Ecommerce APIs: What They Are and How They Work

Jan 23, 2023 by

Esther Christopher

Esther Christopher

Unlock the potential of open source ecommerce by learning about ecommerce APIs. Discover what they are, how they work, and their benefits for your business.
Ecommerce APIs are a means of interaction between an ecommerce platform and various backend systems. This interaction is needed in order to transfer information between software and use the data to fulfil ecommerce functionalities. Some of these ecommerce functionalities include Payment API, Login API, Customer API, Order API, Sales Tax API, and more.
Ecommerce APIs have changed and improved how ecommerce sites interact with each other. They have provided an avenue for seamless interaction and syncing of ecommerce functionalities to achieve business goals and provide effective solutions.
This article first discusses the basics of ecommerce APIs and an in-depth evaluation of an open source ecommerce API-first solution —Medusa.

What is an Ecommerce API?

Google defines APIs as a set of functions and procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other services.
Generally, an API defines how two pieces of software should communicate.
APIs work by connecting the platform with the backend to fetch data to be displayed on the ecommerce user interface. Different API architectures can be used but REST API has become widely adopted for building APIs. It makes use of HTTP requests to access the information from the server.
Going by the definition above, an ecommerce API is a service that integrates different components of an ecommerce store into a system that implements ecommerce functionalities. Some of these functionalities could include payments, shipping, order placement, location, and mapping.

Benefits of Ecommerce APIs

Ecommerce APIs have many benefits including:
  • Ecommerce APIs enable the transfer of information between one software and another and converge all the data on the frontend for users to interact with.
  • APIs make use of various third-party services and tools that provide advanced features like analytics, monitoring traffic and errors, etc. This gives ecommerce businesses access to these software functionalities without the need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Ecommerce APIs also add the micro-service functionalities needed by ecommerce stores to ensure ease of use for customers. Some of these micro-services include inventory, order, product, and payment.

Ecommerce API Examples

There are many ecommerce APIs that are essential for building an ecommerce platform.
Integrating these systems properly into your ecommerce platform makes it dynamic and ultimately improves its efficiency. These functionalities could serve as the edge needed to attract and retain customers in a competitive ecommerce market.

Customer APIs

A Customer API allows you to validate a user as the true account owner before granting them access to their ecommerce website account. The Customer API enables you to manage customer profiles and registration, as well as other profile functionalities.

Cart APIs

Cart APIs allow customers to choose items they want to purchase in an ecommerce store. It compiles tasks such as calculating prices of ordered items, applying discounts, and including taxes. While doing so, customers can also apply coupon codes or discount vouchers if any.

Product APIs

A Product API lets users view and verify product details from the product record. This provides users with all the basic information they might need, including product description, product image, product spec, product cost, and others.

Payment APIs

A Payment API creates payment processes such as a secure payment system, accepting different payment options, and integrating payment gateways such as Stripe payment gateways.

Shipping APIs

Shipping APIs are responsible for handling all the processes required to fulfil and deliver customers’ orders. Shipping APIs help ecommerce businesses to ship, track details, and fulfil customers’ orders directly from their ecommerce websites.
A shipping API can also give you the option of integrating different shipment services, such as DHL or USPS, for the best shipping experience for customers.

Order APIs

The Order API makes it possible for customers to place their orders. It is also responsible for management functionalities like cancelling an order, collecting necessary information needed for delivering orders, and generally sorting order information.

Medusa: An Open Source Ecommerce API Solution

Medusa is an open source, headless, ecommerce platform. It is a composable commerce platform built with Node.js to provide developers with a great experience in building an ecommerce solution without any hassle.
The server is headless; this means that the frontend is made separate from the backend to allow customizations on one end and interactions on the other. It makes it more viable for ecommerce owners who want to have control over their ecommerce ecosystem.
Developers with knowledge of JavaScript or TypeScript can work their way around Medusa as it is beginner-friendly and easy to start with.

Medusa’s Architecture

Medusa is made up of three components that provide developers with all the parts needed to build a fully-functional ecommerce store. You can either use all components or just the parts needed for your ecommerce and integrate them with other software. This makes Medusa a flexible platform.
These three components are:
  1. The Medusa Server: The backend is the core of the ecommerce store and the most integral part of the ecommerce platform for developers. Medusa makes it beginner-friendly for developers to build on the platform using API integration.
  2. The Storefront: This is the interface that ecommerce customers get to see and interact with. Medusa provides two storefronts built using Next.js and Gatsby. These frameworks generate a static website that connects to the headless server and makes the website fast. You can also build your storefront using the storefront API that the platform provides.
  3. The Medusa Admin: The Medusa Admin was created to help ecommerce store owners manage their businesses. They can manage their products, orders, customer interaction with the store, and other features using the admin panel. Medusa allows you to use the existing admin panel or build yours using the admin APIs.

