Go to any gathering of product managers in 2020 (real or virtual), and you will probably encounter someone talking about Segment.
It is fast becoming a favorite with teams seeking to leverage user data to improve their products and their businesses.
In today’s article, we will explain what exactly Segment is, and why product managers should be using it. We will also go through some of the best “recipes” available through Segment and how product managers can use them to work smarter, and just make and deliver better products.
I think that Segment is a valuable tool for streamlining data collection without weighing down your code, and for connecting datasets that would usually be kept within departmental silos.
This enables new connections to be made between datasets, offering new insights and perspectives. In this way, Segment is a useful tool both for diving into the detail of individual problems and for zooming to understand what the data is saying on a global scale.
What Is Segment?
Segment describes itself as a Customer Data Platform (CDP) designed to streamline the process of gathering, crunching, and using user data.
OK, what does that mean?
Segment can collect all first-party user data from your websites, mobile applications, and other products in a consistent, streamlined way, using the same code base. It stores this data as a master data set, and also allows you to send this data to a series of different “destination”. These destinations are the other tools that you use to crunch and understand your data.
OK, here is still a lot to unpack there.
First–party user data is the data that you collect directly from your customers as they interact with your products and services. This can include any sign-up and account information, but also what the user has viewed and interacted with, their mode of engagement (web, mobile app, etc.), and much more. This is called first-party data as it is data that the user has knowingly shared with you.
Collecting the data using a single code base, Segment’s, means that you only need to get one API working with your products, rather than setting up one for web analytics, one for CRM, one for marketing, one for support tickets, etc. Instead, you send the data collected by Segment to your analytics, CRM, marketing, and other platforms.
As well as streamlining things on the technical side, this ensures that everyone is working from a consistent data source, and that data can be viewed in aggregate and is never stuck in silos. This allows you to more easily use your data both to dig into the detail and to understand the big picture.
So, for example, Segment can collect data from your website and mobile application, and then automatically send data to your desired destination, which might be a web analytics platform, a sales analytics platform, and a CRM platform. Multiple sources can go to one destination, or a single source can go to multiple destinations. You are free to tag up the data as you want.
Segment is currently compatible with 200 different data sources and destinations. These include Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Amplitude, Heap, Big Query, Snowflake, Optimizely, Shopify, Slack, Intercom, and much more. You can see a full list here.
Segment – Personas
While pulling, aggregating and sending data is the core of what Segment does, the Segment team are also busy building products to enhance what you can do with Segment. They have recently released a product called Personas.
This lets you segment the data produced by users based on a variety of criteria before you send it on to your destination analytics platforms. You can segment based on the login details, viewing or purchase history, having completed certain actions on the website, and many more things.
This allows you to use your end destination tools to get a more nuanced view as you can look at users in terms of logical user groups, rather than as a generic whole. You can also set up universal segments across your product team, which can complement other segments used by individual teams, such as marketing and user onboarding.
Who Should Use Segment
Segment is ideal for product teams that are using a variety of different, individual tools to crunch and utilize their data, but who also want to ensure that the data everyone is looking at is consistent and interconnected, and want to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Well, in an ideal world, that sounds like every product team.
It is also for product teams that use a disparate range of tools that are not always complimentary.
For example, if your company has built all of its work on Google platforms, such as Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Google Tag Manager, you might not need Segment as these platforms are already designed to work together. But if you are using Google Analytics, MixPanel, and Convert Kit, Segment is the ideal tool for integrating your analytics and data work.
The Benefits of Segment
A Single Code-Base
A single code-base for gathering data means less configuration for extracting your data from your products.
You only need to set up your website, app, or product to send data to Segment, and not to send it to your analytics platform, marketing tool, and CRM database (this will keep your programmers happy).
Different tools gather first-party data in different ways, and this can sometimes be why two different teams, using two different tools, are telling you two different stories.
