Zapier vs Custom integrations…what to choose, when and why

February 25, 2022

When starting to integrate tools within your tech system, there are several routes you could take. Choosing the right one requires thought around the cost to integrate both upfront and to keep it running, and of specific use-cases that need to be supported. The most common entry-level integration tool is Zapier which offers different plans affordably but has limitations in how much it can support. Alternatively, custom integrations exist at more of a premium but can offer everything a business needs to operate more efficiently in the long run. Here we weigh out these options more in-depth.

When is Zapier good?

For personal organizing or even for some small business workflow management, Zapier is often the right fit. They offer pre-made integration templates that can be tweaked and used on 3000 popular tools like Gmail and Quickbooks. Building integrations with Zapier doesn’t require any code to be written by the user and guarantees security of your data.

Because it comes prebuilt and doesn’t need any technical work to deploy, it can be pushed out quickly – often within minutes. In this, it is a good service to automate simple actions like an auto-response to an email or sending a single message from a POS to your accounting software.

When is it too limiting?

As a company grows it will need more than a simple A-to-B integration. Multiple systems will need to talk to each other and that is a service Zapier doesn’t provide at the moment. For example, a single sale of an item might require actions from that point of sale to accounting, inventory updates, order updates, shipping requests, customer data, and more.

Zapier is not equipped to handle that kind of complicated structure. The integrations they provide are built on a simple messaging queue as opposed to a more efficient pub-sub model. And while they integrate with many of the popular programs, they don’t support every action within those apps. For example, Zapier integrates with Quickbooks as accounting software, but only supports 12 actions of the 130 that Quickbooks offers. So it is likely that in growing a more mature organization, Zapier won’t be able to meet all of your needs.

The alternative: custom integrations

When you need more support than Zapier provides for, one solution is building out custom integrations. There are several benefits to building out your own pipelines. It can be built out for specific workflows and use-cases, so no matter what you need to work more efficiently, it can be done. When we do custom integrations we can optimize for each particular client as needed and can keep customer satisfaction a priority. Because we are building it out to fit the individual needs of a client, it can be as simple or as complex as required. Instead of a traditional messaging queue, we generally switch to a pub-sub model where all the different systems can subscribe to topics from publisher softwares.

When the pub-sub model is used, it eliminates having to update each of the systems individually and doesn’t have to wait for a request to come in, but can just send one update out when it is available. As a way of keeping a complicated system simplified, we use something called an abstraction layer to hide away all the specific information. This acts as a central place to access all data without overly exposing your sources. Furthermore, with a custom-built solution, you are not susceptible to any policy changes made by an outside platform like Zapier, so you are never at risk of losing the services you are dependent on.

Cost is a factor

Price is often a deciding factor in deciding which route to go. When you are looking at the cost of providing integrations it is important to plan for both the initial cost and maintenance fees. A platform like Zapier offers different tiers to minimize the cost upfront. However, once you have that, it is locked in at a fixed price. A custom integration solution costs more to get up and running, but the amount it takes to keep it going once it is built is minimal. When balancing out the expenses comparatively, we found that after 500 triggers (incoming orders, systems syncing, messages passing through queues, etc) custom integrations become more affordable than a prebuilt solution. Beyond that, the ROI of a custom solution is notably higher because it can offer you so much more and is able to scale with you in a way that Zapier cannot.

While Zapier may be a good starting place for a low-volume business, once you start to grow beyond simple integration needs, custom solutions become the clear answer. If your business would like to have an ecosystem that is built for efficiency, drop a message below. One of our experts would be happy to help get you connected.