A First Look at Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL from Twilio Segment

By Kalyan Nistala, Hanhan Wang
  • Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL, two new features for the Twilio Segment CDP, will be available for public beta in December, 2022.

  • Profiles Sync makes Twilio Segment’s identity-resolved customer profiles portable. It syncs customer profiles to the data warehouse, giving data teams the foundation they need to create valuable audiences in the data warehouse that power personalized customer experiences.

  • Reverse ETL makes activating these enriched profiles, and other valuable data stored in the data warehouse, easy and automatic. Connect to and start syncing data from your cloud data warehouse of choice within minutes.

Delivering personalized and relevant customer experiences is now the expectation, not the exception.

And year over year, these expectations are getting higher. According to our 2022 State of Personalization Report, 62% of consumers say a brand will lose their loyalty if they deliver a generic, unpersonalized experience, up from 45% in 2021.

In practice, however, delivering these personalized experiences is an empty rallying cry rather than a reality.

The problem is that gathering all the data about your customers and merging it into one record is a largely unsolved challenge for the vast majority of businesses. Stale, inaccurate, and fragmented customer profiles are still the norm, leading to impersonal (not to mention inefficient) customer engagement.

For over a decade, Twilio Segment has been on a mission to change this. With our industry leading product – Segment Profiles – businesses can merge the complete activity history of each customer across web, mobile, servers and systems into a single profile, giving companies complete, accurate and trusted customer profiles automatically – no data modeling or extra transformation required.

Now, we’re taking things one step further. Two upcoming features – Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL– make our industry-leading customer profiles portable, allowing businesses to create hyper-tailored audiences in their domain-of-choice, the data warehouse.

These features, alongside Twilio Segment’s other products, such as Engage, are the next step in our vision to empower businesses with real-time, accurate, and unified data together in one platform.

Providing secure, native, and open access to data where it already resides

Since Segment’s founding in 2011, open data and interoperability has been at the heart of our approach to customer data management. Unlike legacy marketing suites, our open platform of 400+ pre-built integrations ensures customer data is not locked in any one system, and can be activated in real-time in your marketing and analytics tools of choice.

So, when we heard from some of our most data-savvy customers that they were performing advanced analytics, machine learning, and trait computation in their data warehouse, it got us thinking about what customer profiles in the warehouse looked like.

Using new modern data platforms, we saw 1-3 person data teams running powerful cloud data warehouse systems alongside their CDP to enable mission-critical analysis and impressive personalization use cases on par with big tech companies staffed with armies of data engineers. 

But when it came to building customer profiles, we observed a recurring stumbling block.

These small but mighty data engineering teams were creating “shadow profiles”, custom-built identity resolution pipelines within the data warehouse itself. 

The problem? 

Custom-built, identity-resolved customer profiles are very difficult to create and maintain in the data warehouse directly, sometimes taking years to model and refine to a point that they are trusted. 

In some cases, data teams were able to stitch identities in their warehouse by performing transformations or working with additional vendors, but for many businesses these “shadow profiles” became incomplete, out of date, and less accurate than using Segment’s identity resolution system built over several years.

Additionally, more and more customers showed us how they were driving business impact with machine learning. To enable this, they wanted to send sources and data processed through Segment into the environments their data scientists already worked – the data warehouse. 

The inverse was also true – these data teams were creating hundreds or thousands of traits, and wanted efficient ways to push these traits from the warehouse back to Segment so their marketing team could use them for fine-grained targeting, audience creation and journey building. 

Seeing how the data warehouse complemented the modern customer data foundation they had established with Segment, the opportunity ahead of us was clear: to deliver a complete, identity-resolved, customer profile that can be enriched with any and all data in the warehouse, and easily sent back out of the warehouse to any tool in their tech stack.

Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL: democratizing access to a single view of the customer

Today, we’re announcing two exciting products – Profiles Sync & Reverse ETL – that combine Segment’s powerful customer profiles with the storage and compute power of cloud data warehouses like Snowflake, BigQuery, and Redshift.


Profiles Sync: making profiles portable

The number of touchpoints customers can have with your business has exploded in the last decade, and a typical customer journey is likely to take place across various devices. Think about it: How many devices have you used in the past hour? Your work laptop, your phone, maybe a smart speaker, and possibly more.

With Segment’s best in class identity resolution engine, you can gather data across those different touchpoints, tie it all to one unique customer profile, and then use that data to delight your customers with messaging tailored to them.

With Profiles Sync, you can take things one step further. Profiles Sync provides easy-to-use data sets and data models right out of the box, so that you can enrich customer profiles in the warehouse according to the needs of your business. These data sets are designed to make it easy to join Segment provided tables with existing identities and other tables in your warehouse of choice. 

That means rich customer profiles in your warehouse in hours, as opposed to years.

Reverse ETL: solving the “last mile problem” for data

Our data-savvy customers also told us that once they had built out and enriched their customer profiles in the warehouse, they needed a way to send these profiles from the warehouse to downstream destinations in their tech stack.  

For example, say you wanted to combine event data from your website (tracked via Segment) with object data from your CRM or contact center in your data warehouse, using that data to model a “likely to convert” audience, and sending that audience to an email marketing tool or Google Ads for re-marketing. 

Sure, you could have your data teams manually export and import CSV files, or build custom Python data pipelines, spending vast amounts of time and money in the process.

Or you could use Reverse ETL.

Reverse ETL lets you activate the data in your warehouse automatically. It lets you send data in your warehouse through Segment out to all of the downstream tools you use with the same design, reliability, and observability you expect from Segment.

Crucially, this means you don’t need a different vendor for each type of data pipeline – event streaming, ETL, and reverse ETL. Segment provides every type of data pipeline in a single, easy-to-use platform so you can have one vendor and one tool for all of your data.

At Segment, we are in constant conversation with our customers and closely monitor the shifts and changes of the customer data landscape. We are excited to provide this first look at our Reverse ETL tool and empower customers who want to activate the valuable data within their cloud data platforms.

Getting started with Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL

With Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL data teams now have a complete toolkit to support profile enrichment and movement. This means more flexibility, more accessibility, and most importantly, better quality customer engagement.

If you’d like to stay in the know, follow the steps below to sign up for the Profiles Sync and Reverse ETL public beta when it’s released later this year: 

  • Profiles Sync is available to all Engage (formerly known as Personas) customers at no additional cost. Sign up here.

  • Non-Engage customers can contact their Segment rep to access Profiles Sync. 

Reverse ETL will be available to all Segment Connections customers at all tiers. Customers can sign up here to be notified when Public Beta becomes available.

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