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What is a REST API and How Can It Benefit Your Business?

Learn more about what REST APIs are, how they work, and how they benefit your business.

REST APIs help two software applications communicate and transmit data. If you use any software that integrates with another program, you're already familiar with APIs and how they work.

When you integrate one application with another, you use APIs, simplifying website and app development to help your business save time and money. For instance, manufacturers might integrate their accounting and inventory management systems to manage their finances better.

REST APIs are typically used for public products and services because they give developers more flexibility. But what is a REST API, and how can you use it in your business today? Keep reading to learn more about RESTful APIs, including their uses, how they work, and their advantages.

REST API meaning: What is a RESTful API?

Here's the REST API definition: An application programming interface (API or web API) that follows a set of architectural rules for how applications can communicate with one another using HTTP methods. RESTful web services use the REST API protocol, so they're sometimes referred to as RESTful APIs.

So what does REST stand for? Representational State Transfer. REST is an architectural style, not a protocol, making it more flexible than other APIs like simple object access protocol (SOAP). REST is commonly used for public APIs because it's flexible, allowing 2 different software applications to communicate and pass data back and forth.

Understanding what REST APIs are can be challenging because most people don't see the backend of a website. Real-world applications for REST APIs include integrations with various programs, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software connecting with social media channels to schedule posts and communications in advance. Additionally, these APIs can improve behavioral targeting by integrating customer data with various marketing platforms like your email marketing or advertising software.

Regular consumers come into contact with RESTful APIs throughout the day. For instance, if you've ever logged into a website using Facebook or Gmail, you've used a REST API that allows one software or website to communicate with another to log you in.

Another example of a RESTful API is when you're shopping online and choose to checkout with PayPal. Many e-commerce websites allow this payment method because it's convenient for customers. As a result, you're transferred to the PayPal login page, which takes you through a series of steps to finalize your purchase.

Ways to use REST APIs

Any application you integrate with another uses APIs. These APIs are common in today's business world, allowing businesses to scale, provide better customer experiences, and grow without hiring more developers to make one software or website communicate with third-party applications. Instead, one company creates a public API that can streamline workflows on e-commerce websites.

There are several use cases for REST APIs, including cloud applications, computing, microservices, and web services. Marketing is one area of business that benefits from APIs the most. With digital marketing becoming the preferred method for attracting and retaining customers, there must be a method for marketing and software to intersect.

Here are just some of the ways APIs supplement your marketing efforts:


Automated marketing tools like CRMs, social media, and email marketing software increase efficiency and productivity. They allow workers to focus on more important business initiatives, such as developing effective marketing strategies instead of time-consuming tasks like data entry. Marketing automation requires REST APIs that enable you to integrate various types of software. For instance, you can connect your website analytics with email analytics in a marketing dashboard to help you track all your campaigns simultaneously.

Data and analytics

Integrations grow your business and help marketers and business owners make better decisions. When you integrate analytics from various campaigns, your website, social media, and email marketing efforts, you can paint a clear picture of your efforts to determine whether you're reaching your goals.

Additionally, improved access to marketing metrics can help you develop an email personalization strategy based on data collected from various sources, such as social media platforms, CRMs, websites, and so forth.

Email marketing

Email marketing APIs allow marketers to send transactional messages like order confirmations and shipping information. To do this, they work with email servers to automatically notify customers of their transactions via email after they place an order and when it ships.

Social media

Most major social media networks use APIs to help you gather customer marketing metrics. Additionally, these APIs enable you to add social media feeds directly to your website. Social media APIs can also integrate directly with your CRM and other tools to ensure you have all the data you need to create more personalized campaigns.

Customer convenience

APIs are convenient for your business and customers. For instance, you can add multiple payment options like PayPal or Google Pay to your e-commerce website without additional coding . Instead, you simply use the REST API design intended for payment processing, thus improving client functionality.

How does a REST API work?

A RESTful web service is used during application and web development. When using these APIs, businesses need to add the API to the appropriate location on their site or app rather than code it.

Here are a few terms that can help you understand how the REST architectural style works:

  • Client. The client is the program that uses the API. For instance, if you want to implement a REST API on your e-commerce website, your website is the client. The client is responsible for sending HTTP requests to the API to retrieve information. Then, that information is sent back to your website.
  • Resource. The resource is the information provided to the client and is accessible via the uniform resource identifier (URI). In our PayPal example, the resource is the financial information, including someone's bank account number, name, and address. In many cases, the resource will include a timestamp known as a resource representation.
  • Server. The server receives client requests. In our example, it would be PayPal's server, which is responsible for sending a response without giving your website access to its entire database of customer information.

Let's review our REST API definition again: A RESTful API is a Representational State Transfer application programming interface. This means that when a client sends a request, the server transfers the information back to its current state — the exact information the server has at the moment of the request.

Now let's go back to our example of your e-commerce website using a PayPal payments integration where your website represents the client. The layered system architecture of REST looks something like this:

  1. Your website sends a client request for transactional data to PayPal, which sends the customer to a PayPal login.
  2. PayPal receives the request. The customer will accept the charges and continue checking out using PayPal.
  3. PayPal's server responds to your website's request with the appropriate resource, which is the customer's financial and shipping information. The customer is transferred back to your website to finalize their order.

Advantages of REST APIs

REST APIs are a popular choice for businesses and web developers because they're flexible, so it's no shock that they have a 93.4% adoption rate.

A few of the most significant benefits of using the REST APIs include the following:


REST APIs are more flexible than other APIs, allowing them to scale with your business. Since these APIs aren't a protocol but an architectural style, they don't retain past client requests, so they're less bloated than other types of APIs like SOAP.


REST APIs can handle many API requests and aren't limited by format. For instance, these APIs can be used to help users log in to a site, integrate software to be used by internal teams, create dashboards, and manage payment solutions. Ultimately, there's no limit to what you can do with REST APIs, making them suited for all types of businesses.


With A RESTful API, the uniform interface separates the client and server, allowing clients to communicate with various servers simultaneously. This independence makes it easy to develop almost anything you can think of and enhances the API's flexibility and scalability.


REST can carry out requests and send information back in several data formats, including JSON, HTML, and XML because it uses HTTP protocol. Since it doesn't require a specific format, a RESTful API is faster and less bloated, making it the ideal solution for websites and apps.

Drawbacks of using REST APIs

While RESTful APIs are preferred by many developers and for public APIs, there are a few limitations and drawbacks. For instance, building a new REST API is complex, and there's no standard for how it can be constructed and implemented. Therefore, if a new developer takes over the task without documentation, it can be challenging to understand how the API works and if it was built with REST principles.

Ultimately, the only way to know how any REST API works is by reading documentation or the source code if you can access it. Even REST APIs that seem similar can have different methods, so you'll have to learn about new ones every time you use them.

Additionally, some clients may have data storage concerns since these APIs don't retain data. Another type of API might be better in these cases, depending on the software you're developing.

Using REST APIs at your business

So what are REST APIs? A RESTful API can help your business scale while avoiding costs and labor associated with building new APIs. Instead, you can take advantage of many of the public APIs available from software and application companies to improve your web services, convert more customers, and manage your data.

Mailchimp offers thousands of integrations that support your business goals. Use shipping, payment, inventory management, and other types of software from one easy-to-use dashboard to begin scaling your business today.

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