Shipping Tips & Solutions

Shipping APIs vs. EDIs: What’s the Difference?

In recent years, shipping APIs for eCommerce have gradually risen to become a popular alternative to EDIs. Compare both systems on Easyship.com.
Shipping APIs vs. EDIs: What’s the Difference?
Gayatri Bhaumik

By Gayatri Bhaumik

 

June 30, 2020

Without a doubt, technology is increasingly impacting the world of logistics. An estimated 40% of shipping and logistics companies have migrated to digital systems to help them smooth operations; this includes the use of shipping APIs.

In recent years, shipping APIs for eCommerce have gradually risen to become a popular alternative to the EDIs that were previously more popular. Experts and supply chain executives have noted that despite many companies still using EDI, many are growing increasingly frustrated with the system.

The majority believe that using web-based shipping API services would be more convenient and that these should start replacing EDIs. In this article, we’ll outline some key differences between shipping EDI vs. API so that you can understand why working with Easyship’s API can create a smoother shipping process for both you and your customers.

What is a Shipping API?

Despite its inception in the early 2000s, shipping APIs are comparatively new to the world of logistics. More properly known as an Application Program Interface, a shipping API leverages cloud-based SaaS to quickly transfer shipping documentation and data from one interface to another.

A great shipping API for eCommerce provides unmatched flexibility by enabling programming experts to integrate multiple shipping functionalities directly into your eCommerce website.

Since every business has its own unique set of challenges and requirements, a shipping API allows each business to customize their shipping platform to suit its specific needs; it also allows shipping carriers to improve their order fulfillment process.

A shipping API enables brands to assimilate the shipping process directly into their eCommerce stores. As such, getting to understand the various variables that make up an effective shipping strategy and taking full advantage of a shipping API can assure long-term fulfillment success for your business.

How does it Work?
APIs provide companies with customizable solutions to various shipping and logistics challenges. These interfaces allow two or more applications to exchange information while displaying the information to users in a single interface. This makes it much easier for shipping companies to leverage third-party applications.

How is this possible? Well, an API involves a set of instructions for accessing internet-based applications that allow the software to communicate with each other. eCommerce stores and shipping companies design APIs by leaving some parts of their web-based software “open,” allowing other applications to integrate with theirs, and provide and request information easily.

An excellent example of a shipping API in use can be seen when making an online purchase. Once you enter your credit card information to complete a purchase, the eCommerce store uses its API to send your details to remote applications that verify your credentials. A shipping API for eCommerce can transfer information within seconds, thus allowing you to complete your purchase quickly.

For shipping companies looking to easily manage their shipping documentation, APIs integrate with various local and global couriers. You can use the UPS shipping API to easily handle your shipments with UPS; FedEx also has its own shipping API, as does Easyship.

What is a Shipping EDI?

Now that you understand what an API is, you may well be wondering, “So, what is an EDI?” Well, these interfaces emerged decades ago and are also used to streamline various business processes. They cater for ship notices, purchase orders, and invoicing, for example. EDIs establish various messaging standards that transfer data from one system to another without needing to use paper. These Electronic Data Interchanges, as EDIs are more formally known, allows the exchange of information across electronic platforms.

How does it Work?
EDIs remain the most commonly used communication technologies used to transfer shipping documentation between systems. Besides offering companies and eCommerce stores an easy and secure way to send information electronically, the use of a uniform electronic format makes it easy for computer systems to process the information. It also significantly reduces the use of manual labor.

EDIs use a plethora of means to exchange data; the common options include serial links and peer-to-peer networks. These solutions are programmed to provide access to authorized users only. To further eliminate security issues, audit trails are used to track the use of such information.

Using EDIs, stores and companies can transfer large amounts of shipping documentation simultaneously. This is not only efficient and convenient but also eliminates potential inaccuracies. Like other computer systems, EDI brings forth unmatched quality and reliability of information. Additionally, EDI eliminates the need to process orders manually, resulting in a quicker and accurate process.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of APIs vs. EDIs?

Choosing between EDI vs. API requires one to be well-versed with the various elements of both solutions. Even with the many useful supply chain management solutions available, choosing between EDI vs. API comes down to your business needs. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you make a decision.

Pros of APIs

  • Provides real-time data
  • Eliminates barriers to data retrieval
  • Leverages cloud-based technology
  • Essential for large data analysis
  • Costs less to implement

Cons of APIs

Pros of EDIs

  • More efficient compared to paper-based processes
  • Eliminates the need for intermediaries in processing orders
  • Can send large volumes at once
  • Integrates well with other systems

Cons of EDIs

  • Breaks down easily
  • High maintenance costs
  • Takes months to setup
  • Few EDI system vendors

What You Should Know About Easyship’s API

The Easyship API makes it possible to connect your eCommerce store to your Easyship account. For the most part, Easyship can easily integrate with many eCommerce platforms, but if your online store isn’t supported, you can leverage our open API to connect your store.

The Easyship API enables connected eCommerce stores to easily complete various shipping tasks, including checking shipping rates, buying shipping labels, tracking packages, calculating estimated import duties and taxes, and requesting pickups.

With the API, online merchants can easily ship to different destinations across the world without signing up for courier accounts. The best part, of course, is that if you have the necessary programming skills, you can set up systems and tasks that are unique to your business.

APIs vs. EDIs: Choosing the Right System for Your Business

While both API and EDI make it possible to transmit important shipping documentation and data, they’re different systems and have different strengths and weaknesses. For novice shippers, choosing between EDI vs. API can be overwhelming. But, a shipping API for eCommerce is less expensive and more straightforward compared to an EDI, which requires continuous maintenance.

Shipping APIs also have innovative features, which is why they’re becoming more popular. However, EDIs continue to be useful because they’re a known entity and are reliable and offer robust security.Easyship offers its own open API so that developers can create exactly the type of shipping process they need. If you have any questions about how it works, feel free to reach out to our support team - they’ll be happy to talk you through it!