SEGMENT OR SNOWPLOW?

Understand the difference between Segment and Snowplow, so you can make the right decision for your business, your use cases and your data stack.

A side-by-side look at the key similarities and differences between Segment and Snowplow Insights

Segment’s core product offering and add-ons such as Replays, Personas, and Protocols have been considered. Please note that these add-ons tend to be available only on the most expensive Business Tier plans.

Theme Benefits & Features Snowplow
Insights
Segment Further details
Full flexibility Custom data structures yes yes
Customer success manager yes yes With Snowplow, regardless of your tier, every step of the implementation process is customized to your business, teams and product. Segment only offers this level of support and customer care as an add on or on their highest tier
Data collection across unlimited devices (e.g. IoT) yes yes Snowplow trackers are built to automatically capture as many user identifiers as possible with every event. You can also implement cross-device tracking and collect data from multiple sources to build a single customer view and an end-to-end customer journey.
Decoupled data collection and modeling yes no By decoupling the collection of behavioral event data from the application of business logic, you gain the flexibility to change each independently of the other. That being said, you are still free to model your Segment data.
Incremental and configurable SQL data model yes no Business logic changes over time. If your data model needs to to keep pace with the business (and really, we believe that the data should be driving that change, rather than playing catch-up), it needs to be possible to evolve the way business logic is implemented in your systems over time
Ingestion of data from 3rd parties and webhooks yes yes While Snowplow doesn’t offer as many direct integrations as Segment, you still have easy-to-use SDKs to integrate key sources and destinations. You can also use an alternative tag manager, like Google Tag Manager, alongside Snowplow to send data to additional desintations, which is ultimately more flexible and replicates Segment’s value proposition around “pushing data wherever”
Load your data into BigQuery yes yes
Load your data into Snowflake DB and Redshift yes yes
Load your data into S3 yes yes This is only accessible on Segment’s Business tier
Load your data into real-time streams (Kinesis, Pub/Sub) yes yes Kafka is coming soon to Snowplow
Real-time data delivery SLAs yes no Only Snowplow offers real-time data delivery SLAs for behavioral data
Real-time data enrichment (1st and 3rd party, and fully configurable) yes no Segment’s offering here lacks robust real-time enrichment and only Snowplow offers true 1st party enrichment for use cases such as lead scoring.
Unlimited custom properties yes yes
Unlimited use cases yes yes While all the data may technically be in the Segment warehouse, it is in a format which still requires heavy wrangling. Snowplow enables you to build out a single data asset you can then use to power many more use cases beyond those offered by a CDP.
Quality assured Cloud outage and data loss protection yes yes This is only available with Segment using their premium ‘Replays’ add-on, available to Business tier customers
Common data format across all platforms yes no In Segment, every source for every platform has a unique table in the warehouse, which with complex setups can result in 1000s of differing tables
Data quality console for debugging yes yes
Fully observable data pipeline yes no
Local queuing for offline event capture yes yes
Proactive data quality alerting yes yes This is only available with Segment using their premium ‘Protocols’ add-on, available to Business tier customers
Provides a single source of truth for data mature companies yes no With Segment, you have to union data across a large number of tables when collecting data from many sources to create a complete event-level table. This makes it more difficult to adapt the data to your use cases
Real-time validation of data against schemas yes yes This is only available with Segment using their premium ‘Protocols’ add-on, available to Business tier customers
Reduces time spent cleaning or wrangling data yes no Snowplow data arrives in a single events table in a clean, deduplicated and expected format so very little data preparation is required. This also makes it easier to plug the data straight into your business intelligence, product analytics, reverse ETL tools and/or build models on top of the data
Reprocessing of bad data yes yes This is only available with Segment using their premium ‘Replays’ add-on, available to Business tier customers
Unopinionated data yes no
Uptime and latency SLAs yes no
Total control 1st party server-set cookies for reliable user tracking on Safari yes no This is a truly powerful feature of a tool like Snowplow, which unlocks best in class marketing attribution, while remaining compliant with data privacy regulations
Built on an open standard yes no With Snowplow, if your business needs change you can fall back to Snowplow Open Source. With Segment, you are more likely to find yourself locked in
Complete data ownership yes no
Control over where your data is processed yes no With Segment your data is processed in their cloud environment. With Snowplow your data is processed end-to-end in your own environment. This means you can choose exactly where your data is processed (which cloud, which region)
Data is trusted by data, product and marketing teams yes no While Segment has been built to be accessible to product and marketing teams, it has been built in a way that is not as reliable for marketing attribution or customer journey mapping as Snowplow. Similarly, the data teams we speak to do not trust Segment’s warehousing solutions as they would their own
Framework for writing unit tests against your tracking yes no
Modern ad blocker circumvention yes no
Server-side tracking yes no
Support for data structure and data schema evolution yes yes This is only available with Segment using their premium ‘Protocols’ add-on, available to Business tier customers
Support for fully anonymous tracking yes no
Support for pseudonymizing data yes no
Zero vendor lock-in yes no Your data pipeline is your most important piece of analytics infrastructure, and renting it makes you vulnerable. With Snowplow, you own your data and the underlying tech. Snowplow is an open source platform, which means you’ll never face vendor lock-in, a reality many growing businesses face with Segment
TL;DR While Segment is a great tool for some companies to start on their data journey, Snowplow customers collect more behavioral data per user, more reliably, and deliver it into more destinations (and in real-time) for more sophisticated use cases

