Strange IndiaStrange India

Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock

Zapier acts as an online hub that allows you to connect various product lines, services and basic data, integrating services that don’t have native integrations. If, say, you want the Hue lights in your office to flash every time a lead comes in via Hubspot, you could do that on Zapier, even if you can’t do it on either Hubspot or the Hue app. On a simpler level, people have been using these platforms for years to make simple, one-step workflows for home or work. If a smart camera picks up something, for example, you can have an SMS sent to someone. Each of these automations is called a “Zap.”

If it’s been a while since you checked in with Zapier, the company has introduced three new ways to make what was a simple offering a lot more business-friendly. A visual drag-and-drop editor allows you to create multi-step automations with conditionals; Zapier will now help you build databases on the Zapier platform for use in your Zaps; and a new AI engine will even create the automations for you. What these functions offer is an inexpensive way to get into automations beyond what a home user might need. They’re perfect for people just starting up their own side gig or small business, although you could also build wild multilayered automations for your home and family, too.

Zapier now helps you build internal databases

Tables and Canvas were introduced in late 2023, and as a Zapier user, I was shocked at how advanced they were compared to the old Zapier. Zapier always worked with databases that you had elsewhere as either triggers or results, on platforms like SQL, Quickbase and Google Sheets. Tables skips a number of steps and helps you built the database on Zapier itself, and then you can decide what Zaps to build off the data in it. You might make the database the trigger for an automation. The database might also be the result, where if some trigger is hit elsewhere, it will add data to the database. It could even serve both purposes: if specific data comes in, then change something else in the database.

Zapier Tables

Sure, you could use Zapier’s Tables for business, but imagine abstracting it for your home and family?
Credit: Zapier

One of the reasonings for keeping your databases on Zapier is the security of the database, knowing your Zaps won’t break (it happens all the time on platforms like Zapier, which is why I never liked key functionality to rely on them). Tables also invites you to “Do It Live!” (a scary but common dare used by developers where you edit a live site instead of an offline development site) by editing that database while it’s already in play, without affecting your Zaps. One of the reasons Zaps tend to fail is that you’re integrating three points: the trigger, the result and Zapier. By removing just one of those points, you lessen the risk. With the data on Zapier itself, you can also run a whole slew of actions off the database without creating a hundred Zaps to do so. Some of the suggested uses are a leads database or inserting levels of approval into a workflow.

You could also use this to automate home tasks between a couple or a family. For instance, a workflow for notices from school, to ensure both parents see and sign off on time. You could use it for family dinner planning, or bill paying. As emails come in with the right keywords or to the right email address, the content is added to the database, notifications are sent, approvals made and finally, payment is sent, all through automation, with the benefit of exceptional record keeping for tax time.

Create multi-stepped workflows

Zapier Canvas

Build complex workflows using drag and drop.
Credit: Zapier

Canvas, introduced at the same time, moves away from the Mad Libs-style automation building we’ve seen on these platforms for years, and gives you a drag-and-drop interface to build rich, branched workflows with conditionals. Instead of simply filling in the blanks of “use this trigger” and “perform this action,” you can now create an entire complex workflow using drag-and-drop blocks. “If someone opens an email, send them this follow-up. If they don’t open it, wait three days and then send it again” is an example of the kind of conditional logic you could use here.

Canvas is the marketing automation half of your lead-development database in Tables: Build out drip email campaigns, notifications, and approval steps. Visually, it appears to be simpler and clearer than similar automation tools on Hubspot, Salesforce and Mailchimp, too. But again, Canvas also can make a lot of sense for home use. Consider a multi-layered workflow for your smart home devices, too.

There’s AI, too

Zapier acquired Vowel, which built AI for video conferencing, and has turned it into Zapier Central, which suggests you work hand-in-hand with AI bots. You issue a request in basic Chat GPT style, and the bot will build your automations for you, which should cut down on the manual labor. Even if the automation has errors, it gives you a great head start. The bots can learn from your actions, too. 

All of these services appear to be add-ons to your basic Zapier plan, which just covers Zaps. While you can start with a free subscription on Zapier and build up from there to enterprise plans, all three features I mentioned incur a separate $20/month add-on fee: Tables, Canvas and AI. This may seem like a lot—but when you imagine a business just starting out, or someone who has a serious side gig, having all the services possible on one relatively open platform for $80/month is an affordable way to build serious marketing and workflow automations. As a home user, you likely won’t need all three add-ons, which means for $20 a month, you can build some next-level automations for your home and family.

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *