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What is API integration? (The Complete Guide)

Are you looking to streamline your integration? We solved all API integration related queries in this article

As businesses adopt more sophisticated software for their operations, they are bound to be surrounded by APIs. Essentially, APIs or Application Programming Interfaces refer to a set of protocols, definitions and models based to facilitate communication between software components. Today, over 90% of the developers use API. There are different types of APIs that are under use today, including REST, GraphQL, SOAP, etc. While there are several factors driving the increased use of APIs for software companies, a study shows that 49% companies leverage APIs to facilitate platform and system integration. Thus, API integration has become increasingly sought after for organizations that use multiple applications and wish to integrate them for seamless use. Through this article, we will discuss different aspects of API integration, its growth, benefits, key trends and challenges, as well as the growth of unified API for seamless integration. 

What is API integration?

On a broad level, API integration refers to the connection between two applications, through their APIs, to facilitate data exchange in a frictionless manner. API integration helps the APIs of different applications to communicate with each other, automatically, without human intervention, by adding a layer of abstraction between the two. It allows two applications or systems with APIs to interoperate in real-time and ensure data accuracy for exchange. 

Since the applications you use cannot achieve their full potential in silos, API integration ensures that they can establish a secure, reliable and scalable connection which prevents an unauthorized exchange of data, but enables them to talk to each other. 

Difference between API and integration

While API integration is used for data exchange between applications based on APIs, it is important to understand that individually, API and integration are not synonymous terms. API or application programming interface essentially allows applications to communicate with one another. This could be for data and information exchange or other purposes. 

Integration, on the other hand, is a code or a platform that allows applications or systems to exchange data. This can be a one-way or a two-way exchange, depending on the need and application expectations. 

Generally, in an API integration an external API acts as a connection point when it comes to API integration to ensure that any system or application can connect to the other and access data. However, both APIs and integration can exist exclusively as well, where APIs can have use cases beyond data exchange like connecting subsystems within an application and integrations can follow other ways than purely relying on APIs. 

Importance of APIs in integration

Before we delve deeper into the benefits of API integration, how it works, etc. let’s quickly look at how APIs play an important role in the integration ecosystem for businesses. APIs enable businesses to reorganize and establish such a relationship which allows them to interact as per business needs. This allows companies to achieve a high level of integration at lower development costs. They essentially act as a connecting thread, which is critical for integration. 

Growth of SaaS API integration ecosystem

The last few years have seen a significant growth in the use of APIs across SaaS and other applications that businesses use. Let’s take a quick look on the growth of the API ecosystem:

  • More than 90% of executives indicate APIs as mission-critical
  • Companies that used APIs reported 12.7% more growth in market capitalization compared to those that did not adopt APIs
  • 2 Million+ API repositories exist on GitHub
  • 56% of developers report APIs help them develop better products
  • 40% of large organizations have 250+ APIs and 71% plan to use even more APIs
  • 64% are developing their API program or strategy

This clearly indicates that the growth of APIs in the SaaS ecosystem can be expected to see an exponential increase, with increased adoption and an expectation to streamline integration between applications for businesses. 

The API first economy

For a long time, APIs were considered as an afterthought to product development to facilitate connection between applications. However, as the pace and volume at which applications need to connect with one another in today’s digital ecosystem, companies are moving towards an API first economy. Put simply, API first is a form of product development which puts the development and eventual usage of APIs as the central or the core focus area for engineering, while other objectives follow. In an API first economy, the goal is to develop APIs which are reusable, scalable and eventually extensible. 

Characteristics of a good API

In a discussion about APIs, it is very important to understand what are the characteristics of a good API, which can eventually facilitate API integration with ease. 


First, a good API is one which is consistent. This is especially important when you are working with multiple APIs. Factors like security and data models must be consistent across APIs and they follow a standardized method of development along with a uniform experience for all users. 


An API without strong documentation can only achieve limited success. Irrespective of whether the APIs are for internal use or for external API economy, documentation is extremely important. From an internal perspective, documentation ensures maintenance of continuity in case one developer takes over from the earlier one. From any external API, documentation can help third parties understand protocols, data logic, models etc. making it easy for them to integrate and leverage the impact. 


A key characteristic of any API is the security it brings along. As the end point responsible for data transfer and exchange, API security is extremely critical for business resilience. Some of the security factors include HTTPS/SSL certificates, authentication and JSON web tokens, authorizations and scopes, etc. 


A good API is easily discoverable. This suggests that it is so intuitive that users can learn how to use it on their own. More often than not, users prefer to try and play around the APIs before they contact the customer care for the application or go through the manual. Here, simplicity in design and documentation with self-describing access points is a key feature for APIs. 


Essentially, APIs add a layer of abstraction which prevent the users from seeing what is going on at the backend. For instance, if a payment is underway, APIs ensure that verification and other parts of the cycle are not visible to the user. APIs internally interact with each other to make everything happen. A good API ensures that the objective is achieved without the need for a user to understand what happens in the code or execution. 

API integration process 

The API integration process involves a series of steps which ensure that businesses are able to integrate different applications and systems using their APIs. The steps including:

  • Understanding and researching on the type of APIs you will be using (REST, SOAP, etc.), the type of format in which you will be receiving the data which needs to be exchanged between different applications (XML, JSON) and check on the availability and comprehension of detailed documentation for different APIs to ensure how to format requests based on the data available. 
  • Next you need to figure out how the data will flow from one application to another. Here, the focus needs to be on identifying the right authentication and security protocol, like OAuth. At the same time, you need to gauge if authentication and authorization needs to be a one time task or needs to be undertaken every time there is a data exchange.
  • Following this, you need to understand how data mapping will take place. This involves figuring out how to normalize data from different applications into a standardized format or model which can easily be mapped against different applications. 
  • The API integration process comes to a melting point when you have the basic parameters in place and you enter the code development, deployment and testing phase. Focus on development and use case testing to ensure effective authentication and security, robust data mapping and stress tests when there is an unusual disruption/ flow of data to ensure that your API integration doesn’t break. 

