12: Building a CDP on your Data Warehouse with Nicholas Ziech-Lopez of MessageGears

In this episode of The Data Stack Show, hosts Kostas Pardalis and Eric Dodds talk with Nicholas Ziech-Lopez, director of product strategy at MessageGears. MessageGears is designed to reduce data friction for marketers by connecting directly to a brand’s data source and using their live data. This episode centered around the world of CDPs and where MessageGears fits in that space.

Highlights from this week’s episode include:

  • Nicholas’ arrival at MessageGears and the company’s background (2:20)
  • MessageGears data sources (6:52)
  • Accessing the data warehouses (9:19)
  • Coordination and crossover of data and marketing roles (20:57)
  • Being a customer marketing platform (31:43)
  • Dealing with messy data (36:04)
  • Bridging the physical and digital world with consumers (43:49)
  • What’s coming up next for MessageGears (51:09)

The Data Stack Show is a weekly podcast powered by RudderStack. Each week we’ll talk to data engineers, analysts, and data scientists about their experience around building and maintaining data infrastructure, delivering data and data products, and driving better outcomes across their businesses with data.

RudderStack helps businesses make the most out of their customer data while ensuring data privacy and security. To learn more about RudderStack visit rudderstack.com.

Transcription

Eric Dodds  00:06

Welcome back to The Data Stack Show. Today, we have a really interesting guest, Nick from MessageGears. And MessageGears is a CDP, but interestingly, they run primarily off of a company’s owned live data that comes from the warehouse and other microservices. Very interesting. They coordinate, sort of cross-channel consumer messaging, and I’m fascinated to learn more about their data sources and how they accomplish that. But Kostas CDP space is crazy. What are you going to ask Nick?

Kostas Pardalis  00:45

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, for me, it’s going to be very interesting conversation today. First of all, because our friends, their at MessageGears, I always enjoy talking with them, they have a very clear and interesting perspective around the CDP market and what’s happening out there, which, by the way, it’s a very noisy market. So I think it’s going to be very interesting to hear mixed opinion about what the different products are there and what they are doing, how they differentiate and all that stuff. This conversation isn’t going to be that technical. But for me, what I find very interesting and what I want to learn more is, first of all, learn more about CDP in general, make it more clear in my mind what CDP is, and what’s the value behind using a CDP and also learn more about what marketers are doing with technology and how they start transforming the marketing industry. And I think Nick is the perfect person to enlighten us on that.

Eric Dodds  01:42

Great, well, let’s hop in and start the conversation. We are talking with Nick Ziech-Lopez from message gears, which is a CDP and a pretty unique CDP from a technical standpoint. Nick, welcome to the show.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  01:57

Thank you very much for having me. Very excited to be here.

Eric Dodds  01:59

Well, the CDP space is crazy in and of itself. We know that firsthand, from working at RudderStack. But Nick would love for you to just give a brief personal background, how did you get to where you are today? And then tell us about MessageGears? What do you do? And what makes you unique in the world of CDPs? 

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  02:20

No problem? Yeah. So I came to MessageGears, mostly by way of analytics. My previous stints were either an analyst at large credit card companies or kind of at a machine learning company for a startup that was doing some new tech. And what really attracted me to MessageGears was this idea of, you know, not analysis for analysis sake, or data for data’s sake, but solving a very real marketing problem with large amounts of data with data access with, you know, by way of data. So I, you know, I’ve been at MessageGears for a couple years now, I’m the Director of Product Strategy. At MessageGears, we, you know, like you said, we solve a lot of the CDP problems, and we actually consider ourselves a customer marketing platform, you know, because to that point, although we are centered on data, although, and I’m sure we’ll get to it, you know, the data problems that we solve are, you know, important, we’re doing it in service of better marketing, because, you know, we see ourselves as consumers, and as you know, as people with phones and TVs and, and computers, we want better marketing. And what we see getting in the way of it right now is access to lack of and use of data.

Eric Dodds  03:29

Got it. Super helpful. I would love to know, could you just give us a quick rundown of, you know, what does MessageGears do for business? Like, what types of activities can you execute, just to give us a sense of, you know, what are the product features? 

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  03:46

Sure thing. So, what MessageGears does is we say we reduce data friction for marketers. And data friction can be seen for any large enterprising enterprises marketing, you know, on a scale of millions of users, right to get these large, large companies that are sending millions and potentially billions of messages a month. And data friction is any customer experiences or brand experiences that you want to enable, that are getting slowed down by having to move data, or having to wait on or use data and other platforms. So to give you an example, a lot of large companies think about, like the 90s, and the early 2000s, for their email programs, their databases, simply couldn’t keep up with the high and low or the high demand and low latency that an email marketing program might need. Right? You might be running, you know, a query every minute, two queries a minute to define these audiences and send these messages. So what they do is they would take snapshots of their data and upload them into these other systems, you know, and that was a lot of how email marketing got built, is, I’m going to take a snapshot of data once a week, once every few days. And I’m going to send it over and then I’m going to send all of my email as the marketer, I’m going to log into that system, and they’re going to handle the data for me. And the issue there is that now you’re not working off of live data for so many of these use cases, you have to wait for the data to populate. Oftentimes, you’re restricted on the kinds of data you can use, because it has to match what that system can do. And so the marketing, for lack of a better term, you know, wasn’t that great. And I think a lot of us have experienced that, right? If you’ve ever purchased a product, and then you got an email, like 20 minutes later, that was like, Oh, don’t go away, make sure you finish your transaction. And you’re like, wait, what, and you go log back in, maybe it’s for tickets or something else. And it’s because they were working off of this old data, they didn’t know everything about you. So what MessageGears does is in message sending in audience segmentation and activation, in, you know, interaction management, we connect directly to a brand’s data source, so directly inside of their VPC behind the firewall to their private cloud, and use their live copy of data. Because, you know, in the year of 2020, you know, databases, data management systems have gotten so much better and more performant that we can do that. And we allow marketers and marketing ops to operate directly from their own data, and run their marketing operations from there.