With Segment, you can be sure that everyone is working from the same raw data, and that differences in opinion are about interpretation and insight, and not data sources.
While Segment is not a unique tool on the market, it is certainly the most comprehensive, as it is compatible with more than 200 different data sources and destinations, and that number is growing every day. The majority of businesses are unlikely to be using something that Segment can’t work with.
Segment has designed their pricing structure to be accessible.
It starts with a free Developer plan which allows you to configure sources while you are working, but you don’t need to start paying when you don’t yet have a customer base. Team and Business plans are then based on the number of monthly users tracked making it accessible to small businesses as well as good value for big businesses.
Team plans start at $120 per month for tracking up to 10,000 individual users. Business plans are bespoke based on your specific needs.
The Best Segment Recipes for Product Managers
Segment is a very flexible platform, and what you can do with it mostly limited by the data your users generate, your destination platforms, and your imagination.
But there are a few key things that are consistently important to all product managers, and so both the team at Segment and Segment superusers have been coming up with methodologies for the best way to achieve these things.
Within Segment, these are called recipes.
While new recipes are being added all the time, here are some of the recipes we think that product managers will find most useful.
This recipe shows you how you can work with Segment to identify user pain points in the user journey funnel, identifying both technical and motivational barriers to conversion.
And because Segment can send data to your marketing and communications platforms as well as your analytics platforms, this recipe also shows you how you can use what you learn to help push people past the blocks using personalized messaging based on their activity.
This recipe helps you understand what users are actually doing on your pages through heatmaps.
But rather than giving you aggregate data, using the Segment Personas tool, it enables you to look at user activity based on meaningful user segments.
This recipe shows you how to identify what the true measures of success are for your mobile app.
Most product managers will know that downloads are not a great KPI, as many people download and never use an app. This recipe helps you identify the real actions which show that a user has been successfully onboarded, and then track these APIs in the future.
This recipe shows you how to apply Personas to support tickets so that you can prioritize tickets not simply based on when they came in, but on other key factors, such as the user’s pricing plan, whether the user is on the tipping point to becoming a supporter or a detractor, and so forth.
The recipe shows you how you can sync the data being produced by your support team, using a tool like Zendesk, and your sales team, using any kind of CRM software.
It shows you how to ensure that all actions and notes are synchronized across both platforms so that both teams have all the information when dealing with customers. No more will you hear someone say “but I already spoke to someone about this!”
Integrating Segment with other products that can act as a data source is a common thing. In fact, after a point, it is obligatory to effectively manage products.
Warning: this is not actually a recipe but I believe it should be!
By setting up an integration between UserGuiding and Segment, you can store and utilize the data provided by UserGuiding’s analytics in your Segment account and use it to perfect your onboarding and beyond. So, every time your users interact with your tooltips, tours and NPS survey, you get instant data to optimize your UserGuiding content accordingly and perfect your onboarding.
A little mention of UserGuiding:
UserGuiding is an all-in-one user onboarding platform that is designed to help you, product managers, create the product experiences you dream of without the need of developers. Interactive tooltips, product tours, in-app messages, in-depth analytics, and user segmentation are the main features.
For any product manager looking to leverage data to maximum effect, Segment is a tool worth investigating.
Not only does it improve the quality of the data that you are including without unduly weighing down our codebase, but it also enhances what you can do with that data.
Segment releases data from silos so that it can be used across the team. It also makes it easier to draw new connections between the insights provided by different teams as the data can “speak to each other” in a more consistent way than when it is gathered by different platforms.
This support both digging into the fine detail, and zooming out to the meta picture to truly understand what is happening with your product.
Frequently Asked Questions
🔧 What exactly does Segment do?
Segment helps you collect data from many platforms and events, then send them to your desired product.
😎 Who uses Segment?
Product teams that are present across many analytics tools must use Segment to unify their data.
❓ Why should I use segment?
If you are having trouble with your data from various platforms, Segment can help make your life easier.