If you follow this API integration process, you can create API integrations in-house to support application connectivity and data exchange. 

How API integration works

Let’s quickly see how an API integration works. It involves connecting two applications via their APIs which can then request and send data across. A quick example of how an API integration works is as follows. 

Suppose you have a CRM and a marketing automation platform If these two applications are connected by their APIs, i.e. via API integration, an update in the status of any lead in the CRM will be reflected in the marketing automation platform. This will allow your marketing team to automatically customize the messaging for the lead based on the updated status. Similarly, if after a campaign, the lead’s engagement status changes, the same will be reflected in the CRM. This will ensure that the status of a lead is uniform across all applications.  

API integration checklist 

If you are building an API integration, it is important to ensure that you don’t miss out on the key elements or parameters which can determine the success of any integration. The following quick checklist can help you stay on top of your API integration process:

  • Check data mapping for different formats of data you are dealing with
  • Get information on different API systems
  • Gather API documentation
  • Determine flow of data
  • Decide on security and authentication protocols
  • Determine hosting- on-premise or cloud
  • Obtain API key and select supported data formats
  • Gauge maintenance and support required
  • Undertake consistent monitoring and testing

API integration management

API integration is not simply about building and deployment, but involves constant maintenance and management. API integrations require comprehensive support at different levels. 

First, you need to constantly refresh the data to ensure real-time availability and data synchronization. Invariably, you will set a data synchronization frequency and number of API calls that can be made. However, exceeding those calls can lead to API integration failure which needs management support. 

Second, in terms of API integration management, you need to align on the data storage needs and how you seek to address them to store the volumes of data that are exchanged across applications. 

Third, API integration management needs to ensure that any updates or upgrades to individual APIs are reflected in their integrations without disrupting the flow of work. Maintenance involves finding and updating changes in API schemas before anyone notices. 

Finally, APIs can and do fail, which requires immediate error handling support and communication. Thus, API integration management is as important and engineering bandwidth as building and deployment and can impact the success of the overall integration experience and effectiveness. 

How much does an API integration cost?

The cost of an API integration essentially depends on the compensation for your engineering team that will be involved in building the API integration, the time they will take and whether or not the full access to the API for the application in question is available freely or comes at a price. 

In case the API is freely available, the estimated cost of an API integration can be considered as the following. Generally, three resources from the engineering team are involved in building an API integration. A Developer at a compensation of 125K USD, a Product Manager at 100K USD and a QA Engineer at a salary of 80K USD. Each one of these apportions a segment of their time towards building an API integration. 

Secondly, an API integration can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months to build, averaging out at about four weeks for any API integration. In such a scenario, an API integration cost stands at 10K USD on an average, which can go higher if the time taken is more or if you need to hire an engineering team just for building integrations with higher compensation. Similarly, this will increase if the APIs come at a premium cost. You can multiply the average cost of one integration with the number of integrations your company uses to get the overall API integration cost for your business. 

How to learn API integration?

If you are just getting started in your API integration journey, there are specific lessons that you must learn to ensure that you are able to achieve the quality of integration you seek. Follow these practices to start your API integration learning:

  • Understand you API integration requirements
  • Learn about different API, data formats, security protocols and authentication methods
  • Review API documentation
  • Get the API key and request API endpoint
  • Learn a programming language to code the API integration
  • Learn how to create data sets and data models and normalization
  • Get support from community of developers working on API integration

Benefits of API integration

While there are several ways businesses today are leading integrations between different applications they use, API integration has become one of the most popular ways, owing to the several benefits it brings for developers and business impact alike. Some of the top benefits of API integration include:

Reduced human effort

To begin with, API integrations significantly reduce the human effort and time your team might spend in connecting data between different applications. In the absence of API integration, your team members would have to manually update information across applications, leading to unnecessary efforts and wastage of time. Fortunately, with API integration, information between two applications, for instance, CRM and marketing software, can be directly updated, allowing your team members to focus on their functional competencies and expertise, instead of updating data and information. The interoperability brought along with API integration ensures that data is automatically exchanged, in real- time, leading to added efficiency. 

Increased accuracy

A related benefit from the first one is the concern with manual errors. If one team member is expected to update several applications, there are chances of human error. Especially as and when the data becomes voluminous and has to be shared between multiple applications, it can lead to inaccuracies and inadequacies. However, with API integration, data exchange becomes accurate and free from human error, ensuring that all data exchanged is in usable condition and compatible to all applications involved.

Build complementary capabilities

API integrations help businesses leverage capabilities from other applications, while allowing them to focus on their core expertise. Conventionally, businesses focused on building everything in their application from scratch. However, with API integrations, they can rely on the complementary functions of other applications, while focusing on only building strengths. It relieves considerable engineering bandwidth and effort which can be used to develop core application features and functionalities. 

Leverage applications better

When data is exchanged between applications, the usability of different features and benefits from different applications increase. As they have additional data from other applications, their potential to drive business benefits increase significantly. For instance, if you are using a marketing automation platform to run campaigns for your product. Now, if you get user data on how they are interacting with the product, how engaged they are and what their other expectations are, you can create a customized upselling pitch for them. 

Thus, with API integration, data exchange not only makes business more smooth and efficient, but also helps you explore new business cases for the different applications that you have adopted, and at times, even identify new ways of creating revenue.  

Greater security

APIs have a strong security posture which protects them from threats, flaws and vulnerabilities. API integrations add a security layer with access controls which ensures that only specific employees have access to specific or sensitive data from other applications. API integration security is built upon measures of HTTP and supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption or built-in protocols, Web Services Security. API integration can also help prevent security fraud that might occur during data exchange between two applications or if one application malfunctions. 

With the help of token, encryption signatures, throttling and API gateways, API integration can help businesses securely exchange information and data between applications. 

