How do the automation features of Airtable and Zapier stack up against each other?
If you had asked me two years, or even one year ago whether Airtable automations were something to think seriously about using in your business automation stack, I would’ve given a firm no. But now, if you’re using Airtable, my answer would be a resounding yes.
Of course, this is only a valid comparison if you’re actually using Airtable. Airtable automations are not a standalone product, and doesn’t necessarily compare like-for-like with Zapier across all domains.
Airtable automations are an integral part of my systems (and many of our clients). That said, is Airtable in a position to usurp Zapier’s position as the leader in no-code automation? Probably not now, but they sure are getting closer.
Here’s how they stack up against each other:
1. App Universe
While Zapier has an expansive universe of apps that it integrates, within automations, Airtable is limited to but a handful (like Google Sheets, Twilio, Slack, and Clearbit – among others on a growing list).
However, one of the secret weapons of Airtable automations is the ability to trigger via a webhook, and to run a script as an action.
Although these steps are technically code or low-code options, they can give a huge amount of flexibility in terms of what you can do with an Airtable automation – essentially giving you the ability connect with any app with an API directly out of Airtable.
Both Zapier and Airtable have limits in terms of how many Zaps/Automations you can have (Zapier depends on the pricing level, and Airtable offers 50 automations on paid plans). Zapier limits tasks and Airtable limits automation runs, again according to your pricing plan. My rule of thumb is if it can be done with an Airtable automation, do it within Airtable as long as it’s not going to use an amount of automation runs that will exceed your allowance. This keeps the overall cost of your tech-stack down, and keeps your systems in a single place.
Since Airtable automations are a native feature, they are set up perfectly for use within the platform. There’s no additional setup to do, except to connect external apps. On the other hand, Zapier is powerful, but does require a bit more finesse and experience to bring an automation together.
4. Update Time
The frequency that Zapier will check your trigger apps for new data varies between 1 to 15 minutes based on different pricing plans. For example, if you’re on a Free plan, Zapier will check your trigger app for new data every 15 minutes.
Airtable in the other hand is more or less instant, regardless of the plan you are on.
Zapier – Depending on the plan you are on, the number of actions can vary from a single step (Free Plan) to multiple steps (Paid Plan). The maximum number of steps in paid plans is 100 but you can always create new zaps to execute steps in excess of 100.
Airtable – Actions in Airtable are limited to just 25 steps. But if you find you hit a limit, as with Zapier, you can run the additional steps on another automation set up.
6. Paths / Conditional Actions
In Zapier, the maximum number of paths in Zapier that you can set up is 5. And in Airtable, it’s possible to set up 25 conditional actions. However, paths and conditional actions are not the same, and have different use cases depending what you need.
7. Delay Steps
In Zapier, you can set up delays in Zapier within the actions. For example, you can set up a delay for an email to be sent 24 hours after the trigger or after another action.
In Airtable there is no built in delay feature within automations. You can set up a semblance of a delay in the trigger by adding a last modified formula and make it a part of your trigger conditions.
8. Overall Features
If you were to put Airtable automations and Zapier side-by-side, in a simple sense Zapier comes out on top. The sheer amount of apps on the platform, as well as the ability to perform additional functions within the Zaps themselves is impressive. However, if you are working within the Airtable ecosystem, it’s hard to downplay the power of the automation capability it offers.
If you have an Australian business, and you’re using or considering Airtable, talk to one of our experts on a free strategy call about maximising Airtable and automation in your business.