Cloud Giant Twilio Is Getting Into Mar Tech

One year after acquiring the CDP Segment, cloud communications API platform Twilio is making its first foray into martech with Twilio Engage.

One year after acquiring the customer data platform Segment, cloud communications API platform Twilio is making its first foray into mar tech.

On Wednesday, Twilio launched Twilio Engage, a next-gen marketing cloud of sorts that aims to take on traditional marketing clouds by taking the pipes Segment built to process, query and segment data and merging them with all of Twilio’s communication channels.

Twilio Engage focuses on behavioral and clickstream data rather than demographic data.

“Legacy marketing clouds are not set up to do anything with behavioral data, but if you want to get to the level of personalization you see from Amazon, Facebook or Google, it all comes back to behavioral data,” said Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Twilio Segment, the post-acquisition name for the Segment CDP, which he co-founded in 2011.

Although the Twilio Engage UI is the same sort of shtick marketers are used to with their cloud partners, what happens “under the covers” is a different story, Reinhardt said.

The UI isn’t the hard part – pretty much everyone’s got an easy-to-use email editor, for example. “The hard part," Reinhardt said, "is knowing how to target, who should receive an email and how quickly and narrowly that needs to happen."

Twilio Engage differentiates itself by combining Twilio’s communications APIs with Segment’s CDP infrastructure so that marketers can analyze their first-party web and app data, create personalized segments and take action – sending email and text messages, for instance, or serving targeted ads – from one place.

The goal is to help marketers deliver omnichannel campaigns without having to bug their engineering team to pull custom data segments that then have to be loaded into a separate platform for activation.

“The net impact for marketers is that they can build this stuff way faster,” Reinhardt said. “All of the data infrastructure we built [at Segment] is coming to fruition now, and natively, through integrations with Twilio’s communications APIs.”

Take a running app that wants to send SMS congratulations messages to any person that’s hit a certain running distance milestone. A marketer would typically have to get an engineer to query a separate database, pull that information into a CSV file and manually share it with a marketing cloud in order to create a customer journey and later send the message.

“But we get events from the application, so marketers can create a target themselves and they don’t have to ask anyone for anything,” Reinhardt said. “They can just build the journey.”

Reinhardt doesn't expect brands to rip and replace their marketing clouds in favor of Twilio Engage, but the hope is that marketers start to slowly shift away from their legacy partners as they bring more advanced campaigns into Twilio’s marketing platform.

Twilio Engage rounds out Twilio’s other cloud-like offerings, including Twilio Flex, which serves as a cloud-based contact center, and Twilio Frontline, which is a prebuilt app with workflows for sales teams and account management.

Next up after this new foray into marketing, Twilio plans to use its Segment acquisition to apply customer data to channels beyond marketing, such as customer support and sales – “anywhere people interact with their customers,” Reinhardt said.

“The more data you can bring to bear on a conversation,” he said, “the more effective you can be, and the more automation you can do, because you better understand what the customer needs based on their other interactions.”

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