What is Segment?
Segment is a single hub for customer data. Collect your data in one place, then send it to more than 100 third-party tools, internal systems, or Amazon Redshift with the flip of a switch. Segment is a customer data platform that makes good data accessible for all teams.
Segment is a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which means that we provide a service that simplifies collecting and using data from the users of your digital properties (websites, apps, etc). With Segment, you can collect, transform, send, and archive your first-party customer data. We simplify the process of collecting data and hooking up new tools, allowing you to spend more time using your data, and LESS time trying to collect it.
You can also enrich the customer data you collect by connecting data from your other tools, and then aggregate it to monitor performance, inform decision-making processes, and create uniquely customized user experiences. You can also use Personas, our identity resolution tool, to unify data from individual users to gain a wholistic understanding of their actions.
What does it do?
In its very simplest form, Segment generates messages about what’s happening in your site or app, then translates the content of those messages into different formats for use by other tools (which we call ‘Destinations’), and transmits messages to those tools. The Segment servers also archive a copy of the data, and can send data to your storage systems (such as databases, warehouses, or bulk-storage buckets).
How does Segment work?
Segment’s libraries generate and send messages to our tracking API in JSON format. We provide a standard structure for the basic API calls, along with a recommended JSON structure (also known as the ‘Spec’, a type of schema) that helps keep the most important parts of your data consistent, while allowing great flexibility in what other information you collect and where.
When you implement Segment, you add our code to your website, app, or server, which generates messages based on specific triggers you define. At its very simplest, this code can be a snippet that you copy and paste into the HTML of a website to track page views. It can also be as complex as Segment calls embedded in a React mobile app to send messages when the app is opened or closed, when the user performs different actions, or when time based conditions are met (for example “ticket reservation expired” or “cart abandoned after 2 hours”).
Segment has Sources and Destinations. Sources send messages into Segment (and other tools), while Destinations receive messages from Segment.
Anatomy of a Segment message
The most basic Segment message requires only a userID or anonymousID; all other fields are optional to allow for maximum flexibility. However, a normal Segment message has three main parts: the common fields, the “context” object, and the properties (if it’s an event) or traits (if it’s an object).
The common fields include information specific to how the call was generated, like the timestamp and library name and version. The fields in the context object are usually generated by the library, and include information about the environment in which the call was generated: page path, user agent, OS, locale settings, etc. The properties and traits are optional and are where you customize the information you want to collect for your implementation.
Another common part of a Segment message is the integrations object, which you can use to explicitly filter which destinations the call is forwarded to. However this object is optional, and is often omitted in favor of non-code based filtering options.
Segment provides several types of Sources which you can use to collect your data, and which you can choose among based on the needs of your app or site. For websites, you can embed a library which loads on the page to create the Segment messages. If you have a mobile app, you can embed one of our Mobile libraries, and if you’d like to create messages directly on a server (if you have, for example a dedicated .NET server that processes payments), we have several server-based libraries that you can embed directly into your backend code. (You can also use cloud-sources to import data about your app or site from other tools like Zendesk or Salesforce, to enrich the data sent through Segment.)
Once Segment generates the messages, it can send them directly to the Segment servers for translation and forwarding on to the Destinations you’re using, or it can make calls directly from the app or site to the APIs of your Destination tools. Which of these methods you choose depends on which Destinations you’re using and other factors. You can read more about these considerations in our Connection Modes documentation