APIs
Webhooks only allow for data to be received from one application for another. Therefore, they can't be used for complicated integrations that require bi-directional communication.
Potential for lost data
With webhooks, you won't be alerted if an application or server is down for tails to send data.
Since you'll only receive data when events occur, you won't receive any information if the other system is down. However, with APIs, you'll receive an error response alerting you that the system isn't functional.
Webhooks will attempt to resend data, but they will only try so many times before stopping. Therefore, you'll need another system to know when an application is down to prevent you from losing information.
When should you use webhooks?
Webhooks are one-way communications from one application to another. While they allow you to send data from one place to a destination, the applications cannot communicate back and forth.
However, there are several ways to use a webhook, and how you use them depends on the triggering events you want to use. Here are some instances of when you can use webhooks:
With webhooks, you can trigger events within certain campaigns to pass data from one application to another. For example, with mobile app marketing, you can update your subscriber list every time a new user signs up for your app or use it for marketing automation to update your audience lists and contact information when someone takes action on your website.
Salespeople can use webhooks for online customer interactions, alerting them of changes in shipping and delivery information or updating customer details in sales systems.
Banks can use several applications at once, making it difficult to keep systems and information up to date. In this case, banks can set up webhooks that change the total money in an account or on a credit card when there's a new charge.
Webhooks can connect your company's many apps and allow the information to be centralized in one place. Communication, productivity, business intelligence, and other apps can use webhooks to alert you of different notifications.
How do you implement webhooks in an application?
Now that you know the answer to “what is a webhook?”, it’s time to use them. Webhooks can be helpful in all aspects of your business, but you must ensure the applications can communicate with webhooks. To connect apps with webhooks, follow these steps:
- Retrieve the webhook URL from the application that will receive the data.
- Use the webhook URL in the webhook section of the receiving application.
- Set up your trigger events and implement event reactions (the events you want the application to notify you about or types of data you want to be sent from one application to another).
- Test webhooks to ensure they're working properly and are able to transfer new data from one system to another.
Webhooks are public URLs, so they must be secured. There are several methods of securing your webhooks, but the easiest is using a transport layer security (TLS) protocol that offers end-to-end security.
Setting up webhooks for your business
Webhooks allow you to automate workflows by sending data from one application to another. They're a useful tool that can help you collect information about your subscribers in real-time. For example, with Mailchimp, you can create webhooks for several events, including profile updates, unsubscribes, and other circumstances, to send notifications and update your CRM system.
Webhooks can also update your contact lists when someone fills out a form on your website. Mailchimp allows you to make a great website and deliver data to other applications to help manage your customers and subscribers. Try Mailchimp today to learn how webhooks can automate your marketing campaigns.