Eric Dodds  06:17

That’s incredible. One question for you. You know, we’re, we are data source nerds ourselves, what are the when you say live data inside the company, and I want to return to the VPC question, and I know, I’m monopolizing the conversation and Kostas is probably is chomping at the bit to ask, ask a bunch of questions as well. But what are the common data sources here? I would guess, the warehouse, but what are other live data sources? And would just love to know what that looks like for a typical customer?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  06:52

Yeah, that’s a good question. So you know, these enterprise brands, what the movement we’ve been seeing over the last five years really, is going to these private clouds, these highly performant, typically file-based data store systems. And so we’re seeing a lot, you know, the usual suspects assessed by Snowflake and BigQuery, and Redshift, some Azure data sources in there, too. And that’s going to constitute a lot, but not all of that brands data. And for many of these brands, they have, you know, we always talk about it, it’s the most overused phrase, but this 360 degree view of the customer, right where they have or they’re storing, or they’re interested in storing everything that they know that their user has volunteered to them for better marketing. But you know, in addition to that, we do see a lot of these, I’ll say, like micro-service types of APIs, behind the firewall, things where their IT team or their architecture team has surfaced, instead of direct database access, access to an API, a lot of file storage, that we see as well. And it’s because you know, quite frankly, no two of these large enterprises look the same. And you guys know that, but we are definitely seeing this move towards it. Now, you know, this performance and stable data management that we can then run marketing ops off, that’s, that’s the majority of what we see.

Kostas Pardalis  08:16

So Nick, I have a question about the experience that the user has with MessageGears. And if we could, if you could, like spend some time like explaining a little bit how the user like the customer of MessageGears gives their rights with the product itself. And focusing a little bit more on the data. I mean, we get that’s like the end, you described a lot of like, how the data is accessed, like, what kind of like sources, where the data come from, and all that stuff. But I think it’s also very interesting to chat a little bit more about the nature of the data. I mean, at the end, what is this 360 view we’re talking about? Right? I mean, everyone talks about the 360 view, but you from the perspective of like the application that actually consumes this data and generates the value at the end? What have you seen so far being like, the most interesting, kind of like data sources that say, or data types that you see there? And how does the MessageGears customer interacts with this data? Like, what’s this, how does this experience look like?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  09:19

What we try to offer is the ability for both, I’ll say, technical and marketing users to come in and have their experience of the application in the marketing world, right. So a very, a very technical or very data heavy person might log into our application, might configure their data sources by connecting directly to their databases, or their file based APIs. And they might go in and type some SQL or, or, or to extract their audience or their what we call context data, right? Like the deals of the day type of data. And what they can do there is because they have direct access to the data, they can surface just about anything. To the marker, right, they can say, Oh, I want to define this audience, I’m going to give the marker these parameters. And really kind of, maybe there are there are cross table joins, maybe there’s multiple databases. That’s what they do. And that’s a lot of the administrative the data heavy work that really sets up the ability for the marketer. And what the marketer is doing is they’re logging in and they’re designing, you know, the email and push and SMS templates of, Okay, what kind of experiences am I going to be creating? What kind of campaigns over the next month? What kind of campaigns will be launched? Right? So I mean, think about it, now we’re, we’re in the middle of towards the end of October here, we’ve got the holidays coming up. So the marketers want to be coming in and designing either drag and drop, maybe they’re writing HTML, but saying, These are the kinds of images I want everybody to scrape, and maybe they’re a little bit disconnected from the data, maybe they don’t need to understand how data works. Maybe they can use our drag and drop SQL interface or, or potentially our, you know, we say visual segmentation builder, because what they’re focused on is maybe less of the data and more of what is this experience? What is this orchestration, this customer journey that I’m setting up? And then what’s very important for them is maybe because they’re disconnected from the data, how do I know that this is the right message is going out? How do I QA this? How do I how do I send these tests?  And so what we try to do with our application is, is equally served with both of those, because what we’ve seen a lot of in the market is that tools are either totally created for you know, marketing users, but make it impossible to use or upload or quite frankly, you know, make value of your data. Or, you know, in a lot of these segmentation platforms, we see tools that are marketed that, that they could be marketing friendly, but they’re quite frankly, too complicated, too overloaded. And the mix between either creative or actual experience, and the data that they’re using is too muddy. So we try to do is make fairly straightforward workflows, so that whether you consider and maybe you’re both that you can be both, you know, technical using SQL, understanding the data and understanding the experiences you’re creating. But that’s kind of our product, I would say, philosophy is that if I’m coming in to do one thing, it should be fairly straightforward for me to do that. Does that make sense?

