Feeling safe about sharing data through an api with alliance partners.

It comes as a surprise to many how sensitive some companies are about sharing data about their customers. The reason they have this sensitivity stems from a fear that their hard earned data can be used against them in the wrong hands. They do not want competitors leaching their customer data base and selling to them, yet it is not possible to secure alliance partnerships without sharing customers, the question is what customer data needs to be exposed to form a beneficial commercial alliance.

Martin is the Marketing Director of a Professional Sports Club and is keen to increase revenue from all sources. Adrienne is the Vice President Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer for a Major Airline, she is responsible for all marketing strategies covering all sales. They initially looked at forming a conventional alliance to cross sell.

The difficulty with establishing access to the relevant information sources and assets exposed both companies to some risk, this led to a complex and convoluted series of contractual and legal negotiations. A solution was pointed out that would allow cross selling without compromising the integrity of each company’s customer record sets.

The solution was for the Sports Club and the Airline to store their customer records to a cloud based application which then allowed simple API calls between their respective systems. The API’s exchange data at endpoints that then revealed just the minimum pieces of data to permit the transactions to take place. The minimum piece of data that needs to be shared is a linking customerID that used by both partners; this id matches a unique id in each of the company’s own data sets. No other data needs to be exposed, the customer as an entity is revealed but the details of the instance, in their own systems, remains with each partner. The standard product inventory (containing product details, prices, terms offers etc.) is passed, via a portal, to the customer on request, commercial and transactional data is exchanged between the partners. The cloud based system produces reports on transactions, these may be output in many forms; summary visualisations, tabular files and as pure data to be absorbed, via an API into each partners own enterprise systems.



In this way a customer can purchase a travel ticket through the sports club. The customers travel and purchase history is kept confidential to the airline. As the cloud held customerID maps to a customer in the Airlines own systems it allows them, if the customer qualifies to offer a ticket at a Frequent Flier discount. The ticket details (cost, destinations, times, terms) are made available through the portal in the Sports club site, where the transaction is effected. The sports club collects the payments and once authorised passes the Airlines share (the sale of the ticket less commission to the sports club) directly to the Airline. The process generates an automatic invoice back to the Airline for the commission.

The whole process could also be reversed with the airline enabling the purchase additional Hospitality ticket from the sports club. All that the partners exchange is the product details, and the transaction details. The shared revenue then maps, through the shared customerID, to their own independent systems.

Martin and Adrienne abandoned the traditional and complex alliance process and instead implemented the much simpler API to share data, the ease of transacting with blended data reduced any contractual arrangements to standard online agreements. This allows potential alliance partners to join together and sign up to each others schemes with the minimum of fuss and expense. It provides flexibility as all they had to do is share their public portfolio of products, availability and mapped customerID’s.

The very same process can then be used by: the Hotel Group, the Restaurant Chain, the Taxi Firm, the Travel Agent, the Train Company, and any other company that can benefit from this type of alliance. Due to the ease, flexibility and low risk of forming data driven alliances and the low cost of forming the alliance, in terms of time and effort, they are all happy to implement a number of commercial partnership.

Below in an example of a booking request showing the scope of data that is typically exchanged through an API, in this case for it is for a flight request.



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