Kickstart your analytics for your next project with Segment

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I agree with you … setting up your analytics is far from sexy. In facts, it is rather cumbersome and can involve some heavy lifting from your engineering team. You have to select the metrics that you want to collect, you have to choose where to store that info, and decide which tool is the right one for each metric. Then you have to implement everything – which means copying and pasting tokens and API keys, writing lines of codes for each event you want to track, making the data flow, and finally seeing what your users are doing.

In an ideal world, you could just select the metrics you want to look at and access them. Well today is your lucky day! I want to introduce you to an awesome startup: Segment.

Segment acts as a middleman between your users and all your analytics tools.

How does it work?

image01Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s get a high level overview of how it works:

  1. Insert the code snippet from Segment for the type of source you are getting your data from.
  2. Configure the different tools in Segment that you want your data to go to and check that your data or events are being triggered.
  3. Go into your tools and set them up with the new events.

In the example above, you could imagine having the following user journey:

A user goes on your website and ask questions through Intercom about the features of your app. He then signs up and pays his membership using Stripe and is redirected to the mobile app download page.image02

You could then take this hypothetical business action: The user is added to your newsletter on Mailchimp and Mixpanel sends them a welcome notification for the new membership on their phone.image00

The pros and cons of Segment

Many to many

Segment can be integrated to collect data in your own apps on a lot of different platforms (server, mobile, webapps) but also in your helpdesk or messaging system. It can then translate and send this data to your analytics tools and apps.

Large catalog of integrations

Right off the bat you can plug into numerous tools in different areas such as messaging/email, analytics, CRMs, helpdesks etc… Most of the big names such as Google Analytics or Zendesk are present but because the depth of diversity is so interesting, it allowed me to discover new services.

Write once

One of the big pain points for the engineering team was to have a consistent data schema across different tools that do not have any consistency. Now you just have to write the same simple lines of code saving you time and keeping your code clean.

Free plan

With 50,000 API calls per month in the free plan, you have access to all the integrations and features of Segment, which is great to get started. I find it much better to get a volume pricing with access to 100% of the features. It allows you to get a better sense of how powerful the solution is.

Extensive documentation

Segment not only has a very well-written documentation but also great content on their blog that provides examples and business insights about how people are using their service.

image03All your eggs in the same basket

Even though I did not get any availability problems and I’m using the free plan, it’s true that if Segment decides to raise their pricing or has a major problem, this would have a very big impact on my workflows. I think this is something you want to keep in mind especially if you want to start scaling your own project.

Read the docs  

Segment does not prevent you from having to read the documentation of the integrations/tools you are using, and you might find some glitches sometime. An example of this is special field names that are required for certain services- so you might end up having a ‘$username’ for Mixpanel and ‘user_name’ for your Mailchimp. They have the same value but do not behave the same in the tools.

Latency

I’ve noticed some latency between triggering an event and displaying an event. Of course when you add a  link in the chain, you might expect this type of problem. If your service is very latency sensitive, this is something you may want to take into consideration.

Segment is a great solution acting as a middleman between your users and all your analytics tools. With a large catalogue of integration and a simple setup process, this is a great way to kickstart your analytics for your next project. Its extensive documentation should help you overcome most of the problems you could face but will not compensate for the “all my eggs in the same basket” if something happens!

Further readings:

Growth Stacks, a quantitative look into the tools growth teams use from Greylock Partners

Startups: 5 steps to enterprise-grade data mining from Venture Beat

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Antonin Lapiche Written by:

Antonin Lapiche is the rapid prototyping guy of the Product Design team. His passion for new technology makes him a self learner in order to experiment anything new out there. His focus is on using a set of new technologies to solve customer pain points. His philosophy: K.I.S.S and “a prototype is worth a thousand meetings”. Antonin is the founder of thesiliconvalleystable.com and proud father of Captain Feedback. He holds a Master in CS from EFREI Engineering School and a Master in Management from Audencia Nantes School of Management. You can engage with him (or just send him funny GIFs) on twitter @airlikidh2.