Kostas Pardalis  12:15

Yeah, absolutely. And so I find it extremely interesting, that you understand, like the value of the existence of these two roles, they’re like, you have given the engineer in one side, but has like to deal with, like, the different aspects of the data lifecycle, and then you have the marketer, that’s, I mean, the marketer they are there, like, always will be interested about the message, right about what we are going to communicate and to whom we are going to communicate and why. And I think one of the mistakes that we people in like technology do is like, we try to take each one of these roles, like sales people, marketing people at the end, and project them like, technically, there is an issue they should have, right. And we talk a lot of, for example, about the marketer is that they need to work with the data or do like, you know, like SQL, or like have visual interfaces to create data sets and all that stuff. But yeah, I really, I really, I’m, I’m more of a fan to be honest, like clear distinction between the roles, I think that’s, I think it’s gonna work in an optimal way at the end. And I find it like extremely interesting that you’re doing this on the product. And so I’m very interesting to see how you separate the experiences, because these two personas like probably have, like different, different needs. So probably, I will focus a little bit more on like the data engineering side, and Eric will probably focus more on the marketing side. So my next question is, from a technical perspective, I mean, what you’ve seen that, we’ve seen lately, like a huge growth of interest around the cloud data warehouses, we have like the IPO of Snowflake, there is a lot of hype around that. And for a good reason. I mean, the democratization of like, accessing a data warehouse is like a very big thing. If we consider that like, a couple of years ago, data warehouse was like a luxury for Fortune 500 companies. So how do you see like the importance of the data warehouse? And what are like the kind of trends that you see from interacting with your customers and the data engineers inside these companies?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  14:23

Yeah, you know, just to that point, a few years ago, the data warehouse itself was almost like a walled garden, I remember being an analyst at a Fortune 100 company, and just not being able to get any access, like I am this guy, I know the problem that I’ve been tasked to solve, I understand that this area has the data I know exactly. And it would take months and months because they, you know, they simply have to do everything they could, because they couldn’t open up their data, due to the fact that it would, it would fall over, right and, and, and, and maybe this is the same database that’s supporting your website. Maybe this is the same database that’s doing something more important than some analyst running off and solving problems. And so, you know, we talked about the democratization data, we talked about data as a currency. And what I think, you know, we’ll get to your question of what do we see, you know, in the marketplace. And I think that it’s a little bit, you know, it’s multifaceted. I think it’s understanding that any improvements to data, you know, it’s kind of getting IT out of the doghouse a little bit of, it’s not data for data’s sake, it’s data for the, you know, for the entire marketing environment, this kind of fusion of marketing ops and marketing of what used to be, you know, a little bit of a separation there of, you know, yeah, marketing crafts the message, marketing delivers the experience, marketing ops makes it happen, right, it’s marketing ops, to make sure that data keeps moving, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re really two sides of the same coin, that if they work a little bit closer together, marketing ops can get the data faster, or work off live data or make it easier. Marketing can offer better experiences. And I think that it’s, that is affecting a little bit of the, I would say, the profit motive, or the revenue, and a lot of what you’re saying, of yeah, this data is fast. But it’s not about the data being fast. It’s the data is fast, and so we can blank. Right? So we can, and we’re looking at it from the marketing lens. But I think that these companies are seeing it through everyone’s, we now have fast access to all of our data so we can blank. So we can within the store, we can offer these experiences better. When you click go on the website, instead of waiting five seconds, you wait half a second and our NPS shoots up because people aren’t, you know, sitting there staring into browsers, I see that. And I see that people understand the value of data. And and you know, just as an anecdote, I was on a panel a few months ago, about a small business that had a small and midsize business that had really had kind of turned around on specifically Snowflake. And you know, their, their director of IT and their director of you know, data management, was going to marketing with insights that he found, because the data was so quickly that that was so it was returned so quickly and was so available, that he was able to query and do things that that that even marketing didn’t have the time to do. So he’s going out there with things that he did you know, when the weather is hotter, we sell more, did you know about you know, kind of, you know, putting data in the front seat there. And that’s so it’s not only the you know, the profit sharing, but it’s not the profit sharing, but the profit motive, but then it’s the idea that, okay, what are we gonna do with this, we’ve got all these actions, what are things that we didn’t think about not being able to do before, and this looks different for every business, but, but this kind of this idea of dream do founded by technology, or founded by data, right, the kinds of things of. I remember listening to a talk given by a food chain, that said that they can tell, and I love this kind of thing of and, and this, this is this gets to data sharing, which we can talk about in a second. But when you land in a plane, they can tell because you’ve been you, you haven’t shared your location for a long time. And now your location is very, very different. And this is a chain that, that had restaurants all throughout the airport. And so they know that they could send you a message right then, and you know, you turn off airplane mode, but they realize that that message is gonna get lost with probably the potentially the dozens of messages. I know Eric’s a super popular guy, he’s probably getting blown up by text every time he turns airplane mode off. And so it’s going to get lost. So what they do is when they sense that you probably just got off a plane, and that you’re, you’re near an airport, they wait four to five minutes for when you’re probably standing up and getting off the plane. And that’s when they hit you with a notification saying, hey, you might be here for a layover, why don’t you come and try blank? And it’s because they’re able to see all this data about their customers so much quicker. And I know that was a very long answer to your question. But moreover, we’re seeing the idea that it’s not data for data’s sake, but the ability to data to power what and then to to do what. And then the third part of it is really, when you invest in your data, the cost of everything else goes down, you’re investing in the right place. So these expensive third party tools that you were using to monitor things like location to monitor things like you know signals from around your website you don’t need because your data is there and you have access to it. And the you know, the total economic impact of the ROI there shoots up if that makes sense.

Eric Dodds  19:22

Yeah, I wish I wish I was that popular Nick.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  19:28

I wish we were on planes more often now.