Where Segment outperforms Snowplow

Segment does a number of things Snowplow doesn’t:

  • Syncing data to third party SaaS solutions. Segment does this automatically out-of-the-box. Snowplow does not. 
  • Reverse ETL i.e. publishing data from data warehouse to 3rd-party SaaS solutions. Segment does this, Snowplow does not (but we see Hightouch and Census as great pieces of kit which solve this problem)
  • Fetching data from 3rd party APIs and storing in data warehouse. Segment does this, Snowplow does not.
  • Identity resolution. This is available with Segment using their premium ‘Personas’ add-on.
  • User segmentation builder and syncing to third parties. This is available with Segment using their premium ‘Personas’ add-on.

 

Where Snowplow outperforms Segment

Most of these differences stem from Snowplow’s primary focus on behavioral data management vs Segment’s on data triage

  • Data ownership. Whereas Snowplow users keep their own data in their own environment, with Segment the data is sent into Segment’s black box and then sent back to the customer’s data warehouse and other destinations. This also means Segment users lack auditability.
  • Data productivity. Snowplow delivers a single events table, making session, journey and user-level analysis significantly easier
  • Data quality. Snowplow offers a much more extensive toolkit for debugging bad data and recovering it than Segment. (E.g. we offer tools to “fix” bad data prior to replaying it). To get the same level of data quality tooling with Segment, you would need to purchase two premium add-ons, “Protocols” and “Replays”. The functionality these offer comes out the box with Snowplow Insights.
  • Data richness and structure. Snowplow delivers more lines of data, and more data points, out-of-the-box, than Segment, owing to our relentless focus on completeness, richness and granularity. This is especially true for web tracking – Segment’s page table tracks just 23 properties, whereas Snowplow’s is 120+.
  • GDPR / compliance. Because Snowplow Insights customers have their own data on their own systems, and full auditability, they can control exactly what data is sent where., down to the specific country level. Segment’s toolset here is much more limited.
  • Lack of control: Data is sent through Segment’s black box and then sent into your data warehouse, meaning you lose observability and auditability over items as important as customizable identity resolution. Also, if you’d like to track custom entities, Segment only uses a ‘person’ as an entity. There is no way to specify other entity concepts such as sessions, searches, organization or journey.
  • Latency. Snowplow users are typically loading the data into their data warehouses at least once per hour, while Segment’s are only guaranteed daily.
  • Professional Services. We help you to build your tracking from the ground up, tailored to your specific business needs, and we help you to drive business value from that custom tracking. Segment tend to stop after ingesting and delivering it, except on the ir most expensive plans.
  • Server-set cookies. Due to 7-day cookie expirations and no known desire to build in workarounds, if you have a long buying cycle you’ll have to build your own work-arounds and user-ids.
  • Upsells. Their data validation and data loss protection toolkits are expensive upsells.
  • Wrangling. With Segment, a new table is created for each source going in to each property. For example, with 35 data sources across 12 properties you’d have 420 tables, while with Snowplow you’d still have just the one. This format is at the heart of how Segment makes it easy to ingest data, but it does make it hard to handle and unify at scale. This is made even harder without id’s which tie ‘page views’ to ‘tracks’ in Segment (other than a timestamp).

Out of the box Snowplow delivers much more data including:

  • Session IDs
  • Page view IDs (so you can understand user behaviour when they have multiple tabs open)
  • Time on page (accurately via heart beats)
  • Device, operating system and browser data
    Referer data
  • Campaign attribution data

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