API integration and customer exp

In addition to the above mentioned benefits of API integrations, it is interesting to note that API integration has a positive impact on customer experience as well. There are multiple ways in which API integration can help businesses serve customers better, leading to greater stickiness, retention and positive branding. Here are a few ways in which API integration impacts customer experience:

Customized customer experience

By integrating data about customers from different sources, companies can customize the experience they provide. For instance, conversations with the sales team can be captured and shared for marketing campaigns which can exclusively focus on customer pain points rather than simply sharing all product USPs. At the same time, marketing campaigns can be directed towards customer purchase patterns to ensure customers see what they are interested in.

Reduced inter departmental hand-offs

API integration ensures that customer data once collected can be shared between different departments of a company and the customer doesn’t have to interact with the business multiple times. This also ensures that there is no error in multiple data exchanges with the customers, leading to an accurate and streamlined manner of interaction. Thus, with API integration, customer interactions become more efficient and with reduced errors. 

More customer penetration

API integrations can help businesses penetrate into new markets and address customer demands better. Since they ensure that businesses don’t have to build new functionalities from scratch, they can enhance customer experience by focusing on their core capabilities and providing additional functionalities with API integration. Thus, API integration helps businesses meet the growing demands of customers to prevent churn or dissatisfaction with lack of functionalities. 

Reduced context switching

API integration ensures that customers can access or exchange information between different applications easily without switching between applications. This significantly reduces the friction for customers and the time spent in toggling between different applications. Thus, a smooth customer experience that most expect ensues. 

API integration examples

Now that you understand why API integrations are important, it is vital to see some of the top use cases for examples of API integration. Here, we have covered some areas in which API integrations are most commonly used:

E-commerce platform

E-commerce companies extensively use API integration to fuel their work and operations. On the one hand, there are applications or interfaces which  are responsible for inventory management. On the other hand are those which take care of order suppliers and order management. At the same time, a CRM API might be needed to manage records of customers and their important details. While all of these applications have APIs, API integration can help connect them to unify and streamline data access. 

Payment gateway

Another popular use case for API integration is payment gateways. Whenever a customer makes an online payment, API integration at the backend gets activated to check the bank/ credit/ debit card details for the use to prevent any fraudulent transactions. 

API integration challenges

While API integrations have several benefits that can significantly help businesses and engineering teams, there are a few challenges along the way, which organizations need to address in the very beginning. 

Not all API functionalities are freely available

To begin with, not all applications provide all functionalities in their application for free to all users. While some might have an additional charge for API access, others might only provide APIs to customers above a certain pricing tier. Thus, managing 1:1 partnerships with different applications to access their APIs can be difficult and unsustainable as the number of applications you use increases. 

APIs can fail

When you are using API integrations, each component of your business is dependent on multiple applications. It is normal for APIs to fail or stop working once in a while. Factors such as uptime/ downtime, errors, latency, etc. can all lead to API failure. While individually, API failure may not have a big impact. However, when you have multiple applications connected, it can break the flow of work and disrupt business continuity. Especially, if you are offering API integrations along with your product to the client, API failure can lead to business disruption for them, resulting in a poor customer experience. 

Some API integrations require deep tech

While most API integrations focus on facilitating data connectivity and exchange between applications, there might be a requirement from integrations to analyze the data from one application and filter it out for different fields/ understanding for the next application. However, simple or conventional API integration cannot achieve this, and this will require some external developer bandwidth to achieve the deep tech functionalities. 

APIs can lack compatibility

Each application or integration has its own data models, nuances and protocols, which are unique and mostly different from one another. Even within the same segment or category, like CRM, applications can have different syntax or schemas for the same data field. For instance, the lead name in one application can be Customer_id while for another it can be cust_id. This might require developers to learn data logic for each application, requiring unnecessary bandwidth. 

API integration development is costly

Developing API integrations in house can be quite expensive and resource intensive. First of all, finding the right developers to build API integrations for your use can be very difficult. Second, even if you are able to find someone, the process can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. That’s when the developer understands the logic of the application and API integration can take place. This high time consumption also comes at a cost for the time the developer spends on API integration. Since the salary of a developer can be anywhere between $80K to $125K, API integration development can cost 1000s of dollars for companies. 

API integration management and upgradation is time consuming

The story doesn’t end once an API integration is in place. APIs need to be maintained and continuously upgraded whenever an application updates itself. At the same time, as mentioned, APIs can fail. In such a situation, your non-technical teams will find it difficult to maintain the APIs, putting the reliance again on your developers, who might be required to fix any bugs. Thus, someone with technical knowledge of integration maintenance has to look over updates and other issues. 

Rise of Unified API

As the number of applications a business uses increases, as well as the APIs become more complex, with each one having its own set of peculiarities, there has been a rise of what we today call unified APIs. A unified API primarily normalizes data nuances and protocols from different APIs into one normalized data model from a similar category of applications, which organizations can use to integrate with applications that fall therein. It adds an additional abstraction layer on top of other APIs and data models. 

One of the best use cases for unified API is when you are offering different integrations to your customers from a single segment. For instance, if you are providing your customers with the option to choose the CRM of their choice and integrate with your system, a unified API will help ensure that different CRM platforms like Salesforce, Zoho, Airtable, can all be connected via a single API and your developers don’t have to spend hours in finding and configuring APIs for each CRM. Some of the top unified API examples include:

  • CRM API which helps you connect different CRM software like Zoho, Airtable, Salesforce
  • HRIS/ HRMS API which enables you to connect different HR software used for hiring, application tracking, employee attendance, payroll, etc.
  • Accounting API which focuses on integrating differentiating accounting and payment related software for seamless budgeting, payouts, etc. 
  • Calendar API which enables you to connect different calendars that you might be using like iCal, Outlook calendar to ensure that you don’t miss any meetings or important dates

Let’s quickly look at some of the key benefits that a unified API will bring along to manage API integrations for businesses:

  • Enables data normalization to ensure that data is translated into a standard format which can be easily ingested
  • Reduces API integration costs, developer time and overall resource consumption for deployment and maintenance
  • Covers a wide range of data protocols, formats, models and nuances with coverage across all types of API including REST, SOAP, GraphQL, etc.
  • Promotes a single access point for all data, mostly built in REST, which is one of the easier architectures
  • Facilitates consistency in pagination and filtering

Therefore, unified API is essentially a revolution in API integration, helping developers take out all the pain for integrating applications with API, where they only focus on reaping the benefits and developing core product functionalities. 

