Reverse ETL - Use Cases & Common Usage Patterns
Reverse ETL is the latest entrant to the data stacks of companies looking to maximize the potential of the modern data stack. In this article we explore the various use cases and common usage patterns that businesses are exploring to activate their data and drive maximum ROI from their data initiatives.
What is Reverse ETL?
“Reverse ETL is the process of selecting cleaned and processed data from a source of truth like a data warehouse. Ingesting this data into a system of action like a CRM, advertising platform, or other SaaS app to operationalize or activate this data and make it deliver insights of actionable value to the business users.”
Wide adoption of cloud data warehouses like Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift & Snowflake etc and the availability of state of the art ETL & ELT tools like DataChannel, Fivetran etc has led to companies setting up data warehouses to store all their data and create a single source of truth of all their high quality data. They then typically use BI and reporting tools like Tableau, Looker, Power BI etc to create dashboards and reports or use machine learning algos to create predictive models. However, broad utilization of this data is still not happening and easy access to data is still not available to most functionaries in the company. They either need to learn SQL or rely on data engineers who are forever overloaded with requests for getting data they need for their daily work. This is called the “Last Mile Gap” in analytics and bridging this gap is what can truly unlock the power of data driven transformation for organizations.
The process of making this data from the data warehouse available in the tools and platforms that business teams use without manual intervention is called Reverse ETL. Reverse ETL platforms like DataChannel make this really simple and affordable to implement. To learn more about this topic and the prerequisites for implementing it, read the definitive guide to reverse ETL by DataChannel.
Applications of Reverse ETL
The basic premise behind adopting reverse ETL as part of the data stack is to operationalize analytics which means pushing data insights into business tools so that they are easily accessible to people who need them at the right time. With that in mind, the applications of this technology are unlimited and restricted only by the imagination of the people implementing it. However, in general there are four main areas where businesses are starting their reverse ETL journey. These are:-
Build a Customer 360 or CDP in the data warehouse
Instead of relying on external tools and technologies for building a customer 360 view using Customer Data Platforms where not only is the access to data restricted and out of the organizations control, there are also limitations to what can be done in terms of customizations. Instead, if the companies can build this 360 degree view within their own data warehouse, they not only retain complete control over the data, but can customize it the way they need and make it available to the business users like marketing, sales & customer success teams in their own tools, whenever they need it.
Reduce / Remove request for ad-hoc data sets from the data teams
Most business users are not fluent in SQL and the data in the warehouse is not useful for them unless some data engineering team member extracts and shares it with them in the form of CSVs or spreadsheets. This quickly becomes unmanageable and an imminent security risk in addition to consuming significant bandwidth of the data teams. With reverse ETL, business teams can have quicker access to the data without the need to request data engineers or learn complicated SQL or scripting. Data teams remain free to do more constructive work while still retaining complete control and visibility over the data being accessed.
Move beyond dashboards and build alerts directly on top of the data warehouse
In order to implement reverse ETL, the data in the warehouse is constantly being watched for changes so these changes can be synced to the destinations. It is therefore logical to extend this and use this capability to also watch for significant changes which need to be acted upon and notify the relevant stakeholders. An example could be watching the data of marketing performance and notify the marketing team when the Cost per Click (CPC) of a campaign exceeds a threshold value. The best part is these notifications can be configured to be sent on the channels these teams are already using, like Slack or email or Teams.
Automate data sync to various business applications
With the number of SaaS applications being used by businesses increasing, there is always a need to sync data to and from these applications. Using your data warehouse as the intermediary, it is easy to use ETL and Reverse ETL tools to build these end to end data movement pipelines. Example is fetching order data from a Shopify store using ETL into your data warehouse and syncing it with Google Ads Conversions using Reverse ETL.
Use Cases of Reverse ETL in Marketing
Personalized or Targeted Campaigns
Marketing teams routinely work with a large number of advertising, marketing automation and email marketing platforms each of which are capable of being used to run personalized and targeted campaigns which can actually lead to much higher ROI from the marketing spends. In order to optimally run these personalized campaigns it is not only important that the marketing teams have access to high quality enriched customer data but also the ability to sync it to all of the advertising, marketing automation and email platforms in real time. This customer data can be used to create targeting audiences, look alike audiences or even negative or exclusion list audiences to optimize how your campaign budget is spent.
Sync Offline Conversions
In order to calculate the effectiveness of the campaigns and also to help the advertising platform algorithms determine the best performing assets and formats, it is important to sync conversion data back to the advertising platforms. Reverse ETL can be used to automate this vital but time consuming and error prone process.
Notifications and performance alerts
In order to optimize the ROI on the marketing campaigns, it is important to constantly monitor the performance metrics and take immediate action if some of the metrics are going over thresholds. Example may be a campaign where the cost per click is going beyond a threshold we have set. Instead of looking at dashboards at periodic intervals and potentially missing this important detail, what if you just get a slack message whenever this happens? With Reverse ETL, you can.
Use Cases of Reverse ETL in Sales
Increased visibility about the customer within the CRM
CRMs are the tools most sales people use for most part of their day and for most of their decision making. If the data about the customers available in the CRMs is enriched with higher amounts of information about the customers, it can bring about major gains in the efficiency of the sales teams. Results of analytics like Lead Scores and Win probabilities etc calculated within the data warehouse by the data engineering teams can now be synced directly to the CRM systems and be used by the sales teams to prioritize their work.
Sales teams in Product Led Growth Companies
With the rise in Freemium models and “Land & Expand” model of sales particularly relevant for and popular with SaaS companies, sales teams usually come into the picture after the customer has had interactions with the product. In some cases they may have been using it in the free tier or in a limited manner for months. Their interactions with the product and the usage patterns and statistics are vital information for the sales teams to have. With Reverse ETL these can be made available to the sales teams with ease within the CRM.
Identify cross selling and up selling opportunities
Using the first party data about the customers and their interaction with our brand or product, the sales teams can identify upsell and cross sell opportunities more effectively and use this to drive sales and revenue. Without reverse ETL, the nimbleness in response needed for achieving this was missing as the insights around this would have been trapped within the data warehouse and would not have been available to the sales team.
Use Cases of Reverse ETL in Product Management
Designing better in app experience
Data about the customer and their interaction with the product can allow the product teams to segment them based on this and design better, more engaging personalized experiences for the customers driving up the engagement and usage.
Drive feature adoption and streamline on-boarding
Usage and interaction data can be a gold mine for studying and getting insights about what product features are the customers loving and using and which ones need to be focussed upon to drive their adoption. Similarly, the usage data can be used to streamline the customer onboarding and remove obstacles in product adoption and usage.
Use Cases of Reverse ETL in Customer Success
By having a comprehensive view of the customer and users, the support or customer success teams can provide much better support experience and also prioritize their work correctly. In today's immensely competitive business landscape, it is often the quality of support and the manner in which the customer success teams respond to customer requests that determines the success of the product or service. Getting this edge through Reverse ETL can therefore be the difference between success and failure of your business.
Other Usage Patterns for Reverse ETL
In the paragraphs above we have listed a few of the largely unlimited use cases for Reverse ETL. But these are in no way comprehensive and cover all aspects where this technology can make a difference. There can be multiple use cases in Supply Chain and logistics with demand forecasting and inventory forecasting models being run on the data in the data warehouse and the results made available to the teams in their respective tools / platforms. Read some customer success stories where existing customers of DataChannel are using the power
How to get Started with Reverse ETL?
Our advice would be to start small by activating simple processes using a tool like DataChannel. Set up a call with our experts today to get a demo and learn more or sign up for free to test it out on your own.