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How a gift shop used automation to mimic the in-person customer experience

By Krystina Martinez · April 10, 2020
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Doing online business is as easy as a Google Form. I think writing down what I did, step-by-step, anyone could do it.—Charlie Carlisle

When someone walks into La De Da! gift store in suburban Chicago, they can count on owner Jill Carlisle to have a recommendation for the perfect gift. With all but essential businesses shuttered due to social distancing, her son Charlie wanted to help her create a simple solution that would mimic that experience.

"In [mom's] business, people come in not really knowing what they want — they know what they want to accomplish but often times don't come in with specifics," he said.

Charlie's automation mindset helped him recognize he could create a system so Jill could keep her famous customer service in a period of social distancing—and her revenue numbers for this time of year are comparable to how La De Da performed in 2019.

The initial challenge: Create an eCommerce-light solution that is easy to manage

While platforms like Shopify and Squarespace allow anyone to set up an online shop, many local businesses like La De Da rely on face-to-face interaction to recommend the best products for their customers.

"[La De Da's website] is very basic," Charlie said. "It has photos of the store and hours, but not eCommerce."

For Jill, she's never needed an online shop because it makes more sense for her to sell in-person. She keeps a light inventory that constantly rotates with different items and styles.

Charlie had already used Zapier in his own work at Love Your Melon and figured he could find a way to create a simple solution for his mother.

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Get text alerts and follow-up emails in Gmail for new Google Form responses
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Charlie wanted to recreate the day-to-day interactions his mother has with customers, so he first set up a Google Form, mimicking the kinds of questions she'd ask when a customer walks in or calls her.

A screenshot of a Google form. Form questions ask about customer gift preferences and price range.
Jill can help her customers find the perfect gift with a few questions.

Once a customer submits the form, Jill receives a text alerting her that a customer has filled out the form and is in the queue waiting for her response.

She then receives an email with further order details submitted through the form. She can use this information to follow up with the customer without having to dig into tools she's not familiar with.

Because Jill has a large list of people who get store promotions via text, Charlie also helped her link a PayPal account to her business bank account so she can text a customized link for customers to purchase their gifts.

With just one Zap, Jill is taking orders, staying organized, and keeping a better record of individual customers' preferences.

Anyone can automate

Automation isn't just for the highly tech-savvy — anyone can leverage automation to create simple, flexible solutions to help keep the lights on in an uncertain climate.

"Doing online business is as easy as a Google Form," Charlie said. "I think writing down what I did, step-by-step, anyone could do it."

Skeptical? Not Jill: she's sending La De Da! gifts to people all over the country thanks to one Zap her son set up.

"I think she'll able to keep [it] on as a part of her ongoing business, even when she's able to open her doors for in-person business again," said Charlie.

What's your story? Tell us how you use Zapier to do more. You can also read even more customer stories and find new ways to improve your workflow and productivity.

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