API integration questions

Before we move on to the last section, it is important to check whether or not you are now able to answer the key API integration questions that might come in your mind. Some of the frequently asked API integration questions include:

  1. What is API integration?
  2. Why is API integration important?
  3. What are the benefits of API integration?
  4. How does API integration work?
  5. What is the cost of an API integration?
  6. How to be prepared for API integration?
  7. What is API integration management?
  8. What are the challenges to API integration?
  9. What are some API integration examples?
  10. What is a unified API and how does it relate to API integration?
  11. How does API integration impact customer experience?
  12. How does API integration ensure security?

Wrapping up: TL:DR

As we draw this discussion to a close, it is important to note that the SaaS market and use of applications will see an exponential growth in the coming years. The SaaS market is expected to hit $716.52 billion by 2028. Furthermore, the overall spend per company on SaaS products is up by 50%. As companies will use more applications, the need for API integrations will continue to increase. Thus, it is important to keep in mind:

  • We are now in an API first economy where applications have a central focus on building consumable, reusable and secure APIs
  • API integration will play an important role in the coming years, as APIs become more pronounced, sophisticated and voluminous
  • API integrations reduce the manual effort for data exchange, enable companies to better use their applications and build complementary capabilities
  • However, creating and maintaining API integrations in-house can be very expensive, time consuming as APIs might fail, may not be compatible and might require deep tech expertise
  • Therefore, the world is seeing a rise in unified APIs, which add an additional abstraction layer on data models to help connect APIs of one segment together. It normalizes the data that gets exchanged between the applications and helps developers with reduced costs, consistent pagination, etc. 

Thus, companies must focus on exploring the potential of APIs, especially for the top segment of products they routinely use, to make connectivity and exchange of data smooth and seamless between applications, leading to better productivity, data driven decision making and business success.  

Sudeshna Roy

Lead Content Strategist, Knit

Decoding product and generating users with valuable content

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Sep 29, 2023

New Feature: User Management


Knit has recently rolled out one of its most anticipated features: User Management.

With the User Management feature you can now add multiple users with different capabilities to your Knit account based on their roles. 

In this article, we will discuss how to get started with the User Management feature and maximize its benefits.

What is User Management?

The User Management feature allows you to add multiple users to your organization’s Knit account and also assign them roles and permissions . It means multiple users can login and have access to your organization’s integrated accounts and various other features as a part of integration management. 

Knit currently serves 3 categories of possible roles for any organization. 

1. Admin

Admins have full access to all the features in the dashboard. They are in a way the primary users who have the right to add/edit/remove new users.  

2. Member

Members have access to only manage integrations and webhooks. Unlike Admins, they cannot add/update users or make changes to the organization’s account with Knit.

3. Billing Contact

Billing contact has access to only billing related options, like editing payment details, selecting plans etc.

For more information on setting up the User Management feature, take a look at this video

How to access the User Management page

When you\ sign up to your Knit Dashboard, you will be logged in as an administrator of the organization you have just created. 

You can then access user management by going to the settings page.

In the settings page you will have access to user management, among other settings.

The User Management screen shows you all the users assigned to your organization, their emails, permissions and also gives you the option to see and edit their roles.

To invite a new user to your org, click on the Add User button on top right.

Here, you can enter the email ID of the person you’d like to invite to join your organization. You can also set their role. Invited users will receive an invite link on their respective email ID.

For detailed information about dashboard access for each role, be sure to check out the User Roles tab.

You can also edit the roles for a user, and resend the invitation to invited users.

What if we have already created multiple separate accounts and want to combine them?

If you have already created multiple separate accounts (by signing up separately with your individual email IDs), we can help you combine them into a single account. 

In the process, we will also combine your integrated accounts, and organizations from multiple accounts.

However, it would not be possible to transfer pre-existing syncs, logs and issues. As a result, once the integrated accounts are transferred, you’ll have to restart the sync for them.

Note: If you have created multiple accounts for testing and production, we recommend that you do not to merge them as the User Management feature does not provide for segregation of environments. 

Thus, it is best to have a separate account for production and for testing in that case.

Let’s get started

Please reach out to with the list of email addresses (along with their respective roles) that you would like to combine and we’d be happy to help you through it! 

Use Cases
Sep 26, 2023

How Can Marketing Automation Tools Build More CRM Integrations in 80% Less Time


Marketing automation tools are like superchargers for marketers, propelling their campaigns to new heights. Yet, there's a secret ingredient that can take this power to the next level: the right audience data

What better than an organization’s CRM to power it? 

The good news is that many marketing automation tools are embracing CRM API integrations to drive greater adoption and results. However, with the increasing number of CRM systems underplay, building and managing CRM integrations is becoming a huge challenge. 

Fortunately, the rise of unified CRM APIs is bridging this gap, making CRM integration seamless for marketing automation tools. But, before delving into how marketing automation tools can power integrations with unified CRM APIs, let’s explore the business benefits of CRM APIs. 

10 ways marketing automation tools can maximize results with CRM API integration

Here’s a quick snapshot of how CRM APIs can bring out the best of marketing automation tools, making the most of the audience data for customers. 

1. Customer segmentation and content personalization  

Research shows that 72% of customers will only engage with personalized messaging. CRM integration with marketing automation tools can enable the users to create personalized messaging based on customer segmentation. 