Eric Dodds  19:34

I’m the guy who pulls his phone out of his pocket turns off airplane mode at the end of the flight and then sort of sadly slides it back in and looks around. That guy hasn’t heard from anyone because…

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  19:47

And I don’t know if you know but we are all talking about you when we see you do that.

Eric Dodds  19:54

One thing you said and this is this is really interesting because Kostas and I have had a few conversations on the show with people who span the data and marketing worlds. And in particular, I’m thinking about someone we interviewed, actually also named Nick, who exemplified that where you said, it’s the sort of the, the crossover between marketing ops and marketing, I think is the way you described it. Are you seeing roles like that more and more specifically, it’s something that we’ve been very interested in just as we talked with people on the show is that there’s sort of a, a new skill set where you have really like you, you’re someone who comes from an analyst background, and then gets into actual marketing execution and sort of coordination. Do you see those roles at large companies emerging?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  20:57

Oh, yeah, definitely. And, you know, it’s played into a little bit of ours, and I’m sure many companies strategy too. This recognition of whether you call it CRM, or call it, marketing operations, sometimes even roles. And if we’re getting tactical here, you know, whatever the analytics are, this idea of, like you said, people that understand and appreciate both, both from a talent perspective, and also people that appreciate both, from a revenue perspective, right, people that can, they can understand kind of what I was saying earlier that if you invest in your data, it what it does around the company. We’re seeing these, you know, we’re seeing a lot of that increase. And, you know, I think it matches a lot of the demand that companies have, but quite frankly, I’m interested in your thoughts on this as well, I think it’s matching a little bit of where the world is going. I think that it was, you know, if you look 10 years ago, and the big thing for everybody in, you know, in college and university or looking for jobs was you know, learn coding, learn coding, learn coding, you got to understand how to code and I think that’s absolutely still true. But you know, you know, 5-10 years later, learn data, learn how to work with data, because, you know, we’re always going to need people to develop these programs and develop kind of these, you know, human computer interfaces. But if you have a good understanding of data, and not only that, data analysis, critical thinking; no matter where you apply that, whether it be marketing, or sales, or you know, what have you that, that in the year 2020 and beyond, that is just a great base for how we’re looking at the world because the world is changing, because this data is so available. Are you guys seeing something similar? Both, I would say both in big companies, or, or just in the world in general?

Eric Dodds  22:42

Yeah, you know, we were talking with someone the other day. And, you know, we sort of have a warehouse first view of the world. And we were talking about building audiences. And this person made a statement that really, it really, I wouldn’t say it caught me off guard, but it just really caught my attention. And they said, we were talking about building audiences on the warehouse. And then the challenge that a lot of companies faces, they do a lot of work on the warehouse from a BI perspective, but it’s technically actually pretty hard to syndicate that work to the rest of the data stack, which is a whole other subject. But we’re talking about that. And we were saying, you know, the most generally the most robust audiences you can build come from the warehouse, because that’s to your point earlier, where you have the most comprehensive data set. And a lot of times, that’s because there’s internal data that, you know, you don’t want accessed by third party systems. But that also represents some of the most important touch points for customers. So all that to say this person said, you know, marketers who want to build audiences, but they aren’t willing to learn a little bit of SQL to sort of mine that value from the warehouse. He said, I think are, you know, are going to become, he didn’t say, obsolete, but he said, I think that that’s just going to become increasingly mandatory as a skill in marketing, which really struck me because when you think about writing, SQL, marketing is not the first role that comes to mind. But he felt very strongly about that. And, you know, I would say, anecdotally, we would see the same thing, right? I mean, people who were executing on data that drives customer experiences, are getting closer and closer to the data and many times they’re just actually getting into the warehouse, which is pretty crazy.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  24:43

I mean, I mean to that. You mentioned the most, you know, the most important audiences come from the warehouse, I’d say the most important audiences come from the heart. That’s a whole other topic. But to that point, I think the other thing too is demystifying this ability to work with data or technology or anything. I think that for a long time that process has been, and I’ll use the word mystified, you know, it’s SQL, it’s a programming language, if, if you if you didn’t excel in math and engineering in college, this is not going to be for you, when really what we’re talking about is a straightforward set of, you know, I’ll say tasks that you give the database that, you know, it’s not C-programming, it’s, it’s more of a kind of an instruction set for the data you want. And, and I do think that that’s part of the, whether you know, you call it like the marketing of the position, or whatever that is. I think that if we start thinking about it more like that of, Hey, you know, SQL and analysis, this isn’t like this, you know, this isn’t the math that you may not have enjoyed, you know, and I think there’s long been that kind of stigma of like, yeah, you go, you go into marketing and sales, because you didn’t want math and engineering. I mean, that that that stigma certainly was there when I went to the University of Illinois, and it felt like the College of Engineering, and then the College of Business kind of did that. A little bit of like, yeah, marketers aren’t engineers, you don’t do that. And I think what we’re talking about is, you know, there’s a ton of space, a ton of great space for this hybrid. Can you think creatively and understand the experiences your customer wants to have, as well as be able to, you know, extract this data and do analysis? I know, we’re way far away from where we started here. But just to say, I do think that that is a where most of the world if not the market is going.

Eric Dodds  26:23

Totally agree. Kostas, I was waiting for you to jump in with a question. 

