What is “API-First” and why does it matter for your venue?

In the bustling world of theme parks, zoos, and indoor venues, diversity in suppliers for various services and products is the norm. From the ride manufacturer(s) to the F&B provider, each supplier operates independently, and no interaction is required. However, when we look at the IT infrastructure that powers these venues, the story is different. Unlike physical suppliers, software solutions underpinning venue operations must communicate and work together harmoniously to ensure a seamless visitor experience. Without this communication, guests will face disjointed services, leading to frustration and a poor visitor experience.

Here are some examples that we have come across:

  • Day tickets or season passes sold online that don’t get synced to access management solutions, leading to long queues at the entrance as operators need to manually check every visitor. This not only frustrates guests who have to wait longer but also overburdens staff, leading to delays and potential errors.

  • Parking tickets that don’t automatically sync license plates to parking management systems, causing traffic jams as visitors wait to enter the parking lot. The result is traffic congestion, delayed park entry, and an overall negative first impression for guests arriving at the venue.

  • Special event tickets or show passes sold separately from general admission tickets, without syncing with the venue’s main scheduling system, leading to overbookings or conflicts. Overcrowded venues bring safety concerns, and an inability to accommodate all ticket holders comfortably.

  • Membership or loyalty program data not integrated with on-site systems, leading to guests being unable to redeem rewards or access member-exclusive areas seamlessly. This diminishes the value of loyalty programs and creates potential loss of repeat customers.

  • Tickets sold through resellers or Online Ticketing Agencies that are not properly synced with venue timeslots and capacity, leading to accidental overbookings. This can be an operational nightmare to resolve, and customer satisfaction will suffer.

It can be tempting to think that these problems can be avoided by choosing a software solution that integrates all venue IT into a single suite. But the reality is that such a solution does not exist, and vendors that promise to solve all your IT problems fail to deliver in practice. Fortunately, there is an alternative: using different software solutions and making them work together.

The magic behind the scenes: How software solutions cooperate

At the heart of a seamless cooperation between different software solutions lies the API, or Application Programming Interface. Imagine the API as a theme park map that guides visitors to various attractions. Just as the map provides the routes and information needed to get from one ride to another, an API provides the pathways and instructions that allow different software applications to interact and share information, guiding data where it needs to go. In the digital realm, APIs allow software solutions like ticketing systems, entry gates, parking solutions, and other systems to exchange information and work together, creating a great experience for visitors while saving time for operators.

The concept of API-first takes this idea a step further. API-first is a design philosophy that prioritizes the development of APIs at the beginning of the software creation process. This approach ensures that the software can easily communicate with other applications and systems from the get-go. It's like planning a city with roads and infrastructure before building the houses and shops; by ensuring the foundational elements for connectivity are in place first, you make it easier to add, expand, or modify the city (or in this case, the software ecosystem) later on. API-first design promotes flexibility, scalability, and integration capabilities, making it easier to adapt to changing needs and technologies.

So why would you care? If you select the right vendors for the different elements of your IT landscape, you save yourself time and money while giving your visitors an experience upgrade. 

Spotting API-first solutions

So, how do you identify software vendors that embody the API-first philosophy? Here are a few indicators:

Public Documentation: Look for solutions that offer comprehensive, accessible API documentation. This transparency is a sign that the vendor values integration and is committed to making their system as compatible as possible.

Prebuilt Integrations: Vendors that provide prebuilt integrations with other common software solutions in your industry are showing their commitment to the API-first approach. These integrations save time and resources, streamlining the process of getting disparate systems to work together.

Use Cases and Success Stories: Vendors that are genuinely API-first often showcase detailed case studies or success stories highlighting how their APIs have been used to solve complex problems or enable innovative integrations. These stories can provide insights into the API's capabilities, flexibility, and the level of support the vendor provides to developers and partners.

Overcoming integration concerns

Diving into an API-first strategy can raise concerns, particularly around managing relationships with multiple vendors' support departments. However, these challenges can be mitigated by selecting vendors that not only subscribe to the API-first philosophy but also demonstrate a strong commitment to customer support. When vendors are used to operating in an API-first world, they understand the importance of cooperation, not just between their software and others but between their support team and their clients. The best vendors in this category are usually willing to act as first line support for other (API first) suppliers in your IT landscape. 

Adopting an API-first approach in the leisure industry is not merely about keeping up with technology trends; it's about ensuring a smooth, enjoyable experience for your visitors and ensuring your staff isn’t spending time on tasks that should be automated. By prioritizing software solutions that are designed to work together from the ground up, venues can eliminate many of the headaches associated with system integrations, leading to happier guests and, ultimately, a more successful operation. Embrace the API-first philosophy, and watch as your venue's disparate systems unite into a harmonious digital symphony.


About the author: 

gijs-hendrix-head-of-product-at-conviousGijs Hendrix is an experienced B2B product leader with a strong technical background. As the Head of Product at Convious, he applies his skills in product vision and strategy to drive innovation and growth, revolutionizing attraction ticketing solutions.