written by
Yves Delongie

Twilio announces Engage, a B2C omni-channel growth platform, built on top of a CDP

Customer Data Platform 5 min read

Exciting times for Twilio, as they’ve unveiled their first product out of their 3.2B$ Segment acquisition: Twilio Engage. For the past 12 years, Twilio has been building the world’s leading cloud communication platform, focussing on developer communities in SaaS and Large enterprises. With the release of Twilio Engage, they seem to be shifting their focus towards the marketing space. Here’s what we’ve discovered so far, and where we see major strengths and differences against other solutions.

Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson unveiled on Wednesday a new marketing growth product called Twilio Engage.
Source: TWILIO

Also developers need customer insights.

Let’s start with Twilio’s biggest strength: the trust from a huge developer customer base. For years, developers have been relying on Twilio to add omni-channel communication (SMS, messaging, voice, video, and email) to their apps, ranging from productivity tools to social platforms. We trust you’ve come across marketing automation platforms, customer relationship tools , support ticketing systems, etc that have been build on Twilio’s platform.

The content that is being sent over these channels however, are today mainly defined by rather static business rules, not taking into account any in-depth customer insights and previous interactions. With the introduction of Twilio Engage, that will change. The new growth platform promises to put customer intelligence into the hands of their 250,000 active customer accounts, seeing their communication drastically improved in terms of creating automated more-personalised conversations, resulting in bottom-line better conversions. That is of course a general benefit of using a CDP in the first place.

Great for B2C! But what about B2B?

While we know that Twilio mainly operates in large SaaS and Enterprise accounts, we also need to highlight that Twilio Engage is being positioned as a B2C growth platform. Information being gathered and profiles being built, are people-related, not account/organisation/company-related. That is also why they’ve entered the customer-facing space through the marketing door, as a marketing solution. The customer funnel, in B2C and B2B, requires marketing to mostly deal with leads only, and thus, their need for communication is always people-related, never account-related.

Again, that is true when it comes to pure communication content. Because, in terms of communication intelligence for the B2B market, we at journy.io feels this has some serious implications. What if you want to personalise communication to a lead, depending on what other leads from the same prospect company has been doing previously? What if the communication to a lead needs to be tailored to information residing on company-level (gathered directly from a CRM or CrunchBase)? What if you want to sent discount codes to employees of a company that has been buying less than other companies?

In B2B, building company profiles and -intelligence is at least as important as having user profiles to personalise single-user communications. Twilio Engage does currently not seem to cover this. And while Twilio Segment, Twilio’s stand-alone CDP, feature account-level data, it does not create intelligence on unique user-account relationships, needed in a true B2B CDP that would empower account-based workflows.

Existing investments in existing engagement tools.

Most marketing departments today have workflows and automations (drip mailing campaigns, social campaigns, etc...) in place through often best-in-class marketing automation platforms. Twilio certainly has a strong point in claiming that most of these tools are functionality-driven, or campaigns-driven, rather than customer-insights-driven. We fully concur. But still, one cannot deny that these are still pretty sophisticated tools where lots of efforts has already been invested in and which are today orchestrating quite some vital business operations. Changing that doesn’t come overnight.

Instead of investing in new engagement tools, simply adding uniform holistic customer intelligence to the tools you’re already using, and improving existing campaigns with this newly gathered intelligence, might be the better option for most.

Instead of using and configuring a new tool from the ground up, not necessarily with same required capabilities, we believe there is another, simpler approach to making existing workflows and automations much more customer-centric and engaging. It is to simply add uniform holistic customer intelligence to those tools, and improve existing campaigns with this intelligence. You are still working campaign-driven, yet with much deeper customer intelligence to fuel those campaigns.

Developers vs Marketeers.

Specific to all Twilio’s products until now, is that they are being put in the market with a clear developer-first go-to-market strategy. And thus, if you are such engineering-driven organisation, you simply have to appreciate what Twilio has done in terms of putting really powerful building blocks into the hands of developers. With Twilio, they could suddenly add cool communication features to their existing platform in no time.

If that will be the case when putting Twilio Engage into the hands of marketeers, who usually are process- and campaign-minded, and that already have automations in place, is indeed to be seen. It’s not really clear which additional value Twilio Engage will bring to those marketeers, besides of course having enriched user profiles that brings more personalisation to current campaigns. But then, for that, a CDP in general will also do the trick.

For those marketeers still needing to start building campaigns, this might indeed be a better fit.

Twilio Signal keynote speech was held on October 21st 2021.

Summary

If you’re out to build powerful platforms that also includes customer engagement and CDP features, we strongly feel Twilio Engage will be something for you, in line with all other powerful building blocks Twilio offers.

If you’re new to marketing automation, and still need to start building campaigns, we also think Twilio Engage will bring clear value. However, from what we’ve seen so far, that will be limited to B2C environments only.

If instead you want to improve your existing marketing workflows and automations, and those from sales and customer success as well while you’re at it, we feel other off-the-shelf best-in-class solutions may provide a faster, more affordable way to personalise communication and increase conversions.

This article is based on information that has been provided during the Twilio’s Signal 2021 conference. As Twilio Engage has only been announced, other unannounced features may change above point-of-view.