Kostas Pardalis  26:28

I was thinking while you were chatting about data in general. And it’s very interesting, because I had the conversation like earlier today with someone else who asked him like a bit of a similar question. The question was more about where is like the technology or IT market going naturally. But I think it’s very relevant to what we are discussing here. Because if we see really like the cycles of technology, and what is happening, like in the market, and that’s related, Nick, to what you said about what you were hearing that everyone who was going to call it was like, I have to learn how to code and blah, blah, blah, and all that stuff. And now it’s all about the data. I think it makes a lot of sense, because what has actually happened in the market this past few years, is that we had the specification, let’s share your favorite thing, like we pretty much have like a SaaS platform from almost every human activity right now, from finding a babysitter to doing sales. And I don’t know, even like cemeteries have a SaaS application, right?  So the next evolution to that is because after you have like, and by the way, software is becoming a commodity, right? Like, exactly, because you have all these platforms, like it becomes super and super actually to build applications around these platforms. So the next wave of innovation is actually will be coming like from the data that will be available because of these platforms out there. And to make a comment, and actually give a compliment to the marketers out there. The marketers, they might not might be like, I don’t know, maybe afraid, like to try SQL or like, write code or whatever. But they’re one of the few types of people or like professionals out there who are really in the forefront of like, using new technologies. When something new comes and there is an opportunity there, they will give it a try. I mean, marketeers are much faster, like in adopting new technologies, and trying to use technology for their business converts to I don’t know, like sales, for example, or even engineering, in some cases, to be honest, engineers are much more conservative than people think. So yeah, those are like my thoughts and I agree with all the stuff you said, so far, I think that data is going to be very interesting space for everyone. It’s like a skill that working with data anyone needs to learn how to do.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  29:03

And I, you know, I think that to be totally honest with you, we’re hoping that that plays to our strengths, right? MessageGears is a fairly new company. And we consider ourselves a custom marketing platform, because in many ways, we’re going up against these, these ECSPs, these every channel service providers, these monolithic marketing clouds that, that seemingly offer everything and have been around for, you know, a fair amount of time. And, and what we do see is, you know, at the end of the day, people want to create great experiences, right? That’s why you’re in marketing. That’s, that’s what you do. And what we have seen and what we’re hoping to continue to see is if you know it’s more than the promise of being able to create a great experience, but it’s the right experience and can you do it easier and can you do it faster? And can you do it in a more efficient way? And and our ability, right, this just gets to a little bit of our, you know, unique place in the market, but our ability to install kind of where they are and give them you know, we talked about having a free POC, most of the people can’t do a free proof of concept. So the ability to just say, Hey, you know, I, I’m pretty sure I’m pretty confident you, you have just invested in this large modern data warehouse, I’m very confident that if you try it, you’ll like it, and I’m willing, and I’m so willing to do that, that I’m going to do it for free. It’ll take, you know, it’ll take a day. And if you don’t like it, that’s fine. Maybe, you know, maybe we’re not in the right place. We talk a lot about us having definitely a certain customer profile in terms of number of records and sending, but it’s the fact that hey, do you want to do this for your customer? And are you willing to try?

Kostas Pardalis  30:36

Yeah, absolutely. So Nick, I’d like your opinion on something that I’m also like, trying to figure out to be honest. There is like a lot of noise around the markets of, let’s say, CDPs, customer data platforms, are traditionally considered based off a definition like a marketing tool, right? There’s a lot of noise in these tools, like many different tools, they call themselves CDPs that are coming up with like, new names for the product, like you have CDPs, you have CDIs. You mentioned earlier on the introduction about MessageGears that you define yourself as a customer marketing platform. Right? Yeah. So can you help us a little bit navigate this landscape of like these different products? And what like a marketer should have in her mind when choosing like to direct with these tools? I mean, personally, I’m a bit confused, to be honest. So I’m pretty sure that many people, many customers out there are confused about the difference with all these different tools. So I think it would be great to hear from you, because you are an expert in this.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  31:43

Sure, sure, absolutely. So where we’re seeing a lot of it go is just this idea of you know, we can solve these, these, you know, I don’t say data problems, but we can work in data for you. Because, you know, that’s kind of the common word, there’s customer data, what. Now, what we see a lot of the customer data platforms doing is saying, all right, what I’m going to do is I’m going to get to know all your customers, and I’m gonna store a little bit of your data. And as people kind of interact with your brand out in the world, maybe they go to your app, maybe they go to your website, I’m going to collect that data, I’m going to keep it and then you can create, you the marketer, can create workflows that you want me to do for them. And that works super well for you know, lower to mid-market enterprises, right? You know, you’ve got, you know, thousands, maybe low millions of signals a day and, and that, and what the platform does is it’s holding your data and that I think works fine. And where that idea of a CDP, this platform, breaks down a little bit is at scale. Right? Now, instead of millions of interactions day, you have hundreds of millions, maybe a billion interactions a day, maybe you’re a huge company, with large web presence, and you have all these sister companies, and for another tool to store a copy of your data is no longer really working, right, the scale doesn’t work there, they can’t persist it. And then we get into this idea of, you know, customer data integration, or something like that, or customer data infrastructure, which is, okay, maybe we’re not a platform, maybe we’re maybe we’re bigger than that, right? We’re an entire infrastructure that can help then send that data back to you. And, you know, but primarily, they’re kind of doing the same thing. They’re, they’re taking your data, and they’re going to try to collect it for you. Because that can be difficult, you’ll probably want to rely on software to do that. But then they’re going to store it, and they may make decisions, or you may make decisions in that platform. That’s where we see a lot of that’s where we see a lot of it going. And the reason that the MessageGears has long called themselves a customer marketing platform, is because we don’t want to store that data for you, we believe, like you said, we believe in a warehouse first world, we believe in the democratization of data, we believe that data is going to be flexible, and the brands are going to want to own that data. And we’re seeing that play out. So if you are the data platform, if you are your own data platform, you’ve got this and you have the ability to collect and store and use this data, then we’re a marketing platform that we’re going to connect directly to your data and put that and then and then activate and do the kinds of segmentations using your own ability. And you know what, we don’t need to store your data at all, because we’re going to send your messages and you’re going to select your own data. And in that way, you don’t have to worry about PII, you don’t have to worry about GDPR clients, or CCPA, you’re going to be just fine. And in that way, we’re not we don’t consider ourselves a service provider either. Because we’re connected to your data, right? We’re a platform that is connected and integrated directly with you. So it’s not like you’re sending us something and we’re doing something for you. That’s what a lot of the every channel or the email service providers are doing. And so we see ourselves in that space.