Users can segment customers based on their likelihood of conversion and personalize content for each campaign. Slicing and dicing of customer data, including demographics, preferences, interactions, etc. can further help in customizing content with higher chances of consumption and engagement. Customer segmentation powered by CRM API data can help create content that customers resonate with. 

2. Enhanced lead nurturing for higher conversion 

CRM integration provides the marketing automation tool with every tiny detail of every lead to adjust and customize communication and campaigns that facilitate better nurturing. At the same time, real time conversation updates from CRM can help in timely marketing follow-ups for better chances of closure. 

2. Churn prediction and customer retention

As customer data from CRM and marketing automation tools is synched in real time, any early signs of churn like reduced engagement or changed consumer behavior can be captured. 

Real time alerts can also be automatically updated in the CRM for sales action. At the same time, marketing automation tools can leverage CRM data to predict which customers are more likely to churn and create specific campaigns to facilitate retention. 

3. Upsell and cross-sell campaigns

Users can leverage customer preferences from the CRM data to design campaigns with specific recommendations and even identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. 

For instance, customers with high engagement might be interested in upgrading their relationships and the marketing automation tools can use this information and CRM details on their historical trends to propose best options for upselling. 

Similarly, when details of customer transactions are captured in the CRM, they can be used to identify opportunities for complementary selling with dedicated campaigns. This leads to a clear increased revenue line. 

4. Automated campaign workflow to reduce operational overheads

In most marketing campaigns as the status of a lead changes, a new set of communication and campaign takes over. With CRM API integration, marketing automation tools can easily automate the campaign workflow in real time as soon as there is a status change in the CRM. This ensures greater engagement with the lead when their status changes. 

5. Event triggered campaigns for faster TAT

Marketing communication after events is an extremely important aspect of sales. With CRM integration in marketing automation tools, automated post-event communication or campaigns can be triggered based on lead status for attendance and participation in the event. 

This facilitates a faster turnaround time for engaging the customers just after the event, without any delays due to manual follow ups. 

6. Lead source automation

The integration can help automatically map the source of the lead from different marketing activities like webinars, social media posts, newsletters, etc. in your CRM to understand where your target audience engagement is higher. 

At the same time, it can facilitate tagging of leads to the right teams or personnels for follow ups and closures. With automated lead source tracking, users can track the ROI of different marketing activities. 

7. Tailored social media campaigns and multi-channel marketing

With CRM API integration, users can get access to customer preference insights to define their social media campaigns and audience. At the same time, they can customize scheduling based on customer’s geographical locations from CRM to facilitate maximum efficiency. 

8. Data enrichment for enhancing lead profiles

With bi-directional sync, CRM API integration with marketing automation tools can lead to enhancement of lead profiles. With more and more lead data coming in across both the platforms, users can have a rich and comprehensive profile of their customers, updates in real time across the CRM and marketing tools. 

9. Lifecycle marketing automation

Overall, integrating CRM API with marketing automation tools can help in automating the entire marketing lifecycle. It starts with getting a full customer view to stage-based automated marketing campaigns to personalized nurturing and lead scoring, predictive analytics and much more. Most of the aspects of marketing based on the sales journey of the customer can be automated and triggered in real time with CRM changes. 

10. Customer reporting and analytics for decision making

Data insights from CRM API integrated with those from marketing automation tools can greatly help in creating reports to analyze and track customer behavior. 

It can help ensure to understand consumer trends, identify the top marketing channels, improve customer segmentation and overall enhance the marketing strategy for more engagement. 

Real-world Struggles of CRM Integration in Marketing Automation

While the benefits of CRM API integration with marketing automation tools are many, there are also some roadblocks on the way. Since each CRM API is different and your customers might be using different CRM systems, building and maintaining a plethora of CRM APIs can be challenging due to:

Data transformation inconsistency and campaign blunders

When data is exchanged between two applications, it needs to undergo transformation to become normalized with data fields compatible across both. Since each CRM API has diverse data models, syntax and nuances, inconsistency during data transfer is a big challenge. 

If the data is not correctly normalized or transformed, chances are it might get corrupt or lost, leading to gaps in integration. At the same time, any inconsistency in data transformation and sync might lead to sending incorrect campaigns and triggers to customers, compromising on the experience. 

Delays in campaigns 

While inconsistency in data transformation is one challenge, a related concern comes in the form of delays or limited real-time sync capabilities. 

If the data sync between the CRM and the marketing automation tool is not happening in real time (across all CRMs being used), chances are that communication with end customers is being delayed, which can lead to loss of interest and lower engagement. 

Customer data privacy and security concerns

Any CRM is the beacon of sensitive customer data, often governed by GDPR and other compliances. However, integration and data transfer is always vulnerable to security threats like man in the middle attacks, DDoS, etc. which can lead to compromised privacy. This can lead to monetary and reputational risks. 


With the increasing number of CRM applications, scalability of integration becomes a huge challenge. Building new CRM integrations can be very time and resource consuming — building one integration from scratch can take up to 3 months or more — which either means compromising on the available CRM integrations or choking of engineering bandwidth. 

Moreover, as integrated CRM systems increase, the requirements for API calls and data exchange also grow exponentially, leading to delays in data sync and real time updates with increased data load. Invariably, scalability becomes a challenge.  

Integration management

Managing and maintaining integrations is a big challenge in itself. When end customers are using integrations, there are likely to be issues that require immediate action. 

At the same time, maintaining detailed logs, tracking API calls, API syncs manually can be very tedious. However, any lag in this can crumble the entire integration system. 

Vendor management

Finally, when integrating with different CRM APIs, managing the CRM vendors is a big challenge. Understanding API updates, managing different endpoints, ensuring zero downtime, error handling and coordinating with individual response teams is highly operational and time consuming. 

How Unified CRM API ensures maximum integration ROI

Don’t let the CRM API integration challenges prevent you from leveraging the multiple benefits mentioned above. A unified CRM API like the one offered by Knit, can help you access the benefits without breaking sweat over the challenges. 

