Salesforce vs. Segment: Why It's Actually a 'Better Together' Story

If you're here, there's a good chance you're currently evaluating whether to invest in Salesforce's Customer Data Platform or Twilio Segment as your CDP.

As a team of experienced marketing technology professionals — with decades of experience in the Salesforce ecosystem, along with Segment, Adobe, and more — we're going to tell you why Salesforce and Segment are best as a 'better together' story, with Segment as your CDP.

If you're considering Salesforce's Customer Data Platform, you are likely already using many tools that Salesforce offers — including Marketing Cloud and Sales Cloud. As the market leaders in their respective categories, these powerful tools are popular choices from companies ranging from hyper-growth companies to major enterprises.

Just like both of these tools are the best at what they do, Segment is the top CDP on the market — boasting over 25,000 customers, offering 400+ data integrations, powerful real-time and orchestration capabilities, and advanced segmentation. While all CDPs on the market generally provide the ability to pull data together to create a single view of the customer and push that data to where it needs to go, what sets Segment apart is its processing capabilities (important when processing large volumes of data from multiple sources), flexible integration setup (and with that, its flexible data modeling), and data governance features.

First, let's look at how each tool got its start

You've likely done your research on CDPs — so you know they're a relatively new technology compared to the rest of a modern martech stack. The demand for CDPs has exploded in recent years — largely thanks to the rapid digitization of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic AND due to the evolving need for companies to take a privacy-first approach to collecting and managing customer data. Because of the CDP boom, many technology companies have made their attempts at creating their own version of a CDP — but it's important to consider what their origins are and what this means for how they're built.

Salesforce started as a CRM — or 'customer relationship management' platform. Oriented towards sales teams, it is a way for them to manually capture customer data (as it relates to sales), derive insights, and integrate with other platforms to share that data. From there, Salesforce has made several acquisitions over the past decade to establish what we now know as the Salesforce platform — from email marketing capabilities via ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) to marketing data analysis through Datorama (now Marketing Cloud Intelligence) to e-commerce management through Demandware (now Commerce Cloud), and so on. With each acquisition, Salesforce has developed quite complex data models in an attempt to integrate these platforms and brand them as a seamless, connected platform. However, anyone who has used Salesforce knows that it's not quite that simple. Salesforce has developed its own CDP as a way to bring data together from across the Salesforce platform — and allows data from external sources, most easily done with the additional investment in its Mulesoft platform — to create deeper audience segmentation.

Segment got its start as a data pipeline and integration tool — with the initial idea to have a single code snippet that could be used to push data out to whatever service (analytics, activation, etc.) — and as many as — a company wants or needs. From there, it was an advantageous progression for the platform to start retaining its own record of the data being passed through so it can create a unified profile with customer activity. This idea has naturally evolved into what we know today as the CDP: a single tool that pulls data in from multiple sources, unifies that data, then sends that data to where it's needed. This saves organizations time, development resources, and future headaches – minimizing complicated architecture and paving the way for a flexible and scalable tech stack. Segment has scaled through its rapid addition of new integrations, with its core mission to be able to flex to the diverse tech stack needs of its customers. 

Ultimately, Segment was built to provide flexibility and scalability to meet the needs of its clients without locking them into any specific platform. Salesforce, on the other hand, was built to provide a consistent data layer across the Salesforce stack, thus further deepening a company's dependency on its platform — and does not natively offer the flexibility to integrate with tools outside of the Salesforce ecosystem that Segment does.

Why how it's built matters

As with any technology investment, CDPs should make the lives of their users easier. While CDPs are primarily geared toward marketers, they can and should benefit the entire organization when implemented correctly. 

Salesforce's Customer Data Platform is a great option if you're looking to stay and grow within the Salesforce ecosystem and are simply looking for ways to better use the data that already lives across your Salesforce tools. But beware: as you add more sources of data, you will have to continuously map the data being ingested to the data model within Salesforce — likely resulting in manual work outside of the Salesforce platform and extended time-to-value.

Segment, on the other hand, was built with an event-driven architecture from the beginning to ingest data from multiple sources (including Salesforce) — regardless of structure — and unify it within Segment. This aligns with Segment's value of being flexible and scalable to meet the tech stack needs of its customers. 

As you consider your organization several years down the road (or even next year), do you envision that your tech stack will remain the same as it is today? It's unlikely. By leveraging a tool like Segment, you're investing in the ability to scale your tech stack with ease and potentially even minimize future implementation times — using a single integration with Segment as your data source.

When you invest in a CDP, you're investing in the future — both of your company and the CDP

Segment and Salesforce have impressive roadmaps – continuously evolving their integrations, processing, and activation capabilities. It's easy to get excited about what's ahead for each of the tools.

But, as we've mentioned previously, it's also important to consider the now and how the technology will scale as it is today. Segment is arguably lightyears ahead of Salesforce regarding the cleanliness of how it ingests and manages customer data — reducing your future tech debt and creating a more scalable tech stack.

Another way that CDPs can future-proof your organization is by helping manage your data governance strategy. The importance of customer data management has surged over recent years, with ever-increasing regulations on how companies manage and protect their customers' data. If having a strategy and plan for managing data governance is yet to be a top priority for your organization, it should be. Segment is well-positioned for this. While both tools offer capabilities like consent management, Segment is a stronger opponent due to its integrations beyond the Salesforce ecosystem, its flexibility to be used across the organization, and its single-view-of-the-customer. 

Last but certainly not least is leverage. As we mentioned earlier, Salesforce's Customer Data Platform was built for organizations already using Salesforce as a way to continue to grow within the Salesforce platform. Your data is your organization's most valuable asset. When the core of your customer experience all lives within the Salesforce ecosystem, your ability to evaluate new technologies down the road and negotiate contracts will be hindered. By using Segment as your data hub, you are protecting your organization from being locked in and retaining negotiating power as you continue to invest in Salesforce — and give yourself the ability to evaluate new technologies down the road without the additional challenges of managing extensive data migrations and complicated integrations.

Invest in the best

Salesforce is an incredible and powerful platform — used by many of the most well-known brands today. Its tools like Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud are market leaders for good reason. There are many ways it's earned its status as a technology powerhouse. The ability to build on top of the platform and implement innovative solutions are second-to-none. 

But, when thinking about the modern tech stack, data should be at the foundation — using a consistent, robust, and real-time data pipeline across the organization to power customer interactions from end to end. While Salesforce dominates how companies manage those interactions, investing in a solid pipeline is the most effective way to future-proof your tech stack for scalability and security. 

Just like Salesforce has earned its title as a market leader across many categories, Segment has earned its reputation as the market leader in CDPs — and by using these tools together, you're investing in a powerful system that will enable your company to move faster, scale smarter, and prepare for the future.

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