Eric Dodds  34:59

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but this is just based on both personal experience and a ton of stuff we see at RudderStack. But there’s sort of a… data is messy, we say that a lot. And so I’m interested to know, you are getting you sort of run on direct access to a company’s sort of live data, which is, has so many advantages, like that’s such an interesting way to approach the problem. But data is messy as well, if you think about a warehouse source, you know, I mean, everyone likes to think that their data governance is in tip top shape, and you know, that their warehouses are in are in tip top shape. But it’s messy, right. I mean, there’s lots of generally lots of cleanup that has to be done. From a technical perspective, do you run into those issues and MessageGears? And how do you manage through that? I mean, that’s a really interesting, you sort of have the most rich source of data, but it’s also its data, right? Which means that it’s messy and oftentimes needs clean up. Do you see that? And how do you deal with it?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  36:04

Sure, sure. So I’ll answer that in kind of in two ways. So when we see, and for a lot of these organizations that make the move to these cloud data warehouses, that kind of comes with it, right. And what you’re what I think you’re helping describe is the data ecosystem, not just it’s not just data storage, it’s data in, it’s data activation, it’s data out, it’s life cycles on that data, right? I’m sure we could talk for hours on that, and much has been said about that. But it’s cart-and-horse of if you’re going to invest in this in this new data platform, data, you know, data warehouse, how are you going to ensure that you know, it doesn’t, it doesn’t go bad in six months? When it’s garbage in, garbage out. And so what we see is a lot of brands are being mindful when making that transition from a legacy database to a new database, they realize that not only the upgrading of data storage, they’re upgrading a lot of their data processes. And I saw something the other day that the rise of the chief data officer who’s you know, whose actual, you know, fiduciary liability to companies make sure that their data is in a place that’s useful. So we’re seeing that. And then but that’s not to say that, you know, that it’s not like before, when they were shipping their data, that that was always kind of a messy process as well. What they’re doing is they’re activating the good data that they have, but you well, a lot of these other types of vendors have made copies of data, make it look very clean, that in itself, copying data, whenever you do is a messy process, you have terabyte sized feeds. And what we see is, even if there’s a little bit of an investment that needs to be made to ensure that the data in this data warehouse is clean, through whatever processes and I think you guys know a ton about that, what we’re seeing is people understand and are just so willing to run away from the headaches of my data is copied into three different platforms. I am getting data feeds both in and out hourly. And I’m getting so many that one breaks a day, and when one breaks, marketing activities grind to a halt. Those headaches are the kinds that they’re willing to then invest in. Okay, yes, we’ve got this new data warehouse, I want to  invest in ensuring that everything in both make sense, passes audits, and all of that, because this other thing was untenable for the size of my work. 

Eric Dodds  38:20

Got it. Super. Yeah, that’s super interesting. I mean, it’s, it is so interesting that, you know, that sort of the richest source of data, you just have to manage very closely. But we live in an age where you can actually do that, which is really exciting. Kostas, I’m interested to know, from a technical perspective, on the VPC side of things, what questions do you have there? I know you’ve managed several sort of product features that relate directly to that, and you sort of understand the concerns around that. Any any questions from your end?

Kostas Pardalis  38:54

Yeah, I have actually, two questions. One is a technical question that has to do with the VPCs. And then I have like a product question for Nick. But let’s start first with the technical question, which has to do with accessing the data and accessing the infrastructure that the customer has. We have been discussing so far, Nick, about like evolution of clouds, data warehouses, but still, I mean, it’s pretty early, right? I mean, some, like many companies has done like them, have done the migration to the cloud. There’s a lot of on prem installations. And even on the cloud. There’s a lot of I mean, for security purposes and reasons, companies prefer to have their own VPCs. So things become a bit complicated when someone wants to be a platform that accesses the data sources the company has, how do you deal with that? And how’s the experience around that and how important it is at the end, based on your experience on MessageGears?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  39:56

Sure, sure. So what we have found is when you can get, when the marketing operations or the technical marketing organization really understands the value that can be obtained or understood from directly accessing the data, many of the hurdles eventually get out of the way. Because what they’re doing and what you’re what you’re already doing is taking your data and copying it somewhere else. So, you know, whether it’s, you know, Privacy Shield or whatever certification you have, you’re sending that data elsewhere. What, what we have is the ability to access any data. But it is important that we give IT and these people the ability to then say, well, what’s sensitive, and we enable KMS encryption for anything leaving the platform, we don’t store any, when things leave their VPC and eventually comes to our kind of elastic processing cloud for delivery. We don’t store any of that information. It’s all ephemeral. And I think that, you know, it’s two sided of convincing them of the value and letting them see what can actually happen, which to be frank is difficult sometimes, because of the what, like I said that the literal decades of doing it the other way. And then on the other hand, the assurance that, you know, through encryption through, you know, non-permanent data storage, and all these things, there, there really is no risk here. This is compared to the fact that you’re sending all this data to other vendors right now. We definitely do see teams jump on board.