If you want to know the technical details of how a unified API works, this will help

Integrate in minutes with multiple CRM APIs

A unified CRM API facilitates integration with marketing automation tools within minutes, not months, which is usually what it takes to build integrations. 

At the same time, it enables connecting with various CRM applications in one go. When it comes to Knit, marketing automation tools have to simply embed Knit’s UI component in their frontend to get access to Knit’s full catalog of CRM applications.

Consistent data transfer guaranteed with normalized data models

A unified CRM API can address all data transformation and normalization challenges easily. For instance, with Knit, different data models, nuances and schemas across CRM applications are mapped into a single and unified data model, facilitating data normalization in real time. 

At the same time, Knit allows users to map custom data fields to access non-standard data. 

Real time campaigns and data exchange

The right unified CRM API can help you sync data in real time, without any external polling requests. 

Take Knit for example, its webhooks and events driven architecture periodically polls data from all CRM applications, normalizing them and making them ready for use by the marketing automation tool. The latter doesn’t have to worry about the engineering intensive tasks of polling data, managing API calls, rate limits, data normalization, etc. 

Furthermore, this ensures that as soon as details about a customer are updated on the CRM, the associated campaigns or triggers are automatically set in motion for marketing success. 

Never miss a data update

There can be multiple CRM updates within a few minutes and as data load increases, a unified CRM API ensures guaranteed data sync in real time. As with Knit, its in-built retry mechanisms facilitate resilience and ensure that the marketing automation tools don’t miss out on any CRM updates, even at scale, as each lead is important. 

Moreover, as a user, you can set up sync frequency as per your convenience.

Scale as you go

With a unified CRM API, you only need to integrate once. As mentioned above, once you embed the UI component, every time you need to use a new CRM application or a new CRM API is added to Knit’s catalog, you can access it automatically with sync capabilities, without spending any engineering capabilities from your team. 

This ensures that you can scale in the most resource-lite and efficient manner, without diverting engineering productivity from your core product. From a data sync perspective as well, a unified CRM API ensures guaranteed scalability, irrespective of the data load. 

Security at scale

One of the biggest concerns of security and vulnerability to cyberattacks can be easily addressed with a unified CRM API across multiple facts. Let’s take the security provisions of Knit for example. 

  • First, Knit ensures double encryption, i.e. it encrypts data at rest as well as when in transit for exchange. It also encrypts data with an additional layer of application security.
  • Second, Knit is the only unified API that doesn’t store any copy of the data and acts as a pure passthrough proxy. Data is only processed in Knit’s server and is directly sent to the customer’s webhooks. Protection of end-user data like this helps you easily gain customer confidence during sales conversations.
  • Third, Knit has wide ranging authorization capabilities, including, OAuth, API key or a username-password based authentication. Irrespective of what authorization protocol the vendor has, it can integrate with Knit.

Catch potential errors early on

Finally, integration management to ensure that all your CRM APIs are healthy is well taken care of by a unified CRM API. 

  • A unified CRM API like Knit provides access to a detailed Logs, Issues, Integrated Accounts and Syncs page for all integrations to monitor and track them along with possible RCA and solutions. This empowers your CX team to solve customer issues immediately without involving the tech team.
  • Furthermore, it enables you to track every API call, data sync, etc. as well as the status of webhooks registered for real time visibility in errors — ensuring that you are always on top of your data and minimizes the chances of any errors.  

Constant monitoring and on demand customer support

Finally, when you are using a unified API, you don’t have to deal with multiple vendors, endpoints, etc. Rather, the heavy lifting is done by the unified CRM API provider. 

For instance, with Knit, you can access 24/7 support to securely manage your integrations. It also provides detailed documentation, links and easy to understand product walkthroughs for your developers and end users to ensure a smooth integration process.

Get started with unified CRM API

If you are looking to integrate multiple CRM APIs with your product, get your Knit API keys and see unified API in action. (Getting started with Knit is completely free)

You can also talk to one of our experts to see how you can customize Knit to solve your specific integration challenges.

Sep 25, 2023

Unified API vs Workflow Automation: Which One Should You Choose?


In today's SaaS business landscape, to remain competitive, a product must have seamless integration capabilities with the rest of the tech stack of the customer. 

In fact, limited integration capabilities is known as one of the leading causes of customer churn. 

However, building integrations from scratch is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process for a SaaS business. It often takes focus away from the core product.

As a result, SaaS leaders are always on the lookout for the most effective integration approach. With the emergence of off-the-shelf tools and solutions, businesses can now automate integrations and scale their integration strategy with minimum effort.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of two most popular integration approaches: Unified APIs and Workflow Automation tools and provide you with clear instructions to choose the approach that suits your specific product integration strategy. (We also have a checklist for you to quickly assess your need for the perfect integration approach in this article. Keep reading)

We will get to the comparison in a bit, but first let’s assess your integration needs. 

Types of product integrations

In order to effectively address customer-facing integration needs, it is crucial to consider the various types of product integrations available. These types can vary in terms of scope and maintenance required, depending on specific integration requirements. 

To gain a comprehensive understanding of product integrations, it is important to focus on two key aspects. 

  • Firstly, identifying the applications that need to be integrated to determine the scope of the integration. 
  • Secondly, considering the number of integrations that will need to be regularly managed as time progresses.

Based on these considerations, you can gauge whether or not you will be able to take care of your integration needs in-house. 

Read: To Build or To Buy: The practical answer to your product integration questions

1) Internal integrations

When working on any product, it is often beneficial to connect it with an internal system or third-party software to simplify your work processes. This requires integrating two platforms exclusively for internal use. 

For example, you may want to integrate a project management tool with your product to accelerate the development lifecycle and ensure automatic updates in the PM tool to reflect changes and progress.