How Medusa is an API-First Solution Built for Developers

In most cases, software companies build their platform and then add APIs as an add-on. An API-first solution approach means that the API is the core product and it ensures that all functionalities in the platform are obtainable to consumers through their APIs.
This solution gives consumers the luxury of scalability, flexibility, and performance. It is useful for automation or integration and allows you to access all of the functionalities of the platform.
Medusa was built from scratch as an API-first ecommerce solution that is to be consumed using its APIs. It offers two out-of-the-box APIs. The first API is for administration, while the second is for the storefront. It gives enterprises first-hand access to the core capabilities of the platform and allows you to customize per your business’s need.
An API-first solution mandates you to think about how developers will communicate with your API. You need to ensure their knowledge of its functionality and how they can easily interact with it. Subsequent maintenance and security standards should also be considered. The tools used to develop the API also have to be accounted for to make it compatible for easy integration.

Why Medusa is the #1 Choice for Developers

Certain features and functionalities make Medusa more desirable and developers’ first choice.
As Medusa is an open source solution, it can be customized to fit the business requirements. You can either use the platform as is, or pick it apart to implement the flows or features specific to your use case.
Developers can also utilize Medusa’s flexible architecture to implement custom functionalities through custom plugins. They can be used to customize the shopping experience to their business needs or integrate Medusa with other services, among other usages.
Medusa is an API-first solution platform with flexible customization for developers. The Medusa platform is a way out of the traditional eCommerce API, which provides developers with a platform to customize their ecommerce platforms while maintaining maximum performance and efficient service.
In addition, Medusa has an active community on Discord and GitHub. Developers can reach out to others for help if any issue arises. They can also report issues directly to the core Medusa team if necessary.

Ecommerce APIs Available in Medusa

The APIs highlighted as ecommerce API examples are some of the APIs available with Medusa. Some of the other ones also offered are explained below.

Sales Channel API

The Sales Channel API allows merchants to sell their items between multiple channels while having control over the products and orders in each channel. You also have the liberty of marketing each sales channel separately across the different platforms your business uses.
Business owners can create as many sales channels as necessary. They can indicate the available products when organizing the sales channel.
Medusa Admin allows you to filter orders by each sales channel. This way, the merchants can view all orders in one place as well as view orders from each specific sales channel.

Pricelist API

The Pricelist API was created to provide merchants with even more customization and extendibility options by allowing them to have more control over their pricing of products.
Asides from the default price selection strategy available, the pricelist API also provides merchants with the flexibility to customize and override product prices for specific customer groups, regions, general conditions, or discount prices for bulk orders.

Bulk Imports and Exports API

This API allows for bulk imports and exports of products into your ecommerce store on Medusa. You can also import other entities such as prices in a price list. This makes the process of migrating from other platforms to Medusa easier.
Developers can also customize existing import and export strategies in case they want to change the accepted column to eliminate the need to make changes to their CSV files. In addition, they can create their own strategy to import or export any entity such as customers or sales channels.

Tax APIs

Taxes in Medusa are associated with a specific region. A product can have the same price across different regions but a different tax rate is applied in each region.
Medusa handles the calculation of the applied tax rate in the backend. Medusa provides a default tax provider, but developers can implement a tax provider of their own to handle different tax calculations for different regions.
Furthermore, merchants can enable tax-inclusive pricing for regions, currencies, or price lists. This allows merchants to set a specific price for products or shipping options without having to manually calculate what taxes need to be implemented for different regions. Medusa handles the calculation of the taxes automatically during the checkout process.


This article discussed ecommerce APIs as a solution for developers to build composable and flexible ecommerce platforms. It provides a lot of benefits for both developers and businesses such as integrations with best-in-breed solutions and the ability to implement custom and advanced use cases within the platform.
Medusa is a composable commerce platform that uses ecommerce APIs by design. You can use Medusa’s existing APIs that provide features related to products, carts, orders, and more. You can also create custom APIs specific to your business use case.
Check out the Medusa documentation to learn how to get started.
Should you have any issues or questions related to Medusa, then feel free to reach out to the Medusa team via Discord.

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