Kostas Pardalis  41:34

That’s great. I think that as I mean, the market matures, and like, companies see that like, okay, it’s the same level, like security use, like the cloud, and there are all the best practices in place and everything that has to do around security and understanding the risk around that, I think, as exactly, as you said, that when they will start also balancing the value of like interacting with tools, we’ll see more and more like adoption around that. And I think that’s, I mean, the growth of all these cloud-based companies like Snowflake, for example, which is crazy what happened with their IPO. Yeah, it’s very interesting to see what’s going to happen and how fast actually it’s going to be adopted. And I think the technology is there, like the best practices are there. Just think security that we people have like to deal with and make the right choice at the right time.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  42:31

So adding features of like the actual data access features, and you know, for a long time, we’ve connected to a lot of these traditional databases through, you know, something old, reliable JDBC. But a lot of these native integrations, native APIs that go orders of magnitude faster than a JDBC connection, they’re making that data access, in many ways parallelization to throughput, rich enough that there’s it’s kind of the stick of needing to, to continue to innovate and change. But then there’s the carrot of man, this so much easier, man, it’s so much faster that I see a lot of organizations realizing.

Kostas Pardalis  43:06

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, Nick, I have another question. That’s actually my last question about the product. I mean, we’re discussing all this time, and we have been discussing more about the data, how someone experiences like you working with data through MessageGears. And that, put it like in a bit of like engineering terms, where we monopolize, like the discussion around like the inputs. But I’d like to learn a little bit more about also the output from what I understand and correct me if I’m wrong. At the end, what someone is doing with MessageGears is creating campaigns to communicate with the customers and this happens mainly through SMS and emails. Is this correct?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  43:49

Yes, that is that is correct. So what we do is we offer the ability to define these audiences using live data to connect to any of these internal or external data sources, to enrich your campaigns. So for instance, in one database, you might have all of your audience records, but another database, you have today’s coupons and today’s details, we might connect to both. And then and then the user might, using our segmentation tool user might create workflows and rules to say, you know, depending on, you know, spending recency and customer profiles, and any of the hundreds or potentially thousands of things that they know about their customers, you know, who’s in which brackets for segmentation? And who’s in what segments right? Are you a loyalty member? Are you platinum loyalty? Do I think that your purchase recency has gone up? And then, you know, they use those segmentations to activate on any one of our native or integration channels. So like you said, they’re sending email and pushing SMS, but they’re also exporting groups of people to you know, you know, Facebook, you know, customer match, or sorry, customer or Google customer lists, you know, activating through various third party, I would say, you know, others ESP and mobile providers, because they’re bought in on using their data. So we have a tool that allows them to send and activate that data and create creative on many different platforms. We also have a tool called Engage, which is now that the message is going out, how do I make sure that message is always good. So we team up with companies like Moveable Ink, where we have a real time API that surfaces a lot of that a lot of I would say, a customer context or offer context. So that way, if you send an email campaign to 250 million people, you can get dynamic live images using real data for an API that is getting hit 5-10 thousand times a second, it’s still resilient. In with that, mostly, and I’m trying to kind of give the elevator pitch version here. But that’s what the user’s doing. And, and those are the kinds of operations that MessageGears wants to enable, because at the end of the day, we want better marketing, both as consumers and as providers. And we provide the toolset to allow users doing that using data.

Kostas Pardalis  46:03

That’s great. So from your experience, have you seen like any kind of like new channels appearing that are raising in terms of like popularity? And I mean, as you can see, I was only aware about like, SMS, email, but I’m not coming from the marketing world. So I’m, I’m very interested to hear like, what are the platforms that appear right now. And that’s like monopolizing the rest of the marketers out there. 

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  46:33

Sure. So the first thing I’ll say is, is our approach to mobile push messaging is a little bit different than what you see on the market. A lot of these marketing tools have had these SDKs, or standard development kits, that sit in your phone, and, you know, the IT team, or the development team doesn’t control, they install the SDK, and then the marketer gets all of these features. The issue is that, you know, these SDKs break, these SDKs are expensive, the SDKs are, they want to be the center of your world in many in many ways. And so we offer an SDK-less solution, which you know, not to go into too much detail, we’re seeing that get a lot of traction, because it’s basically the ability without installing any third-party software inside of your application, to send messages, send push messages, you know, in-app messages, or different kinds of even in the message center, without this third party, you know, code sitting in your app, giving the development team around the app more and more of an ability to control what’s going on. And we could get to that, you know, I can go into more detail there if you’d like me to, but we’re definitely seeing that get more and more traction when marketers, but the, you know, the other kind of channels that are blowing up, and they’ve always been a little been blowing up. But things like the right time to use social media, and how. I think that because and by the way, I think as a society where we’re rethinking a lot of social media right now understanding where it fits in our lives. So I think it kind of echoes a larger sentiment, but you know, when to use social media, when to use direct communications. And then even to take the two that that you were cognizant about the right time, you know, how does your consumer view email. Is your consumer someone that is going to open all their email every morning, I know my wife is an inbox zero person, or is your consumer person going to scan the subject lines, but its going to really engage through text. I would say that I almost fall into that category. And then understanding when to communicate what messages on which channels to that person, I think those are the really cool challenges and channels that marketers are delving into of, you know, are you, you know, is this a message that I want to go ahead and spend the extra CPM for to reach out to you versus SMS? Is this the right time to, to kind of lean back on the email? Because I think you haven’t been opening? Or is the fact you haven’t been opening, meaning that you’re seeing them, you’re okay, you know, you’re just not in a spot right now to respond. I’d say that not only the specific channels, but the challenges within channel optimization, not just from a cost standpoint, but from a, which messages on which channels are going to make this consumer most happy and familiar with my brand. I see that marketers are really making some really good strides in those areas. And those are things that, you know, coming from my background in analytics I’m incredibly excited with, because I think it goes to you know, I think we were on a webinar a few weeks ago and you made the comment that having data about a customer is very similar to if you had a customer in your store, what would you notice about them? What would you look at? And I think that marketers are getting closer to you know, I don’t know you, you live across the world but you have my app and you go to my website and you buy our products and I’m getting closer and closer to being able to interact with you like I knew you like I was talking to you and reading these signals and seeing you in my store. And honestly that as a consumer that excites me because I think that’s where we want to be.