In this scenario, the use case is highly specific and limited to internal execution within your team. Typically, your in-house engineering team will focus on building this integration, which can be further enhanced by other teams who reap its benefits. Overall, internal integrations are highly distinct and customizable to cater to individual organizational needs.

2) Occasional customer-facing integrations

Another type of integrations that organizations encounter are occasional customer-facing integrations, which are not implemented at scale. Occasional customer-facing integrations are typically infrequent and arise as specific requests from customers.

In these cases, customers may have specific software applications that they regularly use and require integration with your platform for a seamless flow of data and automated syncing. For example, a particular customer may request integration of Jira with your product, with highly specific requirements and needs.

In these situations, the integration can be facilitated by the customer's engineering team, third-party vendors, or other external platforms. The resulting integration output is highly tailored and may vary for each organization, even if the demand for the same integration exists. This customization ensures that the integration reflects the structures and workflows unique to each customer's organizational needs. 

3) Scalable customer-facing integrations

Finally, there will be certain integrations that all your customers will need. These are essential functionalities required to power their organizational operation. 

Instead of being use case or platform specific, scalable or standardized customer facing integrations are more generic in nature. For instance, you want all your customers to be able to connect the HRMS platform of their choice to your product for seamless HR management. 

These integrations need to be built and maintained by your team, i.e. essentially, fall under your purview. You can either offer these integrations as a part of the subscription cost that your customers pay for your software or as add-ons at an extra cost. Offering such integrations is important to gain a competitive edge and even explore a new monetization model for your platform. 

Standardizing the most common integrations is extremely helpful to provide your customers with a seamless experience. 

Different approach to integrations

While companies can always build integrations in-house, it’s not always the most efficient way. That’s where plug-and-play platforms like unified APIs can help. Let’s look at the top approaches to leveraging integrations. 

1) In-house integration development and maintenance

Undoubtedly, the most obvious way of integrating products with your software is to build integrations in-house. Put simply, here your engineering team builds, manages and maintains the integrations. 

Building integrations in-house comes with a lot of control and power to customize how the integration should operate, feel and overall create a seamless experience. However, this do-it-yourself approach is extremely resource intensive, both in terms of budgets and engineering bandwidth. 

Building just integration can take a couple of months of tech bandwidth and $10-15k worth of resources. Integration building from scratch offers high customization, but at a great cost, putting scalability into question. 

2) Workflow automation 

Workflow automation tools, as the name suggests, facilitate product integration by automating workflow with specific triggers. These are mostly low code tools which can be connected with specific products by engineering teams for integration with third party software or platforms. 

A classic example is connecting a particular CRM with your product to be used by the end user. Here, the CRM of their choice can be integrated with your product following an event driven workflow architecture. 

Data transfer, marketing automation, HR, sales and operations, etc. are some of the top use cases where workflow automation tools can help companies with product integrations, without having to build these integrations from scratch. 

3) Unified API / API Aggregators

Finally, the third approach to building and maintaining product integrations is to leverage a Unified API. Any product that you wish to integrate with comes with an API which facilitates connection and data sync. 

A unified API normalizes data from different applications within a software category and transfers it to your application in real time. Here, data from all applications from a specific category like CRM, HRMS, Payroll, ATS, etc. is normalized into a common data model which your product understands and can offer to your end customers. To learn more about how unified APIs work, read this

By allowing companies to integrate with hundreds of integrations overnight (instead of months), a unified API enables them to scale integration offerings within a category faster and in a seamless manner. 

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of integrations and approaches, let’s understand which approach is best for you, depending on your scope and needs. 

workflow automation vs unified API

When to use Unified API

If you want scalable and standardized integrations, choosing a unified API is a sensible option. Here are the top reasons why unified API is ideal for standardized customer-facing integrations: 

  • They cover almost all integrations within a particular category or type. This suggests that you can integrate with all CRM platforms, including Salesforce, Zoho, etc using just one unified CRM API for example. (Check out Knit’s integration catalog across ATS, HRIS, Payroll. CRM and Accounting software)
  • Integration code is universal. You just need to integrate the unified API code into your application for a particular category once. Even when new apps are added within the unified API category, you automatically get access to and start syncing data with the new app without writing any additional line of code. This means that you build once and scale perpetually. 
  • It is extremely developer friendly and doesn’t require a lot of technical expertise or engineering bandwidth to understand and execute. 
  • You can retain a great degree of control. The integration backend can be managed by your engineering team, keeping control of transfer logic and also facilitating high levels of security. 
  • The data you receive into your product is normalized and can be directly synched without the need for any processing or transformation. (Moreover, unified APIs like Knit also allow you to map any custom data field from a specific integration that’s not included in the standardized model. Learn more)
  • Most unified APIs completely take care of integration maintenance once it is built. It means, your tech team need not worry about addressing ongoing customer issues at all. 

However, if you want only one-off integrations, with a very high level of customization, using a unified API might not be the ideal choice. 

Therefore, choose a unified API if you want:

  • To create standardized customer-facing integrations
  • High levels of data normalization and standardization
  • Scalable integrations that can be replicated across customers
  • Ability to add more integrations with minimal resource requirements
  • To control the backend code and drive customizations to a certain extent 
  • A native integration experience and feel and adherence to your brand guidelines

When to use Workflow Automation

Depending on the nature of your organization and product offerings, you might need integrations which are simple, external and needed to enable specific workflows triggered by some predetermined events. 

In such a case, workflow automation tools are quite useful as an integration approach. Some of the top benefits of using workflow automation to power your integration journey are as follows. 

  • Negligible engineering expertise needed. Workflow automation tools are created in a drag and drop manner, facilitating low-code or no- code functionalities. Event triggers are all you need to facilitate data sync from integrations. 
  • They come with pre-built connectors. This means that you can easily get started with pre-established workflows and integration patterns between different applications. 
  • You can easily outsource integration or hand it over to teams beyond your core engineering team as integration using workflow automation doesn't require knowledge about your core product, etc. 
However, the low-code functionality comes with a disadvantage of lack of developer friendliness and incidence of errors. At the same time, data normalization is a big challenge for applications even within the same category. 

