Open APIs

Interview: The Promotion API for e-commerce excellence

Anyone who has used online shopping can understand why retailers want the ability to promote specific products – promotions attract users and encourage more consumption. But until recently, this feature was missing from TM Forum’s Open APIs.

In 2016, Xu Ma, Solution Architect, Huawei, conceived the idea of the Promotion API to help companies manage promotions as they become more common and complex by providing a standardized mechanism for tasks such as creation, updating, retrieval, deletion and notification of events. Huawei formally contributed the idea for the  API to the Forum in February at TM Forum Action Week in Lisbon.

“We could see the API aroused strong interest from the attendees,” Xu says. “With promotion for e-commerce, the Forum’s API family is a good reference point for vendors and operators, with many among them working on online sales or moving in this direction.”

The Promotion API is not limited to use in telecoms, however. Any company can use it to quickly publish new promotions and keep up with a fast-changing consumer environment where customer needs vary hugely and often change in the blink of an eye.

In addition to conceiving the idea for the Promotion API, Xu has worked on its data model, operations and business scenarios, and was instrumental in completing the specification and auxiliary documents. I caught up with him recently to discuss his work on the project.

How much collaboration was involved in developing the API and what was your part in it?

Xu Ma, Solution Architect, Huawei

The collaborative discussions we had with our fellow developers, mainly from Amdocs, Vodafone and Orange, were vital. They are API design professionals and have the same depth of digital understanding as us.

Some of the most important suggestions come from the API team leader, Pierre Gauthier, who has the excellent instinct to point out the essence of the problem and the direction to move forward in.

Personally, I made sure I listened to all the stakeholders because of my various roles. My fellow Huawei team members, Hellen Hao and Sammy Liu, attended all the idea workshops and provided many aids and improvements during development.

What challenges did you face in development?

We thought it would not be so easy to map the API to the elements in the TM Forum frameworks, but in the end, we easily found the business process for this API in the Business Process Framework (eTOM).

What are the benefits of the Promotion API?

This API improves both time to market and customer experience. In terms of time to market, it’s been traditional to publish an offering if the marketing department has a new promotion plan. But this is getting to be a heavyweight and inflexible way of creating new offers.

A separate add-on promotion can be very useful, especially in tailoring to customers’ needs, and does not mean any changes to the existing offerings. This can be the basis of a much more agile marketing strategy. Customers, in turn, get to customize offers to suit them, and they get a clear view of the offer and of any constraints that come with it.

How is it best deployed?

The API will work well in coordination with the mature TM Forum APIs, mainly Product Offering and Product Ordering. The online experience has to be supported by these key steps:

  1. choose the offering;
  2. view and choose the promotion; and
  3. confirm and submit the order.

Nobody can run the online sales and purchase without these APIs.

How is Huawei using it?

When e-commerce is built using Huawei’s BSS product, the Promotion API is included for CSPs [communications service providers]and vendors to use in online shopping portals. Customers invoke the API exposed by the promotion module by clicking on the promotion picture/text – which is often shown at the ‘promotion position’ or ‘advertisement area’ of the online shopping page – and then choosing the desired offer. The interaction between the page and the backend component is carried out by the Promotion API.

What are your next steps now that you’ve completed this API?

This collaboration has been a wonderful experience, and we are going to make more API contributions, especially within online shopping, and in particular, specific to recommendations and personalized communications.



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About The Author

VP, APIs & Ecosystems

Joann’s career spans over 20 years in technology, ranging from consumer electronics, telecommunications mobile switching to OSS/BSS and more recently to industry collaboration. Joann is currently the program lead for TM Forum’s Open API & Ecosystems initiative, chair of the API Steering Committee and lead for the Open Hack program. Joann has significant experience leading complex large scale transformation programs for a number of organizations.

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