Kostas Pardalis  49:50

Absolutely. I think that’s the holy grail of like trying to bridge the digital with the physical world and that’s exactly what we are trying to do with the data and that’s like the right balance that we should find there. And okay, I know that in this whole process like there are also things that are happening that some people might feel like creepy, but at the end, I think humanity will manage to find like the right balance there and do that.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  50:16

Yes to that point, I think that people are getting in a place of you’re volunteering information to a brand to get better experiences. Where the brand lets consumers down, is if you’re tracking my location, as many apps do, if you’re monitoring my activity on your website, and you’re still sending me the same crappy emails and messages, then no, you did not deserve any information I gave about you, you’re throwing that away. But if I’m volunteering this info, and you’re creating more relevant experiences for me, well, then yeah, that’s I mean, that’s up to me as a consumer of saying, Yeah, I’m totally happy with that, because tell me more about to you about myself, it is better for me in the end.

Kostas Pardalis  50:52

Absolutely, absolutely. I totally agree with that. So Nick, anything exciting that you can share with us about MessageGears in the future, like any product features that you plan, anything that you’d like to share with the people out there from what is coming next with MessageGears?

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  51:09

Yeah, absolutely. So to give a little bit of a peek at our, I’ll keep it to the short term roadmap, what we’re focused on right now is making it easier for these, I would say, either hybrid marketers or data people to access and use their data. So things like, are you able to record and understand everything about your audience through time, so message us is giving you the ability to kind of decorate and enhance what you know about your users, through what we call the addition of labels? Am I able to use that and drive workflows off of that? Am I able to make our orchestration and journey builder, easier to use and more flexible coming off of that live data? Another interesting feature we have coming out, is the ability to have these globally defined, you know, definitions of segments for users, that are able to be controlled in a workflow outside of just a pure segmentation. So, you know, maybe a customer brand specialist can come in and define what a high loyalty or a high value user is. And then, you know, marketers can come in and draw from those definitions to make, you know, audience segmentation much faster, at the end of the day our, you know, what we’re trying to do is make the tool easier to use and more powerful is I think everybody’s trying to, and I’m really excited on the on a lot of these ease of use features that will be coming out and, and quite frankly, I’m really interested to see the kinds of going into 2021, in a post COVID world, the kinds of cross channel and third party use cases that that a lot of our marketers have.

Eric Dodds  52:45

That’s incredibly exciting. And I think that it will be fascinating to sort of see the with the increased amount of digital data. And then sort of the slow return of, you know, physical data represented digitally, especially for retailers who have both online and physical presences is going to be fascinating. So many exciting things ahead. Well, we’ve covered a ton of ground on the show today, Nick, really fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for taking some time to spend with us. And best of luck launching those ease of use features. And we’ll check back with you in a couple months on the show.

Nicholas Ziech-Lopez  53:29

Hey, thank you so much for having me, guys. I had a ton of fun.

Eric Dodds  53:30

Well, that was a great conversation. It’s so interesting to learn about all of the various ways that people can communicate with their customers and all the data sources available. I mean, I think about starting my career in marketing well over a decade ago. And just the amount of sophistication that’s available now. And the data sources, is unbelievable. Kostas, what did you take away?

Kostas Pardalis  54:03

Yeah, so amazing to chat with a person like Nick. I mean, he has a great understanding of what’s going on in the marketing industry right now. And the transformation that’s actually happening through the usage of data. I found very interesting, this strategy, the product strategy that our perspective would say that MessageGears has about the distinction between the engineer and the marketer and made it like extremely clear which part of the whole process of working with data to drive marketing campaigns should be planned by whom, and I find these extremely interesting, and a very good approach in terms of like, product design. Overall, I mean, it was a great conversation with Nick. As I said, before we started this episode, I was hoping to learn more about what CDP is. I think Nick today really helped me to do that. I think it’s much more clear. I understand much better roads what is involved in operating a CDP. What are the changes that are happening right there? And what actually CDP does, to be honest, for me, it was something that I was missing in terms of like what kind of like marketing functions are performed by that. It was great for me, very informative. I learned a lot and I have a lot of trust to the MessageGears people that they are going to deliver even more innovation in this space. And I’m looking forward to chatting with them again in the near future and learn what they’re doing.

Eric Dodds  55:32

Totally agree. Great chat and we will catch you next time on The Data Stack Show.