These days, a typical small-to-medium business will use upwards of a dozen pieces of software on a daily basis. They range in complexity from spreadsheets up through group chat, staff email, accounting, email marketing, prototyping, file sharing, project management, CRM, specialised platforms… and much more.
Most cloud-based software (aka software as a service, or SaaS) will support what’s known as ‘application programming interfaces’, or APIs.
APIs are like pipes between two pieces of software that allow them to talk to each other and sync data. For example, businesses that use SugarCRM as their CRM system and MailChimp as their email automation platform can purchase SugarChimp, an API that’s been developed to join the two platforms, allowing them to synchronise data. But considering there are countless possible combinations of software used in any one business, it’s unlikely an API exists for anything but the most common combinations. To solve this issue, you could hire a software developer to build a custom solution. Or, you could continue manually exporting and importing data between multiple platforms. But those options are money or resource heavy.
Enter Zapier. Known as ‘the duct tape of the internet’, Zapier is an online tool that acts as an assistant to integrate different pieces of software. Every one of the more-than-750 apps supported by Zapier can connect in some way with every other one.
Users create ‘Zaps’ – recipes in which each step involves a single function of an app. The most popular apps that people use in Zapier recipes are Gmail, Google Sheets, MailChimp and Trello. So, for example, a Google Sheet spreadsheet can update automatically when a new subscriber joins a Campaign Monitor email list. Or each post to Facebook is automatically posted to LinkedIn. Or a daily Google Analytics report is posted to a specific Slack channel.
Of course, Zapier is not the only player in the growing market of web integrations. Free tool IFTTT (If This Then That) employs a similar recipe-based system. It’s good at simple web actions, but the difference in a professional solution like Zapier shows in its ability to perform multi-step recipes involving several pieces of complex software make Zapier a more complete solution to a larger number of integration problems. These involve apps such as the accounting apps Xero and Quickbooks, marketing automation platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot and Infusionsoft, ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce, SQL database tools and more.