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GSK consumer healthcare teams up with Whitespace to embrace an API-First approach that connects consumers directly to products

GSK Consumer Healthcare has achieved a major milestone in its digital evolution that allows it to connect directly with consumers via an application programming interface (API). The global healthcare brand had been exploring ways to generate more business value and improved usability using APIs, which led them to work with Whitespace.

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In its latest API capability, GSK now connects directly with consumers so that it can move beyond solely distributing popular products from Sensodyne, Nicorette, Panadol, etc. via retailers and pharmacies.

Levelling up from the old way of IT integration with an API-first approach

What makes this breakthrough even more impressive is that GSK Consumer Healthcare’s API-first strategy only began in September 2020, following a seminar from its chief digital officer who was exploring how the business could exchange value directly with consumers.

Nakul Vyas saw hugely encouraging results early on following an API experiment using one of its popular vitamin C products.

We had an API to search via zip code to find the nearest place where it is available. The API took just 15 days to build and deploy, and experienced a huge uptake from consumers, proving that people were happy to connect directly with GSK Healthcare to find out more about the availability of a product.
Nakul Vyas, Head of Innovation Platforms for Americas and Consumer Healthcare Global at GSK

A separate API experiment saw GSK create a new chatbot service that allowed customers to discuss symptoms, view/buy recommended products, and have them delivered to their homes – with Walmart completing the transaction. “We had 55-year-olds buying directly from GSK,” said Vyas.

Ultimately, GSK Consumer Healthcare’s API-first approach has taken them closer to their vision of becoming a “platform company.” Now it has the cornerstones in place to help them create new products, explore new markets, boost revenues, and delight customers with first-rate experiences – which all add undeniable value for shareholders.

GSK Consumer Healthcare operates within a global digital and data economy where our products and services are delivered through an ecosystem of colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers. The true value of this digital ecosystem can only be properly realised through an API-first strategy. These modern architectures enable a repeatable, secure and scalable way for GSK to create new digital experiences, products and commercial opportunities quickly and collaboratively
Will Westwick, Chief Technology Officer at GSK

The rising popularity of an API-first approach

Former Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, has inspired companies to take a fierce commitment to an API-first approach since 2002 when he popularised the movement with “The Amazon API Mandate.” It proved to be fundamental in Amazon’s stratospheric rise, thanks to an improved approach to externalising API functions while changing limiting mindsets and preconceptions.

Vyas shares Bezos’ relentless enthusiasm around APIs, as he created a small team of “API champions” to instil a thriving API culture at GSK Consumer Healthcare. Today, they have already delivered 17 APIs with another 24 in progress.

GSK had described the old way of IT integration as “trying to eat in a restaurant that offers neither menu nor waiter. Diners need to describe dishes from scratch, hunt ingredients themselves, and make their own trips to and from the kitchen.” An API is nothing more than a waiter in a restaurant, for Vyas.

While this is a refreshing take on improving the customer experience, it’s not just the customers benefitting from APIs: supply chain teams have used them to partner with third-party carriers to distribute products. And GSK Consumer Healthcare began providing a retail data exchange in April 2021.

Vyas reported that they are now working with giant retailers in the US, including Target and Walmart; Tesco in the UK, and Alibaba in China – with Google Apigee being the API platform behind it exchanging real-time targeted consumer information.

With GSK’s ongoing collaboration with Whitespace’s Innovation Network – the largest community of its kind in the UK – it is exploring further API possibilities that would enable pharmacists to see product trends based on postcodes.

Preconceptions around APIs have already changed during the short amount of time GSK has committed to an API-first approach. “Our doctors are starting to understand the use of APIs,” said Vyas. With consumers, doctors, and supply chain teams already seeing the value – we can only predict more breakthroughs that will improve product accessibility and customer satisfaction.

Vyas’ commitment to an API-first approach was launched to add business value and improve usability. It has already achieved both, and GSK Consumer Healthcare’s ongoing collaboration with Whitespace will only continue to see its API-first approach flourish.

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