The presence of different APIs across applications necessitates the need to develop customized workflows. Invariably, this custom workflow need adds to the cost of using workflow automation when scaling integration. As API requests increase, workflow automation integration turns out to be extremely expensive. 

Therefore, choose workflow automation if you want:

  • A low code integration solution
  • One-off customer facing integration or integrations for internal use
  • Limited functionalities for data normalization
  • Off-the rack workflows and integration syncs

How to choose the right tool for your integration strategy?

In the previous section, we explored different scenarios for building product integrations and discussed the recommended approaches for each. However, selecting the appropriate approach requires careful consideration of various factors. 

In this section, we will provide you with a list of key factors to consider and essential questions to ask in order to make an informed choice between workflow automation tools and unified APIs.

1) Integration complexity

You need to gauge how complex the integration will be. Generally, standardized integrations which are customer facing and need to be scaled, will be more complex. Whereas, internal or one-off customer facing integrations will be less complex. 

Try to answer the following questions:

  • How complex is your integration need?
  • Do you want to connect with multiple applications within a category or only one?
  • How much tech bandwidth do you need to spend on complex data transformation or normalization?

Depending on the nature and scope of complexity, you can choose your integration approach. More complex integrations, which need scale and volume, should be achieved through a unified API approach. 

2) Customization requirements

Next, you must gauge the level of customizations you need. Depending on the expectations of your customers, your integrations might be standardized, or require a high amount of customizations. 

If you need an internal integration, chances are high that you will need a great degree of customization. You may want to check on:

  • What is the level of customization you need for your integrations?
  • Do your customers need unique workflows in integrations? 

If you need to customize your integrations for specific workflows tailored to your individual customers, workflow automation tools will be a better choice.

Note: At Knit, we are working on customized cases with our unified API partners every day. If you have a niche use case or special integration need, feel free to contact us. Get in touch

3) Scalability and growth

It is extremely important to understand your current and expected integration needs

Internally, you might need a limited number of integrations, or if you have a very limited number of customers, you will only need one-off customer facing integrations. 

However, if you wish to scale the use of your product and stay ahead of competition, you will need to offer more integrations as you grow. Even within a category, you will have to offer multiple integrations. 

For instance, some of your customers might use Salesforce as CRM, but others might be using Zoho CRM. Invariably, you need to integrate both the CRM with your product. Thus, you must gauge:

  • How many integrations do you need currently and what is the scale of growth expected?
  • Do you need more than a few integrations or applications within the same category?
  • How integral is integration scalability to your business or product growth?

If scaling integrations faster is your priority, unified APIs are the best choice for you.

4)Technical expertise available

Your choice of the right integration approach will also depend on the technical expertise available. 

You need to make sure that all of your engineering bandwidth is not spent only on building and maintaining integrations. At the same time, the integrations should be developer friendly and resilient to errors. 

Try to check:

  • How much bandwidth does your engineering team have to dedicate to integrations, without diverting focus from core product? 
  • Has your team worked with a particular integration approach in the past?
  • Will your team need additional training to align well with the chosen integration approach?
It is important that not all your technical expertise is spent on integrations. An ideal integration approach will ensure that other team members beyond core engineering are also able to take care of a few action items. 

5) Turnaround time and budgets

You need to gauge how much budget you have to ensure that you don’t overshoot and stay cost effective. At the same time, you might want to explore different integration approaches depending on the time criticality. 

Time and budget critical integrations can be accomplished via unified API or workflow automation. It is important to take a stock of:

  • What is the available budget you have for integration building and maintenance?
  • How many integrations do you seek to accomplish with those budgets?
  • What are the expected timelines for the integrations to be implemented?

It is important to undertake a cost benefit analysis based on the cost and number of integrations. 

For instance, a unified API might not be an ideal choice if you only need one integration. However, if you plan to scale the number of integrations, especially in the same category, then this approach will turn out to be most cost effective. The same is also true from a time investment perspective. 

6) Ecosystem support

When you go for an external integration approach like workflow automation or unified APIs, beyond in-house development or DIY, it is important to understand the ecosystem support available. 

If you only get initial set up support from your integration provider/ vendor, you will find your engineering team extremely stretched for maintenance and management. 

At the same time, lack of adequate resources and documentation will prevent your teams from learning about the integration to provide the right support. Therefore, it is ideal to get an understanding of:

  • What is the support being offered by your integration partner?
  • What are the capabilities available within your team to facilitate the integration process?
  • Will the integration partner provide comprehensive documentation and resources for knowledge sharing?
  • What is the quality of pre-built connectors/ API that are being provided?

7) Future outlook and considerations

Finally, integrations are generally an ongoing relationship and not a one-off engagement. The bigger your business grows, the higher will be your integration needs both to close more deals as well as to reduce customer churn.

Therefore, you need to focus on the future considerations and outlook. The future considerations need to take into account your scale up plan, potential lock-in, changing needs, etc. Overall, some of the questions you can consider are:

  • How well will your integration approach support your scale up plan?
  • Will the integration approach seamlessly adapt to the changing integration landscape?
  • Are there lock-ins or commitments that come along with any particular approach?

Understanding these nuances will help you create a long-term plan for your integrations. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

When building integrations, it is best to understand your use case or type of integrations that you seek to implement before choosing the ideal product integration approach. While there are numerous considerations you must keep in mind, here are a few quick hacks.

  • Choose workflow automation for one-off customer facing integrations where you need a low-code editor with pre-built connectors. 
  • On the other hand, go for a unified API approach if you want to create standardized customer-facing integrations which you can scale.

Knit unified API helps you connect with multiple applications within the CRM, HRIS, ATS, Accounting, category in one go with just one API. Talk to one of our experts to explore your use case options or try our API for free

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