Event Data: What You Need to Know

There’s power in data.

It helps your marketing team understand your customers. No more guesswork when you have actual evidence.

But with the word data tossed around so casually, it can be confusing to grasp what everyone really means. That confusion leads to frustration, not knowing how to use data to your team’s advantage.

We believe all marketers should have the technical chops to serve their customers better. That’s why, we’re looking under the hood of event data.

You’ll learn what it is and how it can make your email campaigns 10X better. Armed with this knowledge, your team can deliver personalized messaging to all your customers.

Are you ready? Let’s get technical…

What is Event Data?

Events are actions performed by users inside or outside your application that occur at a specific time. So the scope involves any user action you can track in the customer lifecycle.

This event data is recorded to show users’ behaviors. Depending on your customer base, your application may generate millions of events each day.

Your engineer can attach any related information to an event. These attributes can be used in your triggers to control who should receive event triggered campaigns. You can set any number of data keys and values.

Here’s what it looks like behind the scenes:

So, what would you record as event data?

Let’s say your company is a consumer app where users can play, create, and share music. You can record events when a user makes a new tune, downloads a sample from your sound library, or exports a file to SoundCloud.

With this event data, you can now send event triggered campaigns based on the user’s behavior. For example, if a user shares new music from your app to SoundCloud, you can send an email congratulating the user on publishing new tunes with a step-by-step guide on how to promote their work online.

Think of event data as taking an account of your users’ actions. And with those known behaviors, you can send relevant messaging, like email, SMS, or push notifications.

What You Need to Do

It’s not helpful to create any ol’ event data. Like with most things in life, it’s best that you develop a strategy.

First, think about your users’ behaviors and the goals you want to achieve with that data. If you want to know user engagement, you might look at how often users perform the main function of your app.

For a notes app, that action may be the creation of a new to-do list. A photo sharing platform might look at how often users post photos. An eCommerce store would want to know when a shopper makes a purchase.

However, this information won’t be beneficial if you don’t know what you want to achieve. So the next step is to create an outcome from the user behavior.

Going back to our music app scenario, every time a user makes an in-app purchase you want the outcome to be an order confirmation email. You also intend for the event data from the purchase to populate into this transactional email.

Now, you’re ready to sit down with your engineers. Talk to them about the project’s goals, user behaviors, and intended outcomes. These details will make it easier for the engineers to work their magic.

Here are a few useful resources for your team:

How to Make Event Data Useful

Here is where the fun begins. With your strategy and event data in hand, you now can set up campaigns based on your users’ behaviors.

Event Data as a Trigger or Filter

With event triggered campaigns, every time users perform a specific event you can automatically send them a message. You have the flexibility to send communications that fit the user’s actions.

In the example below, users will only enter a campaign if they perform the event labeled marketing_activity. It’s vital that you create a consistent labeling system that works for your team.

Each event may consist of several event attributes. You can use those specific attributes to filter an event. It helps your team narrow down your campaign’s audience. Below you’ll notice that users will only receive the campaign if they perform the marketing_activity event AND satisfy the three event attributes.

Event Data as a Liquid Reference

The Liquid templating language makes it simple to add dynamic content to your messages. You can add data specific to the user automatically.

In our platform, event data can be referenced in liquid templating. You access that data in your email text like this:

We used an event triggered campaign in our own Customer.io account to send our 2017 Year in Review email. Each message contained a mix of user attributes and event data unique to the recipient.

In this case, the event data included all the user’s annual campaign and delivery metrics (e.g. active/created campaigns, sent/opened emails). This data was pulled directly from our back-end storage with an ad-hoc script written by Joe Purdy, our amazing site reliability engineer.

With that validated data, we triggered events for each user profile to queue up drafts in the campaign. Here’s a peak of what the 2017 Year in Review event data looked like:

And here’s the actual email…

Event data lets you adapt to your customers’ preferences and needs. Plus, this level of personalization sets you apart from your competitors.

Keep Event Data Concise

What you put into data is what you get out of it. With the endless possibilities of user behavior, it’s easy to get excited and want to collect every piece of data on your users. However, that practice is more harmful than you think.

For starters, too much data hinders your strategy. A data dump makes it difficult for your team to analyze events. You’ll waste precious time sifting through unwanted data in search for what you need. That process will only leave you frustrated and push back your implementation plans.

Moreover, there’s the security risk. Your company is responsible for all the information you gather about your consumers. With more user attributes comes more responsibility to safeguard their data. It’s better not to expose your customers to any unnecessary risks. Make sure your team is aware of data protection laws, like the GDPR.

Below is an example of concise event data. It includes attributes about a specific purchase. From this code block, you can see the items purchased, the type of each item, and the price of the items. There’s also an order total and shipping cost. There’s no extraneous information.

In the long run, collecting data just to have it isn’t beneficial for your company. Collaborate with your product and engineering teams to discover which data matters most.

Gain a Competitive Advantage

Data is powerful. So take the time to level up your technical know-how.

With event data, your competitive advantage is sending personalized messages to your customers. Now work with your team to explore the possibilities.

How does your team use event data? Share your thoughts below!