Tesco.com is providing third-party programmers with access to some of its data to ensure the site becomes available on the growing number of devices that consumers use for internet access.

Using an application programming interface (API), developers will be able to write applications for websites and internet-enabled mobile devices that allow customers to sign into Tesco.com, search its product database and add items to a shopping basket. However, to ensure that it remains compliant with the payment card industry data security standard, shoppers  will not be able to pay for items using these applications.

“We want to get applications in front of customers on whatever their favourite device is as soon as possible,” said Tesco.com head of research and development Nick Lansley, who has been overseeing a private trial of the API since late last year.

Lansley said releasing the API is the foundation for enabling “little and often shopping”. Rather than selecting dozens of items in a single internet session at a desktop PC, Tesco expects future consumers will gradually fill their basket throughout the week using a variety of websites and mobile devices.

The growing variety of internet-connected devices had presented an obstacle to that vision. Instead of “betting Tesco.com money on apps for a whole load of different phones”, Lansley hopes to enable developers specialising in different devices to create their own, while encouraging the creation of commercially viable applications by paying according to performance.

Tesco’s affiliate scheme is being extended to cover applications created using the API. Details have not been finalised, but developers could earn about £5 for new customer referrals and 10p for each checkout for which their application was primarily responsible.

At present, applications using the API can access product descriptions and images, Tesco product and barcode numbers. Additional functionality will be added as Tesco.com moves to “Project Martini”, its new web platform, over the next two months.

Tesco has invited developers interested in the scheme to register for T-Jam, an invitation-only “innovation day” to present customer suggestions and demonstrate how the API can be used in various programming languages, scheduled for August 5.